As students, families and educators began the arduous path to high school this year, Chalkbeat listened in.
“Every high school figures out some way to limit their population” explained Eric Nadelstern, a professor at Teacher’s College. New York’s school system consists of over 400 high schools, which are populated through the city’s high school choice process. In theory, the process allows students to rank their top 12 schools, and makes all schools available to any student regardless of where they live.
At best, the high school admissions process in New York is a labyrinth of policies and paperwork. In some schools, dozens of students compete for one seat. In other cases, schools that have “unscreened” admissions policies use surveys that could help them filter students during the application process. Even more alarming: Many schools ignore the Department of Education-mandated policy of priority enrollment for students who attend high school fairs and open houses.
Here are a few of the biggest obstacles facing low-income students in high school admissions.
- New York City’s high school fair could help simplify the admissions process. Instead, it adds to the confusion.
“Chalkbeat spent two days at the fair this September and found school representatives who were unaware of the fair’s intended role in admissions and were, in turn, misinforming families. And the Department of Education does little to monitor whether schools are following the rules.”
- Open houses and closed doors: How the first step toward high school can become a stumbling block
“A Chalkbeat survey of 50 high schools spread over the five boroughs found that only 26 of the schools had listed information sessions on the calendar this year, despite the fact that schools were asked to submit the dates by July 14.”
- In New York City’s dysfunctional high school admissions system, even ‘unscreened’ schools have tools to sort students
“It’s no surprise that the schools would push the boundaries. The entire structure of the high school admissions system, which allows scores of schools to screen applicants and pools most of the lower-performing students in unscreened schools, creates the temptation.”
- For many students meeting New York City’s high school application deadline, it’s already too late
“The system is notoriously difficult to navigate, particularly for students who live in low-income areas and have less help moving through the process. Some schools have geographic priority, some have academic requirements, and others ask students to provide information beyond what is actually needed.”
- Bringing open houses in-house: How one middle school took high school admissions into its own hands
“When she asked them if they attended high school open houses — a crucial step in gaining priority status at many schools — the answer was too often, ‘Oh no, Miss, I didn’t have a way to get there.'”
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