Baruch College Campus High School is one of the schools on the list. Credit:

A half-dozen coveted ż high schools will return to prioritizing admission for Manhattan students, setting aside 75% of their seats when applications open in the fall. The schools are Eleanor Roosevelt, Clinton, ż Lab, Baruch, ż Museum School. 

In a press conference Thursday, ż schools Chancellor David Banks announced that it’s reinstating Manhattan priority; he assured parents that he has heard their concerns over rolling out admissions earlier so they can weigh offers among public and private schools. 

His remarks and strategy shift are clearly geared toward families with more means, and the decision will likely reverse diversity gains made at some of the six schools. , for example, had 12% Black and Latino students in 2019, compared to 27% now. 

The pendulum has swung a few times between democratizing admissions and keeping these schools more exclusively for families in the neighborhood. In the 1990s, preference for families in District 2, which spans the Upper East Side and Midtown West, was introduced as a way to keep families from fleeing to the suburbs or private schools. More recently, former Mayor Bill de Blasio favored integrating schools—the country’s largest school district also happens to be among its most segregated—and removed the priority so more children from other boroughs and low-income neighborhoods could qualify. In a post-pandemic landscape and a new administration, Banks has faced pressure from Manhattan families to reverse course. 

In explaining the decision, ż officials underscore that many schools outside Manhattan have preferences for children in their own boroughs as well. 

A spokesperson said: “There are schools with borough priorities in every borough across the city, including Manhattan, where many schools already give priority to students from Manhattan. Brooklyn: ~44% of schools have borough priority; Manhattan: ~30% of schools have borough priority; Queens: ~61% of schools have borough priority; Staten Island: 90% of schools have borough priority; Bronx: ~72% of schools have borough priority.”

The difference, though, is that these six schools are screened schools, meaning admission is also based on academic performance, and among the most sought after across the city; for example, a student with an offer at a specialized high school, a private school and one of these six schools might very well choose the latter. They are really that “good.” (What makes a good school is something we’ve discussed before at Epicenter ż; check out our .)

Meanwhile, the high schools in the “outer boroughs” (that’s what Banks called us in his press conference) that do favor their own residents don’t tend to be screened ones. The most elite schools outside Manhattan are often open to all, such as in Queens and in Brooklyn (caveat: the communication arts program is only open to Brooklynites). 

Unlike years past with District 2 preference, which extended preferences to out-of-Manhattan students in District 2 schools already (gifted and talented, for example), the 75% allotment will only be determined by residence, according to the Department of Education spokesperson.

For more information on high school admissions, check out our and explanation of the hexadecimal that is a big part of admissions criteria.

S. Mitra Kalita is a veteran journalist, media executive, prolific commentator and author of two books. In 2020 she launched ż, a newsletter to help New Yorkers get through the pandemic. Mitra...

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