Failing on admissions
The city Department of Education’s high school admissions process this school year has taken a step backward, reverting to pre-pandemic screening practices that rely too much on test scores and grades.
Many high school students would benefit from greater opportunities to engage in challenging academic work, and all schools would benefit from having students with a wider variety of experiences and backgrounds sharing classrooms. We support the expansion of the use of the DOE’s current “ed-option” formula for high school admissions that ensures schools admit students from across the achievement spectrum.
Too much attention has been placed on the city’s eight specialized high schools as the only acceptable choices for students who are seeking advanced coursework. The focus on those schools — which rely on a single standardized admission test — has obscured hidden jewels among our high schools, such as the Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice in Brooklyn and the Lab School for Collaborative Studies in Manhattan, that have maintained high graduation rates and offered higher-level courses while drawing students from across the academic spectrum.
But hand in hand with the reduction of screens, we need a higher proportion of high schools where students have access to AP courses and more academically challenging work. Otherwise, families of high-achieving students will continue to scramble for coveted seats in the same small subset of high schools.
The benefits, for both students and entire school communities, of expanding academically integrated schools should be obvious. At numerous schools that shifted away from the use of screens before and during the pandemic, students are thriving. We should learn from this experience and demand a more equitable and fair high school admissions process on behalf of all students.