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Top NYC school changes admission policy to account for COVID

One of the city’s top high schools has introduced a lottery element to its admissions process as part of a DOE pilot program that critics say could punish top applicants, The Post has learned.

Applicants to Townsend Harris HS with composite scores between 91-100 will be all be placed in a top tier of candidates and then be randomly selected for admission.

With the coronavirus knocking out many traditional academic metrics, the Flushing school is using prior grades and state test scores to produce the composite number.

Critics argued that the new system is a dilution of one of the most competitive academic entry processes in the city.

“This puts a students who gets a 91 in the same grouping as the kid who gets a 99,” said one current parent. “So you are going to have parents who are frustrated that their kids are putting in that extra work and effort to get the top scores and not being recognized for it.”

Another parent agreed.

“This has always been a school for the most advanced academic kids in the city,” she said. “The perfectionists. There should be a place for those kids.”

But critics of the city’s various academic screening systems argue that they benefit families of means and have produced sharp racial disparities in top city schools.

Townsend Harris is 55 percent Asian, 19 percent white, 11 percent Hispanic, and 5 percent African-American.

The school will also continue to reserve half of seats for kids who qualify for free or reduced price lunch.

In a video explaining the changes, Townsend Harris administrator Veronica York said that they preserved a rigorous admissions program while expanding opportunities.

“We want to create equal access to the entire bucket,” she said, referring to those in the first tier. “So they will all be ranked one and be accepted via lottery.”

Townsend principal Brian Condon also endorsed the changes in a statement.

 “We’re proud of these admissions changes which were driven by the community and live up to Townsend Harris’s mission of fostering academic excellence while expanding access and opportunity for all,” he said. “Our school community’s strength lies in our values and we know this new way of identifying future scholars will build upon the important steps we’ve already taken to ensure equity.”

The school noted that some kids who are not in the top tier will also be considered for admission.

US News and World Report ranked Townsend Harris as the best high school in New York last year – outpacing top specialized high schools like Stuyvesant and Bronx Science.

The outlet ranked it the fifth best public high school in the country.


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