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Selective City High Schools Forced To Accept Some Students Who Bypass Admissions Process

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Students chosen to attend some of the top high schools in the city are usually handpicked, especially for those programs that have specific focuses. However, next year's classes will have some students that did not go through the rigorous vetting process. NY1's Education reporter Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

Competition is fierce for a place at Talent Unlimited High School on the Upper East Side. There are just 125 spots, split among dance, drama, voice, instrumental or musical theater and 1,500 children audition.

"They score you and you either make the cut or you don't. And if you make the cut then you do a second round of auditions and you get in or you don't," said student Selena Haber.

This year, about 45 students got in Talent Unlimited without doing any of that. They were assigned to the school by the Department Of Education based on one factor alone: state test scores. Students and parents say it does not make any sense.

"It was a hard process for us to get in here, I worked hard. I did a lot of studying," said student Azrien Wilson.

It turns out the DOE assigned students to 71 of the most selective high schools. Nearly 1,300 students were picked based on their test scores, without considering any of the other factors the schools require for admissions, like essays, portfolios, interviews or auditions.

In some cases, the DOE says it stepped in because schools had failed to accept enough students with special needs, as required. Those schools include Beacon, Townsend Harris and Eleanor Roosevelt, all consistently among the most competitive to get into.

"It's part of our goal of making sure these schools accept students with special needs," said Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.

But most of the students added to the selective high schools' rosters do not have special needs. Almost a thousand general education students were assigned to fill seats still available after the first round of the high school matching process.

Schools say in the past they have been able to choose applicants who had almost made the cut, similar to college wait lists.

DOE officials say the new policy is designed to "maximize the number of families who know as soon as possible the school their child will be attending in the fall."

The schools say it means thousands of students who auditioned, wrote essays, submitted art portfolios and sat for interviews were bypassed by students who didn't even try out. They may not be qualified to succeed in very specific, very demanding programs.

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