Is Elitism a Myth? A Study of NYC Specialized High Schools

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Kong, Bonnie
Behavioral Economics; Economics; Public Economics
project description
In New York City, specialized high schools exist in the public school system to educate the city’s most gifted students. These schools are recognized nationally and have a strong focus on math, science, and technology. Benefits of attending these schools include a competitive peer group, challenging courses, and strong alumni networks. Admission to these schools is determined by individuals’ score on the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT).This paper measures the impact of attending these specialized high schools on graduation and results on New York State Regents examinations. A regression discontinuity design was used to study seven of the nine specialized high schools, comparing students who scored just above to students who scored just below the SHSAT cutoff score used to determine admissions. Although attending a specialized high school increased the probability that a student received an advanced diploma degree, students who attend one of these high schools performed equally as well on other academic outcomes as students who attended alternative, non-specialized high schools.