Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña hinted during a City Council hearing Tuesday that changes to the high school admissions process might be in the works.
“In the future, we’re reconsidering how some enrollment is done on the high school levels,” Fariña said, in response to a coucilman’s question about whether individual schools make enrollment decisions.
She also suggested that the education department would take a more active role in overseeing high school admissions.
“I think our enrollment office is going to be more closely monitoring those enrollment processes for high schools,” Fariña said. “To be continued.”
The chancellor was responding to a series of questions about how students are admitted to Townsend Harris High School, an elite Queens school that screens applicants based on factors such as test scores and attendance.
Chalkbeat has reported extensively on how the current choice-based system contributes to extreme academic sorting. Over half of the students who took and passed state exams in 2015 are concentrated in fewer than 8 percent of city high schools, according to a Chalkbeat analysis.
By June, the city is expected to release a plan to tackle school diversity. New York City is among the most segregated school systems in the country, with students starkly separated not just by race and class, but also by academic achievement.
As Chalkbeat reported this fall, academic screens, which require students to submit test scores, grades and other markers of school achievement, contribute to the divide. Hazy rules and a lack of enforcement around admissions have also become obstacles for students — providing an advantage to families with the time and savvy to work the system.
Recently, the New York Times published a lengthy look at the high school admissions process. After the mayor seemed to temper expectations about his ability to address segregation, the Times also ran an editorial urging him to take a more aggressive stance. “Segregation in the city’s schools cannot be dismissed as an unsolvable problem,” it said.
Matt Gonzales, who leads school integration efforts for the nonprofit New York Appleseed, said he expects the city’s diversity plan to include changes to high school admissions but he does not yet know the details.
“I’m pretty confident that something related to high school enrollment would be involved,” Gonzales said.
Correction: This story has been updated to state that over half the students who took and passed the state exams are concentrated in fewer than 8 percent of city high schools.