De Blasio announces elimination of middle school screens

Mayor de Blasio announced Friday that middle schools will pause screened admissions for the coming year.

Mayor de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza announced sweeping changes to the middle and high school admissions process Friday, a decision they said goes beyond the racial impacts of the current health crisis to try to address longstanding inequities in the way schools are funded.

De Blasio announced that starting now, middle schools will implement a one-year pause on admissions screens. The Department of Education will also roll out several changes to the high schools admissions process over the next two years.

“I like to say very bluntly, our mission is to redistribute wealth. A lot of people bristle at that phrase – that is in fact the phrase we need to use. We have been doing this work for seven years to more equitably redistribute resources throughout our school system,” de Blasio said at a press event Monday.

The move represents the latest attempt to address New York City’s widespread de facto school segregation through the admissions process following mounting calls to do so in recent years. A 2019 report by the New School found that 58 percent of the students in academically screened high schools were black or Hispanic in 2017-18, compared to 65 percent of high school students citywide.

As part of the plan, de Blasio will notably leave in place the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test, a standardized test used by a number of the city’s elite high schools that became a lightning rod of controversy in recent years. He announced the test will be administered beginning Jan. 27 at students’ middle schools, after being delayed from its usual schedule in the fall.

Registration for the test will run from Dec. 21 to Jan. 15.

At the press event, Carranza explained that it was the circumstances of the pandemic that drove the DOE to alter the admissions process immediately for middle schools. The screened admissions process often relies on state exams, which were canceled due to Covid, in addition to grades and attendance that do not compare to previous years.

According to the Mayor’s Office, 196 middle schools use screens, or categories by which applicants are sorted and selected. Those include grades, student interviews, assessments, standardized tests and attendance.

For the coming year, students will list ranked choices on their middle school application as they always have, and schools that have more applications than seats available for their sixth-grade class will use a lottery-based system to choose candidates.

The mayor said that the DOE will evaluate this pause on middle school screened admissions and will make a decision about what to do for the following year based on the outcomes of the new approach. The plan also includes a district priority for middle schools that currently have it, as the result of families indicating they want their young children to stay closer to their neighborhood.

“But the bottom line is we can never accept a broken status quo. We can never go back to a past that didn't work," de Blasio said Monday.

High schools will begin to see changes this year too. School district priorities for high school admissions will be permanently eliminated this year, and all other geographic priorities will be eliminated next year. According to the Mayor’s Office, around 250 high schools have some type of district or geographic priority in place such as borough-based priority.

But for high schools, academic screens may remain in place where they are currently in use. If a student lists a screened school on his or her high school application, it can use a combination of 2018-19 state tests, the previous years’ grades or other criteria of its choosing. Schools will be required to publicly publish their rubric criteria on MySchools and the ranking process will be centralized to ensure equity and transparency. 

The announcement also included support for five additional districts in securing a grant to develop a community-led District Diversity Plan. District 28 is the sole district in Queens, which was set to develop such a plan but was only engaged in the early stages last school year before the pandemic delayed it.

(2) comments

stan chaz

Redistribution of resourcess...or race to the bottom? This is a slippery slope we are starting with middle-schoolers, a slippery slope that uses the pandemic to advance a false narrative of “diversity” at the expense of merit =ibased opportunities for all. One of the main reasons that the most desired schools are “top-notch” is because they do not water down their standards. Instead they admit students based on merit and accomplishment, students who can best utilize their resources. Parents who want the best options for their children should want to maintain that merit system, not destroy it. This meritless no-merit admission scheme will simply result in more students spending more wasted hours traveling to schools halfway around the city, when the real need is to improve the education that they receive locally. Removing merit competition from the equation will not prepare students for the real world. Instead it will cripple them. Of course EVERY parent wants the best for their children. But parents should realize that their children will be subjected to all sorts of legitimate testing and selection throughout their lives, and not just in school. This is not discrimination, it is reality. Parents need to prepare their children for the real world, for the harsh world, if they want them to compete and succeed in life. The false ideal of enforced “diversity” is the very opposite of the wisdom embodied by those who urged us not to judge a person by the color of their skin, but on the content of their character.The very word “segregation” i, as applied to our publci schools is used by some to imply a malevolent force, a Bull Conner standing at the school house door, deliberately separating children by color. Nothing can be further from the truth when admission is merit based. Of course everyone can’t make the grade. If everyone were given a free pass to do so, it would be a meaningless, cruel and worthless scam. It would just be another fake Trump University. Just step right up, step right up, and get your diplomas! ....Diplomas that are not worth the paper they’re printed on. Should we likewise “diversify” the NBA with white players in proportion to their segment of the population? And while we’re at it, shall we also do away with testing these potential NBA players for their qualifications, and give everyone the “equal opportunity” to play? You don’t make schools better by tearing down non-discriminatory standards and tests to create a false “diversity”. Instead you need to solve social problems by targeting of Federal, State and City resources to help these communities and schools, so that their children can better compete on a more level playing field. To do otherwise is shortsighted, cruel and foolish. It only hurts out children, no matter their race or ethnicity. And it's far from an elitist public school scenario, since any wealthier NYC parents instead use private and religious school alternatives. And in the specialized high schools the majority of students are Asian with most coming from struggling immigrant families. Competition based on merit is the proven American Way, and provides true fairness for all. Let’s not abandon it. Divisive words are easy. Destroying testing is easy. Lowering standards is easy. Cheap & divisive rhetoric is easy. But achieving actual progress and improvements in our public schools is hard. It’s time , for the Chancellor and politicians in the City & State to start doing exactly that and truly earn their salaries. Instead of lowering the admission standards of top-rated schools (and using this deadly pandemic as an excuse) we need to raise the capabilities of the test-takers. Our goal should be to lift everyone up, instead of watering down standards to the lowest common denominator. For if we do that we will never prepare our students for the real world, for work, and for life. And we’ll ultimately fail these students. Raise up the students, instead of lowering the standards, whether in middle school or later.

Lacey10

Perhaps I'm missing something. But I have never understood why black children MUST go to school with whites in order to succeed.No other group demands this; Asians and Hispanics don't care.

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