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NYC revises high school admissions, lets colleges change in the air

In a major change for high school admissions, eighth-graders in all five boroughs with course marks in the top 15% of their class last year will get priority to score spots at some of the most selective high schools in New York, Chancellor David Banks said. Thursday.

Colleges, meanwhile, will once again be allowed to screen students based on grades and other metrics for the first time since 2019, Banks added.

The move marks a break from the past few years, when the pandemic upended many selective admissions criteria, forcing admissions changes that helped advance the integration of one of the nation’s most segregated school systems. . Advocates for inclusion said the changes increased the share of black, Latino and low-income students admitted to some of the city’s most selective schools. According to limited Education Department data, the changes increased the proportion of black and Latino students in several high-demand schools.

Banks said the revamped admissions process, which immediately caused confusion among families, aims to strike a balance between “improving access to communities that have historically been excluded from controlled schools,” while “ rewarding those who work hard academically and make it to the top of their college class.”

The high school change applies to about 100 schools that have used selective admissions criteria such as grades, test scores and attendance in the past. This does not apply to about 20 of the most coveted selective schools — like Beacon High School and Bard Early College — which have their own assessments like essays or school tests.

For college admissions, the city will allow each district superintendent to work with the community to decide what, if any, selective admissions criteria to use in screening applications.

“At the end of the day…if a youngster works hard every day and gets a 99% average…that should be honoured,” Banks said. “I don’t want to discourage hard work…I think it’s really important that if you work hard and are successful, you shouldn’t be thrown into the lottery with everyone else.”

Last year, when students needed at least an 85 grade point average to be in the top tier of selective schools, about 60% of eighth graders qualified, said Sarah Kleinhandler, head of enrollment in the Department of Education. Changes this year require at least an average of 90, so around 20% should take priority.

For colleges, screens have been completely suspended for the past two years.

College applications open Oct. 26, giving superintendents a short time to work with communities on creating changes and then explaining those changes to families.

Applications for high school open October 12. Middle and high school applications are due December 1.

High school offers are expected to be shared in early March. College offers are expected in April.

The city’s selective schools are separate from the eight specialist schools which require the specialist high school admission test. Admissions to these schools remain unchanged. Registration for the test opens on October 6. The exam will be given to eighth graders at their colleges on November 17 as well as the weekend of November 19.

For performing arts schools, auditions will remain virtual.

Focus on changes in high school

At the high school level, former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration eliminated a special geographic priority for students in Manhattan’s District 2 and changed filtered admissions rules last year to downplay the importance of top performers. grades.

According to the new admission criteria.

Students will qualify for the next tier if they score in the top 15% of their individual school or the top 15% of all eighth graders in the city – whichever is lower. This means that in some high performing colleges with lots of students with high marks, more than 15% of students will qualify.

The DOE did not immediately report how many aggregate seats are available at selected high schools and how many students are expected to qualify for first-tier admissions priority this year.

If there are more top applicants than places at a shortlisted school, applicants will be selected based on a lottery, Kleinhandler said.

In another big change to high school admissions criteria, selected programs will no longer consider state standardized test scores when selecting students.

Banks said he thinks state exams “can be flawed in terms of admissions criteria” and that grades are a better predictor of how well students will fare in controlled high schools.

Education Department spokesman Nathaniel Styer said the agency expects the changes will increase the racial and socioeconomic diversity of students admitted to controlled schools compared to before the pandemic, but not compared to to last year, when a wider range of students were given first priority for screening. schools.

The DOE did not immediately provide those specific projections.

Schools that already participated in “diversity in admissions” programs that allow them to reserve a portion of seats for underrepresented students will be allowed to continue those initiatives, Kleinhandler added.

Additionally, the city plans to open three new schools in September 2024 focused on “accelerated learning” in low-income communities of color — in the South Bronx, Ocean Hill-Brownsville and southeast Queens — giving students from these neighborhoods geographical priority so that they do not have to travel long distances for such programs.

“We’re not eliminating screens,” Banks said. “The previous administration sought to suppress these opportunities. I heard overwhelmingly across the city, parents are asking us to increase opportunities, not cut them.

College changes are still pending

While some families lobbied to restore selective college admissions criteria, integration advocates had pushed to eliminate them, saying it was unfair to sort fifth-graders by their academic performance at school. from the fourth year.

“It was unjustifiable before the pandemic, and it’s just as unjustifiable now to measure the educational attainment of a child as young as 9 and judge them by that for access to public college,” Nyah Berg, executive director of New York Appleseed, which advocates for the removal of screened admissions to colleges and high schools, previously told Chalkbeat.

Superintendents should work with their communities to determine whether to use selective college admissions criteria. If they choose to do so, students would be graded on their fourth-grade grades. Still, city officials said they would limit the number of schools using academic screens.

When asked what specific types of admissions criteria colleges might use and whether attendance might be a factor, Kleinhandler said, “We would accept whatever is put on the table.”

Banks added, “This is a community decision that will be community driven when it comes to college admissions.”

New York City Comptroller Brad Lander, who was a councilman representing Brooklyn’s District 15 when he passed a diversity plan for colleges eliminating screened schools in favor of a lottery-based system, s is relieved that the plan remains in place. But he was disappointed that the initiative was not replicated across the city.

“Unfortunately, today’s announcement backtracks on a citywide commitment to move forward on this vision – despite local law requiring more districts to engage in diversity planning. “Lander said in a statement. “The restoration of screens in college will reinforce segregation in our schools. This elevates the idea that some children deserve “good schools” while the vast majority do not. »

This is a developing story. Please check for updates.

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