How NYC’s school screening algorithms cement segregation across America’s largest district

By: | June 2, 2021

Each school day, the students of the John Jay Educational Campus line up outside their squat, brick-lined Brooklyn building and make their way through a metal detector on the way to class at one of the four floors inside.

Isa Grumbach-Bloom heads up to the third floor for classes at Millennium Brooklyn High School. Hajar Bouchour has been learning remotely for a year now, but when she is on campus, she keeps walking, up to the fourth floor, the site of Park Slope Collegiate.

Despite sharing a roof, students’ learning experiences inside can look very different. Millennium has been rated “excellent” in almost every metric set by the city, making it one of the top schools in the borough. Park Slope, on the other hand, mostly garners “good” ratings and occasionally just “fair” for some metrics.

Why students end up at one school instead of another can be a bit mysterious—the product of “screening” algorithms that more than 100 high schools in the city customize and then use to decide which students to admit, often using variables like test scores, attendance, and behavioral records that disproportionately affect students of color. Millennium has chosen to use screens to pick its students, while Park Slope’s high school program does not.

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