While we’ve written extensively about how calls to democratize the admissions process to New York City’s elite specialized high schools — namely Stuyvesant, Bronx Science, and Brooklyn Tech — have largely been quelled, today we thought we’d write about the admissions process to the non-specialized high schools across New York City. You see, there are 160 screened high schools across the city to which eighth graders apply. But, of course, it’s not like most New York City parents would be happy if their children earned admission to one of the 160 schools. No, they want to get into one of the top eight or so schools among the 160 — schools like The Beacon School, Eleanor Roosevelt High School, Manhattan Hunter Science High School, Townsend Harris High School, and Millennium Brooklyn High School. So what has changed and what hasn’t changed with the admissions process to these high schools?
Well, in an effort to diversify the top non-specialized public high schools across New York City, state exams and attendance records are no longer determining factors. Students with near-perfect middle school grades are now lumped together with students with middle school grades in the 80s. When applying out of eighth grade, students are still asked to rank their top high school choices from 1-12, but now a lottery — which utilizes the same Nobel Prize-winning algorithm used to match doctors to residency programs — determines a student’s ultimate high school placement.
And have these changes increased Black and Latino along with socioeconomic representation at these high schools, schools that have historically been filled with largely middle- and upper-income white and Asian American student bodies? As Ginia Bellafante writes for The New York Times in a piece entitled “N.Y.C. Tried to Fix High School Admissions. Some Parents Are Furious,” “Preliminary data from the Education Department does show that the needle has been moved in some of the most desirable screened high schools. Townsend Harris in Queens, for example, made 23 percent of its offers to Black and Latino students this spring, up from 16 percent last year. At Millennium Brooklyn, the percentage of offers to Black and Latino students more than doubled, to 43 percent. And the number of offers made to students on free or reduced-price lunch increased at screened schools across the board.”
So while the admissions process to New York City’s specialized high schools largely remained the same and these schools struggled to increase their Black and Latino representation, the same cannot be said among New York City’s screened public high schools. And while many parents are up in arms this week that their children were matched at high schools they have no desire to attend (and would sooner move to Long Island, Westchester, or New Jersey), folks at the New York City Department of Education may well be celebrating that their changes finally led to the kind of results they’ve long sought.
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