Asian Students Lose Out in New York School Admissions System

Asian students have been the biggest losers under new lottery-style admissions rules for public high schools that downplay the importance of good grades – with 30% of applicants failing to land any of their top 5 choices, new data from the Ministry of Education reveals.

Of the 12,082 Asians who applied for freshman places at the city’s schools in the fall, only 8,484 – or 70% – got one of their top 5 choices. By comparison, 90% of black kids and 89% of Hispanics — two groups that totaled more than 45,069 of the 71,349 applicants — got one of their top 5 picks.

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 as “multiracial” earned the worst results at just 68%. The citywide average was 83%.

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

“I have dealt with many families who are very unhappy.”

Excluding the city’s nine specialist secondary schools – which are under a separate application process – students can list up to 12 choices in order of preference.

Yiatin Chu runs the Asian Wave Alliance club.

However, 5,256 – or 7% – of applicants found no choice and were deemed “unmatched”, leaving their nominations at the mercy of the DOE. That’s nearly 300 more “unmatched” students than the previous year, when the city’s high schools had nearly 3,000 more applicants.

About 12% of Asian and white students did not pass any of their high school choices for this fall, while only 3% of black children and 4% of Hispanics were excluded.

The new system is based on a complex mathematical formula that bolsters so-called fairness in the city’s roughly 400 high schools. Students with grades in the 90s may land in the highest lottery pool – along with kids whose average grades are only in the 80s.

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

Debbie Kross, a parents’ attorney who sits on the Citywide Council of High Schools, said the DOE had poorly prepared families for the new rules and the whole process lacked transparency.

“We get a lot of calls from upset parents,” she said. “They don’t understand why their child has been placed in a school they’ve never heard of, which is underachieving, which isn’t close to home.

“Some are scrambling to try to find Catholic schools; some are considering private schools; some of them move. This generated a lot of frustration for the parents.

Alina Adams, another parent advocate and author of the book “Getting Into NYC High-School,” said she was “very sympathetic” to the Asian community, but thinks many Asian students and others have been completely excluded because they used all 12 choices on coveted schools and did not include less attractive choices that they would at least be satisfied with.

“This system did exactly what it was supposed to do,” she said. “I hate generalizations, but it boils down to this: many Asian students are extremely high achievers, all of whom have A’s. What I suspect has happened is that many have closed 12 schools which in the past , were reserved only for high-achieving children, as “they would probably have been admitted under the previous system.

DOE officials also blamed the gap on Asian and white students who tend to rank the schools most in demand in their applications over students of other ethnicities, meaning that in many cases every student is in competition with 18 or more candidates per seat.

The new admissions system has generated extreme frustration for parents and students.
The new admissions system has generated extreme frustration for parents and students.
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% of NYC high school applicants received an offer for one of their top three choices and 50% received an offer for their first choice — both increases from last year.

“Chancellor [David] Banks remains committed to engaging our families and communities across the city to gather feedback on how to improve this process for years to come.

Additional reporting by Susan Edelman

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