The kids who attend the city's very best public schools, like Stuyvesant High School, Brooklyn, Technical, and Bronx Science, have a reputation for being uber-smart go-getters, the kind of students who get into MIT at 15. Parents who lack the means to send their child to the city's expensive private schools are practically willing to shiv one another if it means a leg up on admission to one of those schools, and so a leg up on life for their kid. But a new study published in the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that some of the most elite New York City public high schools — the "exam" schools, specifically — might not be worth the intense admissions competition, at least not if you're looking at scores on national standardized tests.
The results reported here show only scattered test score gains due to an exam school education, even for students with relatively high baseline scores.
Because the exam school experience is associated with exposure to high-achieving peers and a decline in the relative standing of successful applicants in comparison to peers, these results weigh against the importance of peer effects in the education production function.
These kids would have done well anywhere, essentially. But the study's authors go on to note that "parents either mistakenly equate good peers with high value added, or that they value exam schools for reasons other than their impact on learning." Those parents would probably edit that "mistakenly" out: It's not what you know but who you know is a New York City lesson that doesn't show up on the SATs.
New York City's Most Elite Public Schools Are Officially Overrated [Business Insider]