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Q: I have been going back and forth on this for weeks and making everyone around me crazy because of my indecision. Decision Day is coming up soon and I have a big choice. I am a strong student and was accepted by four colleges. Three schools rejected me, but they are Ivies, so I'm not that disappointed. My main choice is between my state university, which has offered me a place in their honors program, and a much smaller, well-known private college. I hope to go to medical school after college, and think that graduating from this private college will help me get into a better med school. But it is also way more expensive than my state university, and I feel dizzy when I think of years of repaying loans. What should I do?

A: Fast forward into the future: when a hospital patient is facing surgery, no one asks, "Where did this doctor go for undergraduate study?" People do ask, "Where did the physician go to medical school?" In ten years, your undergraduate degree is not going to matter as much as your medical degree.

Nearly 30 percent of the 35,000 children who took "gifted and talented" assessments in January scored high enough to qualify for one of the city's G&T programs. But, once again, the highest percentage of eligible students come from middle class districts in Queens, brownstone Brooklyn and Manhattan while residents of the city's poorer areas are largely shut out.

Outreach efforts by the Department of Education in central Brooklyn and the Bronx did succeed in increasing the number of test-takers for kindergarten, but the number who qualified didn't budge: fewer than 10 four-year-olds scored high enough in District 16 in Bedford Stuyvesant, District 23 in East New York, District 7 in the South Bronx and District 12 in the central Bronx. Because of the small numbers, those districts will not have gifted kindergarten classes.

However, in an effort to bring G&T to underserved areas, last year the DOE opened programs beginning in 3rd grade, rather than in kindergarten, in those four districts. (They also added a program in PS 191 in District 3 an attempt to attract more Upper West Side families to that school.) Admissions to these G&T programs is based on a child's grades and teacher recommendation, rather than a standardized test. This year, 1,882 2nd graders were deemed eligible in districts 3, 7, 12, 16 and 23. Their parents must apply by April 28.

Stand on the corner of 116th Street and Lenox Avenue in Harlem early on a school day morning, and you'll see a steady stream of children leaving the neighborhood by bus and subway. Some parents call this daily exodus the "Harlem diaspora." They may live in the neighborhood, but they don't necessarily send their children to their zoned neighborhood schools.

The hemorrhaging of students over the past decade has left many of the traditional neighborhood schools with declining enrollments and shrinking budgets. Five of the seven zoned elementary schools in the northern part of District 3—a district that includes a portion of Harlem in addition to the Upper West Side—now have fewer than 300 children; three have fewer than 200. And, because the children who stay tend to be needier than those who leave, the traditional zoned schools have higher concentrations of poverty and more children with special needs than they would have if everyone who lives in the neighborhood attended their zoned school.

If your child didn't get the kindergarten spot you asked for, tune in to our InsideSchools Facebook Live on Wednesday, March 29 at 12:30 pm.

InsideSchools' experts Pamela Wheaton and Lydie Raschka will talk about waitlists, how they work and how to keep in touch with preferred schools. We'll alert you of key dates, tell you when waitlists are likely to shift and give you input from parent coordinators and current kindergarten parents who went through this last year.

If you're one of the 4,800 8th-graders who didn't get a high school placement last week (or if you didn't like the placement you got) you may want to consider a charter school.

Most charter schools start in the elementary or middle schools gradesand don't accept students in 9th grade—but a few begin with high school and some others have seats for new students in 9th grade. All admit students by lottery. The application deadline is April 1. (Because April 1 is a Saturday, some charters are accepting applications until April 3. Make sure to check their websites.)

Our picks for Round 2 of high school admissions

Written by Laura Zingmond Thursday, 09 March 2017 17:09

If you’re an 8th-grader who wasn’t matched with a high school, you’re not alone. This year roughly 4,800 (out of nearly 77,000) students did not receive a match and will need to apply to high schools with open seats during Round 2 of admissions. Applications are due March 28.

The Round 2 high school fairs are scheduled for March 18 and 19, 11 am–2 pm at the Martin Luther King Jr. Educational Campus. Try to arrive early so you have plenty of time to meet with representatives from each school you’re interested in and with Department of Education enrollment personnel who can answer your questions.

Eighth-graders who are unhappy with their high school match may reapply during Round 2, but be aware that if you are accepted to another school, you forfeit your Round 1 match.

Current 9th-graders who are offered a 10th-grade seat, in the first or second round, will have the option of remaining at their current school. Ninth-graders who didn't submit an application last December may apply now to schools with open seats.

If your child didn't get the kindergarten spot you asked for, try to stay calm. Waitlists at sought-after schools move over the spring and summer. We have seen it happen year after year. Children get offers on a rolling basis as families make final choices. Hang in there.

The city sent out offers for kindergarten seats this week: 49,064 students (71 percent) received an offer to their first choice; 12,897 (19 percent) got one of their other choices and 7,189 (10 percent) were shut out of all their choices. Some received offers to their zoned school even though they didn't list it. 

For the second year in a row, Francis Lewis High School in Queens, a huge, successful neighborhood high school that offers a plethora of programs for all students, got more applications from 8th-graders than any other school in the city, according to data released by the Department of Education this week. Nearly 10,000 (9,890) students applied to the school in 2016—listing it somewhere on their list of 12—including those lucky students who live in the zone and are guaranteed a seat. 

Midwood High School in Brooklyn, with its highly selective medical science and humanities programs, was second, receiving 9,717 applications. Three large neighborhood high schools in Queens—Forest Hills, Bayside and Benjamin N. Cardozo—were third, fourth and fifth on the list of 20 schools receiving the most applications. That's not surprising in a borough where the most popular high schools are over-crowded and operating with multiple start times.

Edward R. Murrow, a Brooklyn giant that accepts a wide range of students, was close behind with 6,977 applicants. 

UPDATE 3/10/17: High school decisions are out! We're impressed by all the supportive words and advice our readers are sharing with each other. Join the discussion in the comments section below and also check out and comment on our annual post of Round 2 picks.

The wait is almost over. High school decision letters will be distributed by Friday, March 10. Schools got the letters Wednesday, but don't expect to receive yours before Friday when many schools choose to hand them out at the end of the day. If your school mails the letters, you may not get yours until Saturday.

Non–public school students should contact the person handling high school admissions at their school to find out their placement. If you're having trouble getting your letter you can always go to your nearest Family Welcome Center to find out your high school match.

All schools—public and private—will have access to students' high school placements via the Department of Education's enrollment system.

Details about this year’s main round decisions have yet to be released, but if last year’s results prove to be a trend, then the majority of students will be admitted to one of their top five choices and close to half will be matched to their top pick. Students who took the SHSAT (Specialized High School Admissions Test) or auditioned for LaGuardia will also find out if they got into a specialized school.

If you are not matched with a high school during the main round then you will have to apply to schools with open spots during Round 2 of high school admissions. Eighth and first-time 9th-graders who are unhappy with their high school placement may also participate in Round 2.

Round 2 high school fairs, where students can meet with representatives from schools with open seats, will be held Saturday, March 18 and Sunday, March 19 from 11 am to 2 pm at the Martin Luther King Jr. Educational Campus in Manhattan.

Stay tuned for more information including our annual best bets list of Round 2 high schools.

Hang in there and good luck!

Updated on 3/6/17 to reflect that high school letters will by handed out at school by March 10 and schools' access to high school decisions via the enrollment system.

By Leila Morsy and Richard Rothstein

As many as one in 10 African American students has an incarcerated parent. One in four has a parent who is or has been incarcerated. The discriminatory incarceration of African American parents is an important cause of their children’s lowered performance, especially in schools where the trauma of parental incarceration is concentrated.

Two policies have been mostly responsible: an increasingly punitive sentencing policy, including prison terms for violent crimes that have increased by nearly 50 percent since the early 1990s; and the declaration of a “war on drugs” that has included severe mandatory minimum sentences for relatively trivial victimless drug offenses. The incarceration explosion is primarily an expression of our race relations and of the confrontational stance of police toward African Americans in neighborhoods of concentrated disadvantage. (The incarceration rate of middle-class African Americans has declined and makes no contribution to the rapidly rising rate of incarcerations.) Young African American men are no more likely to use or sell drugs than young white men, but they are nearly three times as likely to be arrested for drug use or sale; once arrested, they are more likely to be sentenced; and, once sentenced, their jail or prison terms are 50 percent longer, on average.

Educators have paid too little heed to this criminal justice crisis. Criminal justice reform should be a policy priority of educators who are committed to improving the achievement of African American children.

Children of incarcerated parents suffer serious harm. It is tempting to think that these consequences are attributes of disadvantaged children, independent of parental incarceration. But careful studies of the effects on children have accounted for these attributes. Children of the incarcerated have worse cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes than children with similar socioeconomic and demographic characteristics whose parents have not experienced incarceration.