About the Film

Stuyvesant. Bronx Science. Brooklyn Tech: all nationally ranked public high schools considered among the best in New York City and the nation. Each year, thousands of 8th graders compete to secure coveted spots at these elite schools by taking the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (the SHSAT). Admission is granted based solely on that single test score.

Only one in five will get in.

Accusations of racial discrimination have been leveled against this one-test-only policy, as black and Hispanic youth, comprising 70% of the city's total public school population, now represent only 5% of the student body at some of the specialized schools. Meanwhile, Asian Americans and whites form supermajorities. In September 2012, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights to challenge this admission policy.

This documentary follows the struggles and challenges of a diverse group of students, many of them immigrants and working class, as they prepare for this all-important test.

Why is this film important?

Education is one key path to social justice, and Tested will spotlight this, along with hot-button issues relevant to our “post-racial”/Obama era:

  • Access to high-quality public education. As income gaps widen in America, the education gap is widening as well. Large segments of the public, minorities in particular, are now at risk of being left behind. With the growing importance of technology and information, what can we do to ensure every child has a chance to participate in the American dream?
  • Equity and social justice. While polling shows the American public generally approves of policies that address past racial discrimination, support for these programs is diminishing, and the Supreme Court — as witnessed in the recentFisher v. Texas case and another on the 2014 docket — seems determined to chip away at such programs. While not necessarily directly addressing affirmative action, our film will look at the SHSAT through the prism of fairness.
  • Race versus class. From free school classes to ethnic-based programs and private tutors, the film will touch on what prep options are available to whom and at what financial cost. We’ll also examine the fact that at some of these specialized schools, over fifty percent of the students are Title I, many coming from poor neighborhoods and immigrant families.
  • The Tiger Mom and model-minority myth. Often discussions on education policy present issues as white versus black and brown. We will include the often overlooked Asian American perspective, adding a whole different set of stereotypes to the mix and attempting to sift through them.

The film will examine how communities of color, using stereotypes, are pitted against one another in a fight for dwindling public resources. The film is especially timely because of the recent NAACP LDF legal complaint. Even as public education comes under fire, it remains one of the few tools available to help disadvantaged and immigrant families ascend America’s socioeconomic ladder.