Culmination of 6 Months Community Feedback and Engagement with Families
New York City Schools Chancellor David C. Banks, and the Department of Education, announced on Thursday, September 29th, that the process of getting admitted into the top, selective middle and high schools has been changed. The new admission process gives high-performance students priority when it comes to admission to the best, selective schools. The previous lottery system under the de Blasio administration disenfranchised students who studied hard to achieve top results in their course work resulting in many being forced to attend low performing, non-rigorous schools.
“We do believe in high standards,” Banks said at a news conference. “We do believe that there are academically talented students who are achieving at a high level at schools all across the city.”
“For decades, parents have called out about how confusing and complicated it can be to enroll in New York City public schools, especially at the high school level,” Banks told reporters. “This is just the beginning. But it represents a significant step forward in making admissions to our public school accessible and fair.”
According to the new admission process, students will be placed in tiers as per their academic performance. Students in the top 15% of their class that have a 90 or above average will be placed in the first tier and get first preference for seats at a school of their choice. In the case where all first-choice seats are not filled by the highest achieving students, those in the following tier will take the open seats. There would be a total of five tiers determining which seats students obtain. Middle school applicants would also be judged on their academic performances. In both instances, state tests would not be used in the admission process.
The reintegration of performance-based admission requirements has received words of encouragement and criticism. Some have applauded the reintroduced system for rewarding hard work and excellence. This was by a large number of parents who were not in favor of the de Blasio administration’s lottery-based system. They felt as though it robbed their children of an opportunity, possibly moved them to schools far from home, and left too much to chance as students would not know which school they would go to. “I think parents had no appetite to play DOE Powerball another year,” Kaushik Das, a member of District 2’s Community Education Council said on CBS. His Community Education Council colleague, Robin Paul Kelleher shared her sentiments. “I think we have come a long way from last year and I think he acknowledges as do we, that merit matters, Kelleher said on CBS. Kelleher went on to share that if her son failed to get the school seat he wanted, her family would “explore other options such as moving.”
Some of the discourse around the admission process has been about race. Asian American parents and students have seemingly preferred performance-based admission requirements. They expressed how the lottery system unfairly punished students who had worked hard and deserved to get into selective high schools. Some critics have claimed that the performance-based admission process unfairly leaves out Black and Hispanic students. This is partially supported by the fact that the enrollment of Black and Hispanic students rose at certain top schools. Last year the aforementioned students received 23% of offers to study at Townsend Harris High School compared to 16% the previous year. Millennium Brooklyn High saw offers for Black and Hispanic rise by 23% to 43%. Some parents had hoped the de Blasio lottery system had remained in place to see more integration in schools.
The change to a performance-based admission process would not apply to every single school in the city. The admission policies of the nine specialized high schools in the city remained unchanged throughout the pandemic and will remain unaffected. Chancellor Banks also emphasized that the policy change would not be applied universally and that district superintendents, relevant stakeholders, and community members would have the discretion to discuss and apply middle school admission processes as they saw fit. The reinstated admission process would be in effect for the 2023-2024 academic year. Applications for high school seats would open on October 12th, while those for middle school would open on October 26th.