City unveils new admissions process for middle and high schools

August 15, 2019 Meaghan McGoldrick
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Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza joined parents and educators at M.S. 890 in Kensington on Thursday to announce a new, simpler admissions process for the city’s public middle and high schools.

The overhaul will simplify paperwork and do away with an entire second round of applications.

Tazin Azad, parent association president at M.S. 890, took the podium at Thursday’s press conference alongside her three children to call the change to the admissions process a “big, big relief.”

“I’m thrilled that my family will never have to go through that again,” she said of the admissions process which, until Thursday, had forced parents and their children to apply not just once but twice — a routine that often left families waiting in the dark for months, unclear on where their child would be attending the next school year and unsure of their next steps.

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Azad spoke of fellow parents and friends who have had to delay vacations and put off new moves so that they could focus on the city’s complicated admissions process — one, she contended, is even harder for immigrant communities, who might be less likely to understand the already convoluted procedure.

Now, there will be just one round of admissions for parents to keep track of.

“After you apply in the fall, we will not ask you to apply again,” Carranza told the crowd, adding that instead, if a student gets an offer for a school that was their third pick, they would automatically be placed on a waitlist for their first and second choices.

Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza. Eagle photo by Meaghan McGoldrick

Families will then be able to track that waitlist in real time at, similar to having a number in line at the meat market. “You’ll know your spot and if the seats do open up, you get an offer — it’s that simple,” Carranza said.

“If your kid is number 15 on the waitlist and a child is taken from number one off of that waitlist, a form online will reset and your child goes from 15 to 14,” de Blasio said, adding that years ago, the concept of live updates would have been “unimaginable at the [Department of Education]. This is the 21st century reality.”

If a parent or student changes course at any time, once given their initial offer, they can choose to join the waitlist for any school in the system, added Josh Wallack, DOE’s deputy chancellor for early childhood and student enrollment. “The idea is to expand the choices that families have,” he said.

The new process, de Blasio said, stemmed from focus groups and town halls where for years, parents expressed frustrations with middle and public school admissions. The idea moving forward, he said, is “fewer deadlines, less paperwork [and] more transparency.”

Family Welcome Centers and school counselors are currently being trained in time for fall admissions fairs, officials said, and the DOE’s website has already been updated to include information about the new process. “Not tomorrow, not later, right now,” Carranza said.

When asked if he and Carranza were still considering ways of diversifying city schools, de Blasio doubled down on his commitment to getting rid of the Standardized High School Admissions Test.

“We’ve gotta go back with a new approach, which we’re gonna do to address the fundamental problem of a single test, which in our entire society has been banished basically,” he said. “You don’t get into Harvard or Yale through a single test. You don’t get into anything through a single test. It throws off the whole equation.”

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  1. StanChaz

    As regards the city’s specialized schools and their entrance test:
    When the Mayor says he wants to “diversify”, let’s make sure that does not really mean “destroy”.
    Destroy- as in destroying the entrance test and the standards of these excellent public schools,
    rather than simply adding selection criteria to the test for entrants.
    Of course, the ultimate solution is to increase the number of specialized schools
    and provide free assistance to all who wish to compete for the limited spaces available.
    Watering down standards will not prepare students for the real life world.
    The argument for “diversification“ falsely implies deliberate discrimination or segregation by race.
    That’s a blatant and totally misleading falsehood. For the test is color-blind, and all are free to compete.
    In fact since the majority of students in these schools are Asian, then according to this illogic,
    Caucasians should complain about being left out and not properly represented. How absurd.
    Raise the students instead of lowering the standards.

  2. Ro from Park Slope

    The middle school and high school process needed to be simplified. Kudos. But: The law requiring the one test for admittance into the Special High Schools must remain for those who are able to pass–why should “one size fits all” be the norm? And don’t stop there: Just make sure that the every local high school has Honors classes and AP courses for those who qualify by their report card grades along with the State Exams scores (no refusals –aka “opting out”– if wishing to be considered for admittance since these tests are required by law).