This is a terrific, succinct overview of the high school process and how kids are offered seats at specialized high schools. It comes from the Brooklyn Tech website (I’m thinking it was written by the former principal, who was terrific at explaining the process):
There are nine Specialized High Schools in NYC, eight of which require students applying for admission to take the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT). At the time of the test, students list (in priority order) the specialized high schools they are interested in attending. The tests are scored by an independent company. Specialized high school offers are based solely on test results, the student’s ranked order of the schools, and seat availability.
Students taking the SHSAT or auditioning for the programs at LaGuardia must also submit a High School Application and may rank up to twelve (12) additional high schools/programs. Specialized High Schools are not ranked on this application.
The results of the SHSAT are ordered from the highest score to the lowest score. The student with the highest score will be placed in the school/program of his/her first choice. Going down the list from the highest score, each student will be placed in his/her highest prioritized school in which seats are still available. Therefore, if all the seats in the student’s first choice are filled, he/she will be placed in his/her second choice if there are seats still available. If all the seats in his/her second choice are filled, the student will be offered a seat in his/her third choice if there are still seats available and so on until all the seats in the eight schools have been filled.
Each student receives notice of any offer(s) from a specialized high school, as well as any match to a non-specialized high school/program. A student who receives a specialized high school offer must respond to the offer or it will be forfeited. If a student accepts, he/she will attend that school/program. If a student does not receive an offer or chooses to decline the offer, the non-specialized match he/she received is considered final, and he/she will attend that school/program.
Note: Laguardia has 6 programs students can audition for and may be offered a seat in more than one.
Test in schools:
Bronx High School of Science
Brooklyn Technical High School
High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering at the City College
High School of American Studies at Lehman College
Queens High School for the Sciences at York College
Staten Island Technical High School
Stuyvesant High School require the SHSAT.
LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts is also a specialized high school. Acceptance to one or more of their 6 programs is by audition, not participation in the SHSAT.