On October 19, 2016 thousands of brilliant high school juniors were unable to take one of the most important college-entry exams because the DOE refused to pay the $15.00 fee for their registrations as it had always done in the past. These students were left without recourse as their schools chose, therefore, NOT to order the exams for them. This has disproportionately affected minority, and low to middle-income students who were deprived of their right to compete on a state and national level for hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarship money. It also deprived them of the right to prepare for the SAT which they will be taking in May or June of 2017. This has never before happened in the history of this great city. I am writing this article in the hopes that someone might be able to intervene on their behalf so that this grievance could be redressed and these students be given the same opportunities as other students had across the state and country.
The PSAT is an extremely important test especially for juniors in high school. When juniors take this exam, they become eligible for national scholarships and other special opportunities that are made available for minorities and middle to low income students. The PSAT also is an integral part in preparing for the SAT. Students take the PSAT as sophomores and juniors, but the scholarships and other special opportunities are available only to juniors.
Imagine, then, the lost opportunities both at scholarships and direct preparation just months before the SAT if juniors are not able to take this test. And that is precisely what happened in October of 2016. The DOE, which had previously funded the $15.00 registration fee for this exam, decided that it was no longer going to pay for juniors to take this test. And so, this year, across the city, thousands of bright students were prohibited from taking this enormously important test. I have spoken to representatives from several of the largest high schools in the city, and they all have told me the same story: “Our school could not afford to fund the test from our own resources, so our students could not take it.”
The question begs: "Well, why couldn't the parents pay for the test themselves as other parents do across the state and country?" The answer is simple: even parents who wanted to pay for the test could not do so because the schools have an all or nothing policy. Schools have to close for the day so that a secure testing zone can be established within the school for any major exam. Principals who could not pay for the exam simply chose not to order it for any of their students because they would not close the entire school just for a few students who wanted to opt in. So the DOE's assertion that students had the option of paying for the test is at best disingenuous and at worst a bald-faced lie. Since there was no place to take the test, it did not matter if they wanted to pay for the test.
So here in NYC, thousands of our brightest could not take the test that could offer them the best. This should not stand. If you are interested in helping me to redress this grievance, please show your concern by "liking" or "sharing" this article with others. I ask anyone who loves children and who believes in their potential to help me in this endeavor.
Rev. Vieira is a former high school master teacher, and the founder and president of ScholarSkills Learning Center.