Dozens of public school students and parents rallied outside the Department of Education headquarters Friday to protest new high school admission policies that are less reliant on academic records.
Organized by the local group Parent Leaders for Accelerated Curriculum Education, the families demanded that the DOE reinstate rigorous admissions criteria to 160 high schools across the five boroughs.
More than 58,000 students applied to at least one screened program for this fall, officials said.
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“The lottery system implemented for this year’s high school admissions sends a glaring message to the students,” said Ting Yu, a 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 means nothing,” she said.
Mayor Eric Adams and his Schools Chancellor David Banks have taken the position that it should not be such a blood bath for a handful of high-performing schools, pushing to expand rigorous learning opportunities.
“I’m here to try to build capacity for this entire system,” Banks said on Friday at Bard High School in Queens, considered one of the most coveted schools in the city.
“I don’t want to see this system continue to have winners and losers,” he said at the event on early college high schools, where public school kids graduate with one to two years of college credits.
The changes to admissions came as some traditional indicators of skill and ability like test scores and attendance were limited during the pandemic.
This school year, applicants vying for selective programs were grouped into four tiers based on their highest grades from seventh and eighth grade. The DOE then ran a lottery in the order of those groups.
“I am reaching out to you in hopes of not being a forgotten statistics in a typical year for enrollment,” a student wrote in a letter to the chancellor, read aloud by advocate Yiatin Chu. “It is wrong to have the city experiment on a new progressive method of admissions and use me and those in my place as the subjects.”
Half of applicants to high schools received an offer to their top choice, up from 46% last year, according to recent city data. Three quarters of them received an offer to one of their top three choices.
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 gave higher percentages of offers to Black and hispanic students this year than in past admissions cycles.
The process is separate from applying to specialized high schools, which rely on the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) for entry.
School officials this week restated a commitment to providing opportunities for feedback and to improve the process in future years, but some students who went through this admission cycle may be stuck with their assignments.
“When I opened up my email, my heart sunk,” said Samantha, an eighth grader, whose 98 and above average did not get her into her dream school last week. “The only thought in my head was this must be a mistake. Not only was I rejected from Townsend Harris, but I was not accepted into any local schools.”
“I had never felt so devastated and to this day, I continue to feel betrayed.”