City Honors School updates admissions process following claims of discrimination against minorities

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — City Honors High School in Buffalo accepts some of the highest performing students in the area. But a federal complaint a few years ago claimed the entrance requirements discriminated against minorities.

City Honors is one of the most competitive schools in the country, so much so that it recently topped a Washington Post survey list of America’s most challenging high schools. Though criteria based schools like City Honors set a high standard, some have argued that not enough minorities have a shot at going there.

“Are there any barriers to under represented students of color being able to access that school through the admissions process?” asked Will Keresztes, Buffalo Public Schools Chief of Intergovernmental Affairs.

That’s the question Keresztes says motivated changes to the admissions process at City Honors School, to ensure that all students have a fair chance to compete for a seat.

“In the past there was an essay students had to write, there were teacher recommendations and these types of criteria were all measured the same way and given the same value,” said Keresztes.

Keresztes says the Buffalo Public School district has instead decided to emphasize objective measures like the entrance test, GPA, and state assessments.

“Things that you know students may not face barriers from other sources outside of their own control,” said Keresztes.

Keresztes says the updates were made to the admissions process in 2015, and the Office of Civil Rights approved them. This is the first school year it’s been given a full run at City Honors.

Keresztes says from year to year the numbers vary, but around 60 percent of students at city honors are white, and the other 40 percent are a mix of other demographics.

“The work that we have to do is not changing the standards or adjusting what the process is or what the qualifications are for students to attain that school. We want to make sure we have the kind of outreach that’s necessary so that all students can imagine themselves there and go for one of those seats,” said Keresztes.

The Buffalo Public School district plans to begin an outreach campaign this summer all the way through admissions period in the fall, so that under represented students of color who are qualified for a school like City Honors can get a shot at competing for a seat.

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