New York Mayor Bill de Blasio is hoping changes in how schools screen applicants will increase diversity at some of the more elite city public schools
CNN  — 

New York City officials announced changes to middle and high school admissions to improve fairness and balance inequities across the system.

Beginning for the 2021 school year, middle schools will have a one-year pause on criteria used for admissions screening. That includes state exams, which were cancelled this year due to Covid-19.

“These changes will help ensure that our classrooms reflect the great diversity that is New York City, and its also a true representation of values that we hold dear as a city – that equity, inclusivity, and accepting nothing less than excellence for all children is at the cornerstone of what we do,” Education Chancellor Richard Carranza said Friday.

For schools that receive more applications than they can accept, admissions will be decided through a lottery-based system, Carranza added.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said a lottery system that encourages all students to know their options and apply “clearly has a diversity impact,” as does inviting schools to “end their screens entirely.”

“I really believe when you get a community dialogue going, when through the local school board people engage, understand how you can get better and better schools and more and more diversity in the classroom at the same time, that’s actually what creates lasting change,” he said.

“All of that is baked in here” he said of the plan.

Eliminating geographic screens for high schools

For high schools that screen students for admission, the city is eliminating geographic priority for admissions over two years, “thus giving a much bigger swath of the city an opportunity to experience some of our great high schools,” de Blasio said.

“These geographic screens have kept too many students out of the high schools of their choice and this is an important step to open back up so that access and opportunity to your high school option aren’t limited by where you live,” Carranza added.

“For remaining screens at the high school level, we invite schools to unscreen now … we will support you,” Carranza said.

If officials wish to maintain academic or other factors to screen applicants, they will use the previous year’s state tests, previous year’s grades and grades from the first part of the last school year for criteria.

All schools will be required to publicly post their criteria rubrics. The city’s DOE central will run the ranking process, he said.

The specialized high schools admission test will continue, however, as it is required by state law.

Diversity planning will expand

Officials plan to expand diversity planning to all 32 districts in New York City over the next four years.

“There are inequities in our city and in our school system that have been exacerbated this year by the Covid-19 health crisis,” which has had a disproportionate impact on communities of color, Carranza said. Calling this a “common sense approach” he said it will make the process “simpler and fairer.”

Carranza said the city “has had open enrollment for years, but it’s never truly been open because you have had a series of screens that have locked certain kids out of those opportunities … At the middle school level, we now will truly have open enrollment.

“That in and of itself will allow a greater number of students to look at schools that perhaps they wouldn’t look at before.”

De Blasio added, “People will see that the goal has to be high quality of education for all children and diverse school communities. Those two ideas have to come together for this city to live up to its promise.”