Controversial NYC High School Admissions Process to be Overhauled; Emphasis to be Placed on Academic Achievement   - The Jewish Voice
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Controversial NYC High School Admissions Process to be Overhauled; Emphasis to be Placed on Academic Achievement  

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Controversial NYC High School Admissions Process to be Overhauled; Emphasis to be Placed on Academic Achievement  

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New York City’s most selective high schools have always attracted those students who are high academic achievers, however, policy changes that took place during the pandemic era called for more ethnic diversity in terms of those enrolled despite the fact that many students could not pass the entrance exams.

According to a recently published article in the New York Post, the city of New York has decided that the new policies are patently unfair to students who are prepared for a rigorous academic program at the top high schools. As such the policies pertaining to the admissions process at the selective high schools are being overhauled and they are reverting back to the policy of emphasizing stellar academic accomplishments.

Introducing the new policy on Thursday was New York City Schools Chancellor David Banks. When applicants are being screened for possible inclusion to these schools, the administration will once again make academic achievement a top priority, the Post reported.

At a news conference, Banks said that, “We do believe in high standards.  We do believe that there are academically talented students who are achieving at a high level at schools all across the city.”

The Post reported that eighth graders in the top 15% of their class — or across the city — will be given “first access” for seats, and will need a 90-average or above to qualify for this top tier.

Last year, 60% of students who achieved an 85 average or higher were placed in a group together and then selected by lottery for placement in the city’s high schools, said Sarah Kleinhandler, chief enrollment officer at the Department of Education, as was reported by the Post. This year, however, approximately 20% of students will fall into that category.

The Post reported that seats not filled by those students will open up to the next tier — for five tiers in total, to be randomly chosen within each group. Students will not be evaluated on state test scores, a measure used for admission standards prior to the emergence of the Covid pandemic.

Last year, while former Mayor Bill DeBlasio was in office, he said that the achievement of top level grades and regular attendance records should not be considered a priority in the high schools admission policy because students were adversely impacted by school disruptions and closures due to the Covid virus, the Post reported.

The Post reported that critics of the admissions policy said that it resulted in students being placed in schools that were not matched with their abilities — and sometimes far away from their homes and across boroughs.

The proponents of the new policy instituted last year claim that it resulted in a significant integration of Latino and black students at the city’s selective high schools. The Post reported that black and hispanic students received 23% of offers to Townsend Harris High School last year, up from 16% the year before, while at Millennium Brooklyn High School the offers jumped from 20% to 43%.

State Senator John Liu, chairperson of the Senate Committee on NYC Education, on Thursday stated the following about the NYC Department of Education’s planned changes to middle and high school admissions.

“Many parents and students were rightly outraged at last year’s randomized admissions process in which many students failed to place any of their ranked picks, and were forced to attend schools that were often unaligned with their interests and far from home. At first glance, the DOE’s plan appears to edge away from that widely loathed lottery and place greater emphasis on academic diligence and achievement.”

Liu added that, “Chancellor Banks is right to recognize that many areas of the city have long been underserved by a lack of accelerated learning schools. Great to see this plan expand opportunities for more rigorous coursework via the creation of new screened schools for students and families who seek it in communities long devoid of such schools.

He noted that, “Equity and achievement should never be mutually exclusive, and it remains unclear if the administration’s efforts to narrow the lottery bands, even to 15%, fosters true educational achievement and equity. The DOE and Chancellor Banks must be sure to work through this delicate balance by doing more to engage the parents, students and stakeholders across the city who feel excluded by previous administrations and still left out of the process today.”

The Post reported that Liu, in a letter to the chancellor last week, cited DOE data showing Asian students fared the worst in the city — with only 70% securing one of their top five picks.

Overall, half of applicants received an offer to their top choice high school last year, up from 46% the year before. The Post reported that three quarters of them received an offer to one of their top three choices, before waitlists.

On Thursday, Chancellor Banks announced the highly anticipated changes to both high and middle school admissions, the Post reported.

“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.

The Post also reported that he added, “This is just the beginning. But it represents a significant step forward in making admissions to our public school accessible and fair.”

“In the end, this is a community decision that will be led by the community,” Banks said.

Many high-performing students and their parents condemned the revamped admissions system and said they were devastated this spring after receiving high school admission letters in June, according to the Post report.

Some parents, led by the group Parent Leaders for Accelerated Curriculum and Education, rallied against the policy — including a petition-writing campaign that garnered close to 4,200 signatories at the time of the Thursday announcement.

The Post reported that Yiatin Chu, the group’s co-founder, said in a statement Thursday that the continued use of a lottery within tiers of students is “not ideal.”




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