With applications due in two days, the city’s Department of Education is not changing the high school admissions process this year, despite hints to the contrary from school officials.
“No changes will be made to the grading scale for applying to screened high school programs for this case. The deadline to apply to high school remains Friday, March 11,” the Department of Education said in a statement Wednesday.
In an interview with NY1, Schools Chancellor David Banks said parents have told him not to change the high school admissions process “at the eleventh hour. We can’t afford to make changes again. It’ll just throw the system into chaos. And I agree with that.”
New York City has a convoluted process for high school admissions—all public school students must apply to high school, and are supposed to rank 12 choices.
However, there have been changes to the application process for some of the city’s selective public schools. Due to the pandemic, officials said those schools could not use attendance or test scores as criteria — instead, they could use grades; the highest from the students’ seventh- or eighth-grade years. The plan was to assign students to four groups based on their grades, and then they would be entered into a lottery.
Additionally, officials announced that the education department would look at students’ applications to selective schools centrally, instead of having schools consider students individually, in order to streamline the process and enhance equity. But families soon learned that more than a dozen schools would have additional admissions criteria, including essays, videos or interviews. Parents said they were scrambling to understand the criteria and fill out a range of applications.
According to Chalkbeat, officials told families at a meeting in Queens last month that potential changes to the process could lead to a boost in acceptances for Black and Latino students at schools that tend to be disproportionately white.
Banks had said earlier this week that he had heard the concerns from parents and was trying to respond.
He also hinted the high school admissions process will likely change at some point after this current application cycle.
“I’m not committed to keeping that as the standard going forward. We will take a look at that,” he told NY1. “And so over the next several months for the rest of the school year, I’m convening a host of stakeholders who are going to help me in this process of figuring out what is the really the best path forward – I don’t want any parents to walk away angry.”
State Senator John C. Liu, who chairs the state senate’s NYC education committee, said he was unhappy with the current admissions system staying in place.
“Chancellor Banks rightly notes that the admissions process this year is rife with uncertainty, confusion and anxiety. Unfortunately, he wrongly decides to uphold that system, only adding to the frustration and disappointment of parents and students who were hoping to apply to their high school of choice based on their pursuit of excellence,” Liu said in a statement. “Instead, the Chancellor has taken the easy way out without making these schools better for anyone.”
The DOE also announced Wednesday it is expanding sibling priority for middle schools — families can contact their elementary schools to update middle school applications with sibling information by March 15th.