In HS admissions numbers, hints of change at selective schools

An earlier timeline for the city’s high school admissions process didn’t equate to a higher match rate between students and schools.

Data released today by the Department of Education about high school admissions show that 90 percent of the 77,137 eighth-graders who applied to high school this year were matched with a school during the first round of the city’s admission process, just under half to their first-choice schools.

But about one in 10 did not get into any school, roughly the same proportion as last year, when the city induced a flood of applications to top schools by listing schools’ graduation rates in the high school directory for the first time. Students who did not get a seat will have to choose from schools that did not fill up in the main round of the admissions process, likely because too few students sought spots in them.

The data also reveal at least small strides in two enrollment areas the city has identified as problems. First, the number of black and Hispanic students offered spots at the city’s specialized high schools inched upward, although it remains woefully low. Plus, students with disabilities will also get a second chance to win admission to a number of selective schools as part of a city initiative to require those schools to enroll more special education students.

The admissions decisions, which schools will begin distributing to students today, come a full month earlier than the city has ever before informed most students about their high school placements. That’s because the city shifted this year to a unified admissions schedule for the first time.

In the past, eighth-graders did not all find out at the same time where they had been admitted to high school. Some students — those who won admission to the city’s elite specialized high schools or to LaGuardia High School, a performing arts school — found out in mid-February where they got in. Students who didn’t apply to those schools or weren’t admitted didn’t learn what high school had accepted them until late March.

Now, all students find out where they got in — or where they didn’t — at the same time, at the end of February.

Nearly 6,000 students were offered seats at specialized high schools on the basis of their scores on a screening exam. At Stuyvesant High School, the largest and least racially diverse of the schools, the number of black and Hispanic students offered seats doubled, from 25 students last year to 51 this year. Overall, black and Hispanic students received 14 percent of specialized high school offers, up from 11 percent last year. They made up 45 percent of students sitting for the exam and make up about 71 percent of students citywide.

The 7,400 students who weren’t matched to any school now have two weeks to apply to schools that still have space or to 11 new schools opening this fall. Many of the schools with open spots are struggling, and they include nearly all of the high schools the city has deemed so low-performing that they should be closed and reopened under a model known as “turnaround.” A department spokesman said any student admitted to the schools would be guaranteed a spot in their replacements.

Unlike in past years, many selective schools also have seats open in the second round of the admissions process — but only for students who require special education services. Those schools, which include Beacon High School and Midwood High School’s medical program, screen students for admission and have traditionally enrolled few students with special needs. But Chancellor Dennis Walcott told principals last month that they would have to enroll a fair share of special education students, and now all screened schools have enrollment targets they are expected to meet.

Students who are matched to a school this week can also apply in the second round for schools with open spots. But if they are matched to a school in that round, they’ll give up their first-round spot.

The city released a guide to the new schools today. Most are opening in locations where the city has already won approval to close low-performing schools. For example, a sustainability-themed school called Harvest Collegiate will open in the Union Square building that currently houses Legacy High School, which will start phasing out next year.

The list of schools that still have seats open is below. The city is holding a fair for students still looking for schools this weekend at Manhattan’s Martin Luther King Campus.