Game Theory and NYC’s School Application Process

BY The SchoolMint Collective

By Tracy Tullis, New York Times, December 5, 2014


In recent years, the high school application process in New York City has been greatly streamlined by a computer algorithm that determines school assignments. Before the implementation of this program, the application and sorting process was prolonged and sometimes unfair for poor or low-performing students. While high-performing students were often matched with more than one requested high school, close to half of the city’s eighth graders were not matched to any of the schools they requested.

The new method for matching students to schools, called the “deferred acceptance algorithm,” works with the concept of game theory to ensure that all students are matched with their highest-ranked school that wants to accept them. Students submit a ranked list of their preferred schools, and the schools prepare an ordered list of the students that they want to accept. The algorithm goes through rounds of matching, until each student is matched with a school that is willing to accept them. The algorithm ensures that the preferences of both the students and the schools are optimized.

Ever since this algorithm has been implemented, it has assigned approximately half of the students to their first-choice schools; another third have been assigned to their second or third choice schools. While it has not eliminated all the problems around New York City high school applications, the use of the algorithm is a vast improvement over the previous school assignment process and has created an overall more fair and efficient system.

Read the full article at the New York Times website.

Learn more about automating the K-12 lottery and application process.