Parents and students in NYC protest new high school admissions policies

Dozens of public school students and parents gathered outside the Department of Education headquarters on Friday to protest new admissions policies for high schools that rely less on academic records.

Organized by the local group Parent Leaders for Accelerated Curriculum Education, the families are demanding that the DOE reinstate strict eligibility criteria for 160 high schools in the five counties.

More than 58,000 students have applied for at least one screening program this fall, officials said.

“The lottery system introduced for this year’s high school admissions sends a strong message to students,” said Ting Yu, parent of an eighth grader.

“You are a faceless random number whose future is determined by a flawed algorithm. Your choice is irrelevant – hard work and determination mean nothing,” she said.

Schools Chancellor David Banks
School Chancellor David Banks defended the city’s changes.
Matthew McDermott

Mayor Eric Adams and his school chancellor, David Banks, have taken the position that there shouldn’t be such a bloodbath for a handful of high-performing schools, and are urging to expand rigorous learning opportunities.

“I’m here to try to build capacity for this entire system,” Banks said Friday at Queens’ Bard High School, which is considered one of the most desirable schools in the city.

“I don’t want this system to continue to have winners and losers,” he said at the event on early college high schools, where public school students graduate with one to two years of college credit.

The changes in admissions came as some traditional indicators of skills and abilities, such as test scores and attendance, were limited during the pandemic.

This school year, applicants applying to selective programs were divided into four grades based on their best grades from seventh and eighth grades. The DOE then ran a lottery in order of these groups.

“I am reaching out to you in hopes of not being a forgotten statistic in a typical year of enrollment,” one student wrote in a letter to the chancellor read aloud by attorney Yiatin Chu. “It’s wrong to let the city experiment with a new progressive admissions method and use me and them as subjects in my place.”

According to recent city data, half of high school applicants received an offer of their best choice, up from 46% last year. Three quarters of them received an offer for one of their top three options.

Eric Adams
Many have criticized Mayors Eric Adams and Banks for their continued support for the new admissions policy.
Matthew McDermott

Proponents said the changes should increase diversity at some of the city’s most selective high schools, including Townsend Harris High School, Millennium Brooklyn High School and NYC Lab School for Collaborative Studies — which have black and Hispanic students a higher percentage this year of offers than in previous approval cycles.

The process is separate from applying to specialized high schools, which rely on the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) for admission.

School officials this week reiterated their commitment to providing opportunities for feedback and improving the process in the years to come, but some students who have progressed through this admissions cycle may be stuck on their assignments.

“When I opened my email, my heart sank,” said Samantha, an eighth grader whose 98 and above average didn’t get her into her dream school last week. “The only thought in my head was that this must be a mistake. Not only was I rejected by Townsend Harris, I was not accepted into any local school.”

“I had never felt so devastated and to this day I still feel betrayed.” Parents and students in NYC protest new high school admissions policies


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