Asian students lose in new NYC school admission system

Asian students were the biggest losers under new lottery-style admission rules for public high schools that minimize the importance of good grades — with 30 percent of applicants failing to land any of their top 5 choices, new Department of Education data reveals.

Of the 12,082 Asians applying for freshman seats in city schools in the fall, only 8,484 — or 70 percent — secured one of their top 5 picks. By comparison, 90 percent of black kids and 89 percent of Hispanics — two groups that together totaled more than 45.069 of the 71.349- applicants — scored one of their top 5 choices.

Seventy-six percent of the city’s 9,767 white applicants landed one of their top 5 selections, while another 4,431 students who classified themselves “multi-racial” saw the worst results at only 68%. The citywide average was 83%.

“As you can see, the ones who lost out the most are the Asian students,” said Yiatin Chu, a co-founder of Parent Leaders for Accelerated Curriculum & Education, who heads the Asian Wave Alliance political club.

“I’ve been dealing with many families who are very unhappy.”

Excluding the city’s nine specialized high schools – which fall under a separate application process — students can list up to 12 choices in order of preference.

Yiatin Chu heads the Asian Wave Alliance club.
Yiatin Chu heads the Asian Wave Alliance club.

However, 5,256 — or 7% — of applicants failed to land any choice and were deemed “unmatched,” leaving their designations at the mercy of the DOE. That’s nearly 300 more “unmatched” students than the previous year when city high schools had nearly 3,000 more applicants.

About 12% of both Asian and white students failed to land any of their high school choices for this fall, while only 3% of black kids and 4% of Hispanics were shut out.

The new system is based on a complex mathematical formula that boosts so-called equity in the city’s nearly 400 high schools. Students with grades in the high 90s can land in the highest lottery group — along with kids whose average grades are only in the 80s.

All students in the top group — which made up 63% of this year’s applicants — are eligible to attend the most academically rigorous schools.

Debbie Kross, a parent advocate who sits on the Citywide Council of High Schools, said the DOE did a poor job preparing families for the new rules and that the entire process lacked transparency.

“We’re receiving plenty of calls from parents who are upset,” she said. “They don’t understand why their kid was placed in a school they never heard of, that is underperforming, that isn’t anywhere close to where they live.

“Some are scrambling to try and find Catholic schools; some are looking at private schools; some of them are moving. It has generated a lot of frustration for parents.”

Alina Adams, another parent advocate and author of the book “Getting Into NYC High School,” said she’s “very sympathetic” to the Asian community but believes many Asian students and others were completely shut out because they used all 12 choices on coveted schools and failed to include less-appealing choices they’d at least be satisfied with.

“This system did exactly what it was supposed to do,” she said. “I hate generalizations, but it comes down to this: many Asian students are extremely high achievers, who have all A’s. What I suspect happened is many put down 12 schools that in the past were only for high-achieving kids, because” they would have likely gotten in under the previous system.

DOE officials also blamed the discrepancy on Asian and white students tending to rank more high-demand schools on their applications compared to students of other ethnicities, meaning each student in many cases is competing against 18 or more applicants per seat.

The new admissions system has generated extreme frustration for parents and students alike.
The new admissions system has generated extreme frustration for parents and students alike.
JC Rice

“This administration is committed to increasing access to high quality education for all New York City students,” said DOE spokeswoman Nicole Brownstein. “This year, 75 percent of NYC high school applicants received an offer to one of their top three choices and 50 percent received an offer to their top choice — both increases from last year.

“Chancellor [David] Banks maintains his commitment to engaging our families and communities across the city to gather feedback on how to improve upon this process for future years.”

Additional reporting by Susan Edelman