- Middle school applications began on Wednesday, almost all superintendents agreed to reinstate less or the same number of screening middle schools as before the epidemic after consulting with their school communities for a month.
- Some schools have almost no kids who are reading at grade level as a result of this divided approach. It also plays a role in the city’s ranking as one of the most racially divided in the nation.
- Falling enrolment resulted in reduced competition for seats at some of the most historically sought-after middle schools, according to several superintendents, which altered the admissions picture during the epidemic.
After a two-year epidemic hiatus, selective admissions will resume at hundreds of middle schools in New York City this September, however, considerably fewer students will be admitted than before, radically altering the application process, which is infamous for being difficult and stressful.
While some families pushed to reinstate screens, others lobbied to get rid of them, claiming it was unfair to sort the city’s 10-year-olds based on their fourth-grade academic performance. Schools Chancellor David Banks left the decision to reinstate competitive middle school admissions up to each district’s superintendent, and while some families pushed to restore screens, others lobbied to get rid of them.
According to information released by the education administration before middle school applications began on Wednesday, almost all superintendents agreed to reinstate less or the same number of screening middle schools as before the epidemic after consulting with their school communities for a month.
Afterwards, Banks told reporters, “I didn’t care how the outcomes turned out.” The fact that the community’s input was heard and valued was important to me.
From pre-pandemic levels, there were 70% fewer schools adopting selective criteria. In all, 59 of 478 middle schools will pick part or all of the incoming sixth graders for the following academic year based on their fourth-grade grades, with 24 of those middle schools employing selective criteria for all incoming sixth students.
According to education department data, just 112 of the 196 middle schools that utilised some form of academic screening for the 2020–21 school year still tested all of their candidates.
School screening controversy
Compared to practically every other district in the nation, more public schools in New York City screen students. Some schools have almost no kids who are reading at grade level as a result of this divided approach. It also plays a role in the city’s ranking as one of the most racially divided in the nation.
Reducing the number of middle schools that have selective admissions might make a difference in the integration of schools, but some supporters fear that progress may be delayed in the absence of stated goals for increasing the diversity of the student body.
Nyah Berg, the executive director of New York Appleseed, a nonprofit that advocates for school integration, stated that “to properly integrate these schools you need to have conscious policies for integration, and that’s still absent in a lot of these districts.” (To encourage diversity, admissions in Manhattan’s District 3 and Brooklyn’s Districts 13 and 15 provide priority to seats for low-income students and others.)
It is noteworthy that Banks permitted regional superintendents to pull back selective admissions across the city after he just made a forceful argument for screening, claiming that hardworking children deserve access to specialised programmes. Banks said that choices should be decided locally and that giving superintendents the benefit of the doubt is part of a larger initiative to take into account parent input.
Regarding the outcomes, Banks stated, “It’s not about my ideas. In the future, admissions policies may be modified, according to district administrators, who promised to continue seeking community feedback.
All but two of the city’s 32 community school districts decided to reinstate either less or the same number of middle school televisions that existed before the outbreak. Both District 25 in Queens, which contains the communities of Flushing, Whitestone, and College Point, and District 29 in Queens, which includes Cambria Heights, Springfield Gardens, and St. Albans, added additional screened schools.
According to the education department’s data, ten districts that utilised admissions screenings before the epidemic completely did away with them this year.
This covers the two school districts in Manhattan with the most middle schools with rigorous admissions requirements before the pandemic: districts 2 and 3. These districts had a combined 33 middle schools in 2020. (However, because it is situated in District 3 and continues to conduct student screenings, the Anderson School, a citywide gifted and talented school, will continue to do so.)
Despite considerable pressure from many parents who argued that screens can help ensure that high-achieving students are matched with sufficiently challenging schools, District 2 Superintendent Kelly McGuire and District 3 Superintendent Kamar Samuels both decided to do away with middle school screens this year. District 2 covers TriBeCa, Gramercy, and the Upper East Side, while District 3 extends from the Upper West Side to a portion of Harlem.
Principals of 24 out of the 30 schools in District 3’s elementary and middle schools signed a letter imploring Samuels not to put screens back in place, claiming that doing so helped to equalise access throughout the district.
In a letter to District 2 families, McGuire said that his choice “creates continuity across the district” and that it “reduces stress linked to the middle school application.”
The new admissions procedure, according to McGuire, should be straightforward enough to “fit on the back of a notecard” and will decrease misunderstanding, he told reporters on Tuesday.
In District 2, several middle schools will continue to give preference to kids who reside in the community, and four of those “zoned” schools are introducing new “honours-level” math classes.
Moreover, the Brooklyn School of Inquiry, one of five gifted programmes offered citywide, will switch to a lottery-based selection procedure from one that relies on students’ academic records.
The lack of screens in his area frustrated District 3 Community Education Council President Lucas Liu, who worries that they may lessen the rigour of certain courses.
The move, according to proponents of school integration, is a step forward, though some had hoped the city would completely do away with competitive admissions for middle school.
Declining enrolment is a factor.
Falling enrolment resulted in reduced competition for seats at some of the most historically sought-after middle schools, according to several superintendents, which altered the admissions picture during the epidemic. According to Samuels, 97% of families in District 3 last year were able to attend one of their top three middle school selections.
The education administration is streamlining the procedure for schools that decide to reintroduce screens: rather than allowing each school to choose its selection criteria, kids will be rated based on course averages from the fourth grade.
Before the epidemic, middle schools had their formulae for weighing grades, state test scores, and attendance records; however, these metrics were abandoned during the outbreak, prompting former Mayor Bill de Blasio to stop screening at all middle schools beginning in 2020.
According to the education administration, this resulted in a slight rise in the percentage of low-income children and English language learners admitted to the city’s 46 most competitive middle school programmes.
According to data from the education department, the great majority of students still obtained their top choices after screenings were eliminated last year: 75% of applicants got into one of their top three institutions, and 91% received their first choice.
The deadline for middle school applications is December 1. Offers to students will be made in April.