No eighth-grade student, rich or poor, in any neighborhood of New York is automatically promoted to a nearby high school. In some cases, such a "zoned school" may be available, but it's never mandatory. All eighth-graders in the city must apply in the fall, via a bewildering panoply of methods, to anywhere from one to 12 different high schools, selected from a daunting directory of 400-odd options that’s roughly the size and weight of a 1980s big-city phone book. Each student will then receive one (and only one) “match” spit out by the Department of Education’s computer the following spring. An algorithm is said to be involved.