City won’t use grades in college admissions this year

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NEW YORK – For the second year in a row, public colleges will not use academic criteria to admit students, the Education Department said on Tuesday, just weeks before students start applying for seats.


What would you like to know

  • For the second year in a row, public colleges will not use academic criteria for the admission of students
  • The change is not permanent and leaves the incoming Adams administration grappling with how to handle admissions going forward
  • High schools can use academics to filter students, but they won’t be able to use state test scores

Instead, students will rank their choices on their college application, and for schools that have more applicants, children will be selected at random – the same process used last year.

Parents – and some schools, who were unsure of what criteria to use to admit children – are increasingly frustrated by the lack of information about the admissions process. Admissions will open January 10 and the deadline to apply is February 28.

Unlike last year, performing arts-focused colleges will be able to use auditions and portfolios to select students, depending on the city.

Before the pandemic, 196 colleges in the city used what are known as “academic screens” to admit students – class grades, student interviews, standardized interviews and school-created assessments. But the city took a hiatus from those screens last year, when most students were learning remotely and after the state exams used by many schools were canceled.

This year’s policy is essentially an extension of that hiatus – with the Education Department saying it’s not a permanent change. That will leave it to the incoming administration of mayor-elect Eric Adams to establish a more permanent policy on college admissions, which has become controversial as the city seeks to better integrate many of its schools. The city says it has worked in partnership with the incoming administration to develop this year’s policies.

Last year’s hiatus from screens meant the populations of some of the city’s most sought-after public colleges have become more racially and socio-economically diverse, according to DOE data. The average percentage of college offers to students eligible for a free or discounted lunch, an indicator of where a low-income household comes from, increased 7%, from 41% to 48%. In some schools, it was more pronounced: Columbia Secondary in Manhattan saw offers for low-income children increase from 35% to 60%, and offers to black and Hispanic students increased from 37% to 64%.

Geographic priorities, which give an advantage to students living near a school, will remain in place for colleges that have them, as will priorities set by certain school districts to help increase diversity.

The city also outlined its plans for high school admissions – high schools can use academic metrics to screen students, but this year won’t be able to use state exam results. This is because no exams were given in the spring of 2020, and in the spring of 2021 the exams were optional and taken by very students.

But schools can use things like essays, reports, and grades from the first semester of that school year. For the first time, the assessment of these materials will not be handled by the school but by the central office of the Ministry of Education, which the city says will make it easier to assess the materials when students apply to multiple selected schools.

Most of the city’s public high schools are dezoned – children from anywhere in the five wards can apply. But historically, a small handful of schools in Manhattan’s prestigious schools in District 2 had used “district priorities,” which largely prevented children from other parts of the borough and city from accessing. to schools. The city removed that priority last year – and that elimination will remain in effect this year.

But the city will allow 235 high schools to continue using broader borough or zone priorities – which give preference to students living in a borough or section of a borough, and which sometimes only apply to specific programs within these schools. It comes after the city ditched all geographic screens – causing the backsliding of elected officials and parents in parts of the city where they have been popular and fostered a sense of neighborhood schools.


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