A new city policy that will eliminate all academic screens in middle school admissions for the upcoming school year could have a perverse effect on the Upper West Side — it could actually make it harder for the district to achieve its school integration plan.
The Department of Education announced on Friday that the city is eliminating academic screens and other screens like interviews and auditions for middle schools for the 2021-2022 school year. Parents will choose their preferences and then admission will be based on lottery position.
On the one hand, this is a practical matter — kids aren’t taking the same standardized tests this year or getting grades in the same way, because of Covid-19. But Mayor de Blasio also said it’s about reversing inequities in the system. Academic screens can result in schools within the same district attracting very different students, and exacerbating segregation.
District 3, the school district encompassing the Upper West Side, uses academic screens in a unique way — they’re actually meant as a tool to try to desegregate schools. District 3 schools set aside at least 25% of seats for children who qualify for free or reduced lunch based on their parents’ income and who score below proficient on tests. The city will still allow the schools to use the free lunch qualification but not the academic one, a DOE spokesperson told us.
There are also policy changes for high school admissions, but they mostly don’t impact the Upper West Side. Districts like District 2 on the East side, which have historically set aside high school seats for local residents, won’t be able to set seats aside next year.
Teens Take Charge, a student group that has fought for desegregation, expressed disappointment that the policies don’t go further, saying that “The caste system that defines high school admissions in New York City is still intact.”