Mayor Bill de Blasio announced sweeping admissions changes for middle and high school students. Photo by Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced sweeping admissions changes for middle and high school students. Photo by Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

Admissions Changes in Store for NYC Middle and High School Students

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza announced sweeping admissions changes for public middle and high schools. Spurred by pandemic-induced limitations, middle schools will put a one-year pause on all screening requirements. High schools are eliminating geographic priorities over the next two years, plus conducting the specialized high school entrance exam at local middle schools, and allowing auditions for selective performing arts schools to be completed online.

In addition to announcing admissions changes, officials detailed the long-delayed application timeline; in a normal year, applications are submitted by the holiday break.

Find plenty more information about the NYC Department of Education, plus after-school classes and distance learning support in our Schools Guide.

While the admissions changes are, in large part, a response to the pandemic and a lack of test scores and grades traditionally used in admissions decisions, they are also an attempt to improve diversity in one of the nation's most segregated school systems. The DOE has vowed to add five districts to its District Diversity Plan, which aims to build greater integration to city classrooms. All told, 13 school districts will have some form of a diversity-building plan next school year and the program will be expanded to all 32 districts over the next four-year period.

NYC Middle School Admissions Changes

The middle school application opens the week of January 11, 2021, and closes the week of February 8, 2021. While middle schools can provide geographic priority for in-district students to keep younger kids closer to home, all other admissions priorities must be dropped for this admissions cycle. Schools with more applications than available seats will utilize a lottery system to determine which students receive offers.

The removal of screens will be reevaluated prior to the next admissions cycle and affects 196 schools citywide that use some sort of screening in their admissions process.

NYC High School Admissions Changes

High school applications open the week of January 18, 2021, with the deadline to apply coming during the week of February 22, 2021.

The SHSAT, the entrance exam that determines admission to eight of the city's nine specialized high schools, will be administered to students in their local middle schools, though parents will need to register their children. Registration for that opens Monday, December 21, 2020, and closes Friday, January 15, 2021. 

Unlike middle schools, high school's geographic admissions priorities are being phased out over a two-year period. For this admission cycle, district priorities have been eliminated; geographic priorities, like borough residency requirements, can still be utilized but will be eliminated in the 2022-23 admissions cycle.

High schools can also rely on admission screens, utilizing a combination of 2018-19 test scores, previous years' grades, or other measures determined by each school. Schools must post their full admissions rubric online.

Auditions for performing arts high schools have shifted online, too. Students can produce one audition piece to submit to multiple schools. 

How to Apply to NYC's Public Schools

All families must set up a MySchools Account to process applications, whether applying to 3K or high school or any grade in between. Questions about the process can be addressed by your child's current school, by reaching out to the Family Welcome Center in your home district, or by calling 311.

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