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Is a Specialized HS Right For Me

As an SHSAT tutor, my job is to help students get the best score they can on the specialized high school entrance exam; it's not to help them decide which school is the best fit for them. Nevertheless, parents often ask me what I think about Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, and other specialized high schools. I have not done any in-depth investigations- my knowledge about these schools is limited to anecdotal feedback that I get from kids I know who attend them. But, for whatever it is worth, I have some thoughts which may be useful.

First, I think that all students and parents should know that the New York City specialized high schools are demanding and competitive. This may seem obvious, but I am often approached by parents who would like their child to take the SHSAT, even though their child is struggling with academics in middle school. This simply does not make sense. Parents, if your child is ready, willing, and able to take on a workload that is significantly heavier and harder than what most middle schools offer, a specialized public high school may be an excellent choice. Otherwise, it is not.

Second, I think that families should be aware that any large public high school is going to be significantly less personal than the average small private school (or small public school, for that matter). It's simply a matter of scale. No matter how warm and caring an individual teacher may be, personal relationships will be more difficult to form in a school with thousands of students than in a school with two or three hundred students.

On the other hand, the very size of the larger specialized high schools means that they can offer a diversity of social opportunities and extra curriculars that smaller schools simply cannot match. For this reason, schools such as Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, and Brooklyn Tech can be especially good places for students who crave a broad array of social experiences or who feel like they have had trouble fitting in in the past.

As far as the actual quality of the education goes, I think the experience of a girl I know may be illustrative. Last year, I helped her prepare for the SHSAT and I was able to observe that she is not only smart, but also hardworking. To call her driven would not be an overstatement- she is ambitious to a degree that is unusual at any age. She got into Stuyvesant. In her freshman year, she got an excellent geometry teacher and is thriving in that class. She is also having a good experience in English (although her parents wish she did more writing), Spanish, and art.

Unfortunately, her social studies class is appalling- the students are essentially asked to remember long lists of disjointed facts. Worse, her physics class has been almost nightmarish. The workload is intense, but it is not educational. Neither she nor any of her classmates are able to follow the teacher's lessons. After a rough start, she is now getting excellent grades in physics and understanding the material, but only because she is receiving tutoring from another New York Academics tutor. Those of her classmates who can get private tutoring are doing well; unfortunately, the rest of the class is failing.

Based on my anecdotal observations, many students who attend New York City specialized public high schools have similar experiences to this girl. They get some fabulous classes, quite a few very good classes, and a smaller, but still significant, number of very bad classes. Taken as a whole, the quality of the education is still very good, but it is not without problems.
About Author Jessie Mathisen :

New York Academics offers ISEE Test Prep and Physics Tutoring New York. Please inquire about the availability of tutors for specific times, locations, and subjects. For more info visit at <a href="" target="_blank"></a>

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Article Added on Friday, July 22, 2011
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