Mayor, schools chancellor announce major changes to public school admissions process

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Using the COVID-19 crisis to speed up change the current mayoral administration has been eyeing for years, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza announced on Friday, Dec. 18, plans to overhaul the city’s public school admissions process for the upcoming school year. 

Citing their joint effort to desegregate the city’s school system as well as a need to make changes in the face of the public health crisis, the mayor and school’s chancellor laid out plans to eliminate screenings for middle school students, eliminate geographic priority for high school students, expand diversity planning to all school districts and to make the school admissions process more transparent.

“Our mission is to redistribute wealth,” de Blasio said. “A lot of people bristle at that phrase, that is in fact the phrase we have to use.”

Under the new processes, public school admissions for middle and high school students will look drastically different than they have in years past. 

For the next year, middle schools will accept students based on a lottery system, instead of a screening process that wouldn’t be fair to students whose academic record may have been affected by the pandemic, according to Carranza. 

“There are inequities in our city and school system that have been exacerbated this year because of the COVID-19 health crisis,” he said. “This is not only the practical thing to do, this is the right thing to do.”

According to the city officials, changes to the high school admissions process will open up opportunities for kids across the city. Over the next two years, geographic priority for students will be eliminated. Unlike middle schools, screenings for high school admissions will not be paused because more data points exist for rising high school students, according to the chancellor. 

Carranza added that high schools will be allowed to eliminate the screening process at their discretion, and will be supported by the Department of Education if they choose to do so. However, if a high school chooses to continue to screen students, it must make its admissions rubric public. 

But there is one aspect of the schools admissions process the chancellor and mayor are unable to change. 

The Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT), will continue for the upcoming school year, as required by state law. The application process for taking the test, which both the mayor or chancellor have expressed desires to eliminate, will begin on Monday, Dec. 21. 

However, hizzoner hinted that if he’s able to convince lawmakers in Albany, change to the controversial test still may come.

“The chancellor and I continue to feel that we need a better way going forward in our specialized high schools,” de Blasio said. “I think we need to do better.”

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