The ‘Tested’ Path to Eliteness


Alma Garcia, Staff Writters

It is commonly thought that the school a kid is enrolled in may have a direct impact on their future. Also, that the people they surround themselves with may also play a part into that. Some parents sure seem to think so. Growing up we’ve been told how important education is, how everyone should go to college and get a degree to be successful. Whether it’s from teachers, school infographics, the news, everyone at one point or another has been told that it is important to prepare for college.

Some parents take things a bit further, however. In the case of Curtis Chin’s film “Tested,” we get to see the stories of 12 different eight graders getting ready to take a test that will determine what high school they will get accepted into. New York City has some great schools, just like every other city does. However, what separates NYC from the rest is the fact that the only way to get into their elite schools is by taking and passing the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT), it is designed to test the child’s knowledge of Math and English. NYC has eight specialized high schools, but out of those eight, three stand above the rest. They are world-class high schools.

The test is not mandatory, in fact there are regular high schools that will accept children without the test, however the only way you can get into a specialized high school is by taking the SHSAT. Some of the children that are featured in the film have been preparing for that test their whole lives, others have been preparing for about a year or less. They have been preparing by either having private tutors, or being enrolled in programs that will help them pass this crucial test.

Some parents, as well as students who have taken the test say that it is almost the equivalent of taking the SATs and it’s a good to prepare for it. But, not everyone agrees with the admissions process. Some say that it’s not a fair way to test a child’s knowledge, since everyone learns differently. Perhaps they are right. There is also noticeable race gap. Caucasian and Asian children are performing a lot better in the test than Latino and African American children; only a small percentage of the latter group gets accepted. African Americans and Latinos make up to 70% of the city’s population, however only 5% make it into the most elite high schools. On the other hand Asian children make up to 73% of the population at elite high schools.

Researchers can’t explain why there’s such a gap, even if the kids have a similar background Asian children still outperform the rest by a significant amount. People continue to fight the admissions criteria in order to get rid of the gap.

Chin did a great job explaining both sides of the story, and letting the viewer know how much the test consumed some parents as well as students. This informative documentary has already won a few awards, and is expected to win many more. The purpose of the film was to let everyone know some of the struggles kids in New York face to obtain the best education possible. Chin explained that he was neutral when it came to the test subject, he understood the pros and cons to both taking the test and not. The film is currently under screening.

Chin was inspired to create the film to show the viewers how extreme the gap in opportunity is between races. It is even more so evident at elite public schools.

When asked when the film would be released Chin replied with “I know eventually we’ll be on Netflix. It’s just a question of when that’s going to happen.” He did recommend signing up to the mailing list to be notified of the film’s release. If you’re interested in doing that or simply watching the film’s trailer you can do so at: