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StuyPrep Wraps Up Its Biggest Year Yet

StuyPrep, the diversity initiative operated by the Stuyvesant High School Alumni Association, finished its 2019 program with its largest class ever: 165 students.

Founded by Kent Kim ’05 and Christina Alfonso ’01 in 2016, StuyPrep provides tutoring and preparation for the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) exclusively for students from underserved and underprivileged neighborhoods and middle schools throughout New York City. The aim of the program is to provide a funnel of diverse, driven students to the city’s specialized high schools.

Unlike many other SHSAT preparation programs in NYC, StuyPrep is entirely free for students. The Alumni Association provides a full eight-week course taught by Kaplan over the summer. In the fall, students come to Stuyvesant for a further eight weeks of practice tests and small-group tutoring by current Stuyvesant students who took the test themselves a few years ago.

In the prior three years of the StuyPrep program, only students from participating middle schools in Queens and Brooklyn were eligible to apply. This year, StuyPrep opened up applications to all middle school students from across the city.

One student whose score jumped by almost 100% was Ashley Jennings. Ashley is an 8th-grader at Dock Street Middle School in Brooklyn. Even before the StuyPrep program ended, her mother, Patrice, said there was a change in Ashley. “Since she started [the] course, I have seen a vast improvement in her grades and her overall attitude towards schoolwork. I wasn’t going to push her to take the test, but even before the summer was over, Ashley told me she wanted to take it.”

StuyPrep student Ashley Jennings and her mother, Patrice

Ashley said that current Stuyvesant students helped her to understand not just the material covered but the structure of the questions. “I learned why the questions were formatted the way they were, and how to comprehend them. I’m now better at studying and understanding math questions and my grades have improved.”

Twins Raana and Tarqiya Forgah from P.S. 235 also saw the scores on their practice tests jump high enough to be admitted into at least one of the specialized high schools. “StuyPrep motivated me to do more work to study for the SHSAT, and one of the Stuy tutors made me want to go to a specialized high school even more,” Raana said. “Every time I do math at school now, I do it faster than everybody else, and I already know some of what they’re teaching.”

StuyPrep students working in small groups at Stuyvesant during the 2019 program

Results from StuyPrep continue to improve as well. Five students out of the 75 participants in 2017 were admitted into specialized high schools last year. Of the 100 students who were enrolled in the program in 2018, 14 received enrollment offers into specialized high schools for the 2019-20 school year (the results for the 165 students in the 2019 Program year won’t come out until this coming March).

The admissions rate of StuyPrep students into specialized high schools has more than doubled from 6.7% in 2018 to 14.0% in 2019. StuyPrep’s admissions rate is even more remarkable when compared against the city-wide admissions rate of all Black and Hispanic students into specialized high schools; only 4.3% and 4.2% of Black and Hispanic SHSAT-takers received admission offers in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

StuyPrep performance compared against city-wide admissions rate

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Low participation rates in the test is another large contributor to the underrepresentation of black and Hispanic students in specialized high schools; four out of five Black and Hispanic students in NYC do not take the SHSAT. This is why programs like StuyPrep are necessary; they not only improve admissions rates among participants, but also increase their interest in specialized high schools and their overall SHSAT participation rates.

As for the 2020 Program, the Alumni Association is already discussing partnerships with schools in Harlem and the Bronx so that the Program can provide summer locations in four of the five boroughs. Even though in 2019 StuyPrep accepted applications across all five boroughs, the summer program took place only at schools in Brooklyn and Queens. These new partnerships have the potential to grow StuyPrep’s geographic footprint and impact even more lives in the coming years.

“I would highly recommend StuyPrep to anyone looking for a SHSAT prep course,” Patrice Jennings said. “It’s been a life-saver.”