New York City reverses on controversial high school admissions process

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Top high schools in New York City are expected to tighten their admissions criteria with the return of grade-based admissions.

On Thursday, City Department of Education Chancellor David C. Banks announced that the city is rolling back a controversial pandemic-era moratorium that allowed more low-income students to enter some of the city’s most elite schools.

The move, which will regrant selective high schools the option to reserve admissions for top-performing students, comes in response to complaints by parents and groups that the random lottery implemented for middle school students was unfair.

Several Asian American parent groups filed a lawsuit to stop the diversity initiative imposed by former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and former City Education Chancellor Richard A. Carranza in 2018, arguing that it violated the Equal Protection Clause. The case, which pointed out that most of the low-income students who qualified were Black or Hispanic, was junked by a local judge earlier this month.

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Sen. John C. Liu (NY-D) also requested to remove the high school lottery admissions process via a letter sent to Banks on Friday.

The competitive high schools that welcomed a larger pool of eligible applicants during the period will now offer priority for seats to top students who have an A average.

According to Banks, the updated changes were based on feedback from families.

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“It’s critically important that if you’re working hard and making good grades, you should not be thrown into a lottery with just everybody,” he was quoted as saying.

The announcement comes a day after the standardized test scores were released, showing many students in the city had fallen behind, and the gap between Hispanic, Black and low-income students and their white, Asian and higher-income counterparts remained.

Banks clarified that since the city is not imposing a blanket rule it will be left to the district superintendents to work with school communities to implement admissions processes they deem best for them.

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Opening earlier this year, application deadlines for high schools are set on Oct. 12 while middle schools are on Oct. 26. Students will start receiving offers in the early months of spring.

School superintendents now have less than a month to decide on bringing back the use of grades and other relevant metrics in their admissions.


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