This post was written in collaboration with Katie Miller, a public school admissions expert who we partner with at Admit NY.
Admit NY consults with families on their wide range of educational options in New York City, and of course, those include public schools! Many New York public schools offer incredible learning environments for students, and there are a wide variety of reasons why public school is the right fit for your student and your family.
Unfortunately, though, choosing public school doesn’t necessarily mean a more straightforward application process. New York City is different from most areas in America in that even public school admissions are not as simple as being automatically admitted to the nearest school to your home. Particularly for middle and high school, the NYC public school application process is complex, and changes a great deal each year.
If you’re exploring public middle schools or high schools for your child(ren), you’ll need to stay up-to-date on the latest guidelines. We’ve summarized the most important changes in 2023-2024 below; however, note that even this list is not exhaustive, and changes this year may not remain the same next year. It’s critical to conduct your own research to monitor the exact process for the particular schools you’re interested in.
Middle School: 2023-2024 Updates to NYC Public Middle School Admissions
- Many middle schools are continuing to use an “open” or “lottery” system for admissions. This means that admissions to many schools will be random, based on a random number assigned to each student, rather than merit-based.
- At this time, state test scores are not being used in admissions evaluations. This is a remnant of the pandemic, when many educational institutions began de-emphasizing test scores (recognizing inequities in test preparation and accessibility that make test scores an ineffective measure of educational aptitude across all students).
- At this time, attendance and tardies are not being used in admissions evaluations.
- Certain districts are shifting their evaluation system for admission:
- D2: Wagner, Baruch, Sun Yat Sen, and 75 Morton will have two admissions methods: one that is zoned by neighborhood, and one that is merit-based (or “screened”) based on a student’s 4th grade report card.
- D3: Columbia Secondary will return to using a merit-based (“screened”) admissions system based on a student’s 4th grade report card.
- D15: Some schools in this district are becoming city-wide options for families anywhere, but will reserve priority for families that live in D15
- City-wide accelerated and audition programs (including, but not limited to: Anderson, NEST+m, Tag, Mark Twain, PPAS, etc.) will continue to use a screened and/or audition-based admissions system.
High School: 2023-2024 Updates to NYC Public Middle School Admissions
- (Same as middle schools) At this time, state test scores are not being used in admissions evaluations. This is a remnant of the pandemic, when many educational institutions began de-emphasizing test scores (recognizing inequities in test preparation and accessibility that make test scores an ineffective measure of educational aptitude across all students).
- (Same as middle schools) At this time, attendance and tardies are not being used in admissions evaluations.
- The NYC Department of Education has removed district priorities for high school, meaning that families no longer receive priority admissions status at schools near where they live. However, borough priorities and zoned admissions continue to exist.
- Many schools are expanding their efforts to diversify their student populations by allocating a growing number of seats to students entitled to free or reduced-price lunch, offering those students priority in the admissions process.
- MySchools, the online portal that families use to submit their public school applications, is expanding its functionality and the information it offers on each school. While the portal used to be quite limited in providing information, the city is aiming to make it more of a resource hub for families evaluating school options; the portal now includes information on how many students previously applied and were accepted in specific priority groups, a calendar of open houses and tours, and other helpful information.
- For schools that require auditions as part of their application process (i.e. arts-focused schools like LaGuardia), the audition formats accepted are evolving - all schools now accept virtual auditions, though some schools still offer the option to audition live. Families should always research their particular school of interest to stay up-to-date on its specific audition procedures.
- “Lottery numbers,” the random number assigned to each family for the purpose of lottery-based admissions, are becoming increasingly important and, helpfully, increasingly transparent. Via MySchools and other information released by specific schools, there is now more information available about how a family’s lottery number will impact their admissions priority.
- There are major changes to the waitlist system this year: the waitlist process is centralized through the Department of Education rather than being handled per-school, and the Department has committed to creating a new random number for many waitlists that families are automatically added to (i.e. for schools ranked above the school where they are placed). This means that students who were unlucky in the main round have multiple other chances during the waitlist period to “win” the lottery. In addition, the waitlist period has been extended, and now runs through mid-September.
- Recent emphasis on a student’s 7th grade report card is continuing, namely in the use of the “tiers system.” This admissions system places students into tiers based on performance in the four core subjects (social studies, ELA, math, and science) on their final 7th grade report card; the combination of this tier and the student’s lottery number is often the key factor in matching to a screened school. This year, students are assigned to tiers as follows:
- Tier 1: At least a 90% grade average and top 15% of grade performance in either the city or the student’s particular school (variable depending on middle school); the city's 15% cutoff this year is 94.
- Tier 2: At least an 80% grade average and top 30% performance (city cutoff: 89.66)
- Tier 3: At least a 75% grade average and top 50% performance (city cutoff: 82.75)
- Tier 4: At least a 65% grade average and top 70% performance (city cutoff: 76.33)
- Admissions results will be released earlier, which is a crucial improvement that means that families who are also applying to private/independent schools can receive both sets of results (public and private) around the same time and weigh all of their options at once.
Again, keep in mind that the public school admissions process evolves rapidly year over year, so these changes may only be in place for 2023-2024. Unfortunately, the public school process is very complex and requires frequent monitoring; that being said, several changes this year will ultimately make the process more equitable and more transparent, which are positive adaptations for families across New York.
Looking for help navigating the public school admissions process? Our team offers comprehensive educational consulting for both public and private school in New York City - reach out today for an introductory consultation.