On School Admissions, New York City’s Next Step Must be Forward, Not Back


Dora Galacatos, executive director of the Feerick Center for Social Justice, co-authored an op-ed for the Gotham Gazette urging New York City school admissions processes to take steps toward equity.

Once again, New York City public school students and families are experiencing whiplash. Last year, the city took steps to improve equity, transparency, and accountability in high school admissions. Now, at the eleventh hour of the next admissions cycle, Mayor de Blasio announced he might back away from last year’s promise to eliminate geographic priorities for high schools.

We can’t have any geographic priorities reinstated — they prioritize school admission to students who live in certain areas, advantaging affluent families, systematically denying marginalized students from accessing well-resourced high schools, and reinforcing segregation. Such exclusionary policies foreclose access and opportunity to too many students.

Our report, The Next Step, issued by a coalition of advocates, services providers, and experts, lays out recommendations to do just that. A central tenet of the report is that the city must adopt considered and deliberate equity measures to affirmatively desegregate schools: the elimination of exclusionary measures such as geographic priorities alone will not do the job.

For one, New York City needs to make good on its promise to reform admissions screens. Screens are another exclusionary policy, and more widespread in New York City than anywhere else, that public schools use to select students based on an array of admissions standards. Last year, the city pledged to pause middle school screens, which in just one year already made sought-after middle schools significantly more accessible. We call on Mayor de Blasio to make last year’s “pause” on middle school screens permanent.

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