It's exam time for students who want a spot at one of the city's eight specialized high schools, like Stuyvesant, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech. Nineteen-thousand students will take the test Saturday, but another 14,000 now have to wait nearly a month after the city postponed Sunday's test date due to the storm. Some students spend years preparing for the exam, while others may never have heard of it. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.
What does it take to get into one of the city's specialized schools? Technically, it comes down to how well students do on a test. Many of those students said a high test score is more than just smarts.
"Test prep does play a huge role in getting here, and a lot of kids don't come from the socioeconomic background that allows them to prepare like that," said Kyle Oleksiuk, a student at Stuyvesant High School.
It seems many kids, like the eighth graders at Fahari Academy in Flatbush, don't even know there are specialized schools.
"I hadn't really heard of them before. I was kind of in shock when I learned I had to take a test," said Jhevanae Langley, a Fahari Academy student. "I thought it was just regular, where they look at your grades and decide if you get in or not."
A civil rights complaint filed last month said that's what should happen. Now, the students who are accepted are mostly white or Asian and they're much less likely to be living in poverty than the typical city student.
Last year, nearly 1,000 students were offered a seat at Stuyvesant. Nineteen of them were black, an increase from the 12 black students admitted the year before.
A small but growing number of test prep programs are trying to change that. Fahari Academy paid for a course, and half the eighth-grade class signed up, dedicating two afternoons and Saturday mornings to math.
"I know that this is to get me to a better future," said Deschanel Burton, a Fahari Academy student.
A few blocks away, many students at Explore Charter School who took the exam last year left saying they'd never seen questions like those before. This year, Explore also invested in a special course.
"Our teacher, Mr. Shark, he's been giving us different tools and skills," said Melanie Adams, an Explore Charter School student.
The city also has a free test prep program for students with good state test scores and attendance and who qualify for free lunch. But there are only 2,500 spots, chosen by lottery.
This year, just 47 percent of the slots went to black or Hispanic students, even though they make up 72 percent of the public school population. Asian students got 43 percent, although they're just 14 percent of students citywide.
Schools using their own budget to pay for prep said it was worth it. They said most of their students wouldn't have a chance otherwise.