MANHATTAN — Middle schools that have been selecting students based on how they rank the school on their admissions applications soon won't be able to do that anymore as part of a new plan by the city to boost diversity, officials say.
The city's Department of Education released a new plan on Tuesday to bring more diversity into public schools, which includes increasing the number of students in racially integrated schools while decreasing the number of schools where students are overwhelmingly rich or poor.
While the city did not provide concrete blueprints for how they planned to accomplish integration, they did include some policy changes, including the elimination of a controversial current system in which middle schools can use student rankings as part of their admission process.
The process — known as "revealed choice" — lets schools that screen incoming students see where a student has ranked them on their admissions applications and use that information as a determining factor in whether or not the student gets in, according to DOE officials.
These "screened" schools' application processes are "strategic and inequitable" because "families tend to make safe first and second choices; families and children who want to apply to a highly competitive program but who are uncertain that they will be admitted may not do so for fear of wasting their first choice," the city's action plan says.
Roughly 25 percent of middle schools — in districts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 13 and 14 — rank students using admissions criteria, and half of those use revealed ranking/choice, including some schools within District 2, according to city officials and the District 2 Community Education Council.
For the current school year, at least four of the 12 schools in District 2 — East Side Middle School, Salk School of Science, the Clinton School, and Lab Middle School — required students to put them as their first choice to even be considered, and the Manhattan Academy of Technology and Lower Manhattan Community schools required students put them as their first or second choice. Baruch AP, Wagner AP, and Hudson River School assign more points to those who list them first and second, according to rubrics that were released in November last year.
But starting in the fall of 2019, the schools will no longer be able to use student rankings as part of their admission process, the plan says.
The change is a win for diversity and equity, according to Eric Goldberg, a member of CEC2 who fought to get revealed choice out of the middle school admissions process.
"I believe revealed choice has been at the heart of many inequities of the middle school admissions process," he said on Tuesday. "It didn't give kids the opportunity to reach or aspire to a school that is out of their comfort zone."
"Blind choice takes some of the complexity and gaming out of the process," he added.
Overall, the change will force schools to fully reassess their admissions standards and will open up discussion about middle school admissions and if screened schools should really be putting 10 year olds through a rigorous and stressful admissions process, Goldberg added.
"To me, this is heartening," he said. "Overall, the plan won't clear up all the issues 100 percent, but this will require each and every school to reevaluate the way they select and assess students and gives us an opportunity to have a good discussion about the values that we believe in and how we want our admissions processes to reflect our values."