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(Note: Post updated on Sept. 17, 2014)

Mayor Bill de Blasio has hinted that his administration will change the admissions procedures sometime in the future—not this year—at the five specialized high schools established during the Bloomberg administration, which are not governed by state law: Brooklyn Latin; High School of American Studies at Lehman College; High School for Math, Science and Engineering at City College; Queens High School for the Sciences at York College; and Staten Island Tech.

The changes would address concerns that declining numbers of black and Latino students are accepted at the elite specialized schools that use the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) as the sole criterion for admission.

No changes are planned for this year, and the SHSAT given on Oct. 25 and 26 will be basically the same as it's always been. 

Even in the future, it's not likely that the SHSAT will be eliminated for the three older, exam-based specialized schoolsStuyvesant, Brooklyn Tech and Bronx Science—because that would require action in Albany. Some legislators have introduced bills to change the 1971 law that establishes the exam as the only admission criterion for these three schools, but the chance of passage appears slim. However, it looks likely that the test itself will change. The city's Department of Education has issued a request for proposals "to provide a standardized testing program which is designed to select students for admission into the specialized high schools." The new test would come into effect in 2015 and proposals are due by Oct. 23, 2014. There is a pre-proposal conference on Sept.29, 2014, at 10:30 am at 131 Livingston Street, Room 610 in Brooklyn.

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School starts on Sept. 4 and for high school juniors and seniors, this means it's also time to start thinking about college. Here's my advice on what to focus on as you look ahead to college.

Juniors: The most important thing you can do for yourself this year is to concentrate on your studies. Take the most challenging courses you can, and strive to do well. If you are involved in some extra-curricular activities you enjoy, stick with them. If you have not become involved yet – join something! This does not have to be at your high school; it can also be in your community. You will look (and feel!) more balanced if you do something besides study. But don't obsess about college applications yet – most high schools do not begin college programs until the spring of junior year. One more thing: READ. I cannot stress more emphatically that students who read widely and constantly fare much better, in the college process and overall, than students who read little.

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Students who are new to New York City public schools or who are re-entering city schools after a time away, may register at special temporary enrollment centers beginning on Aug. 27 in all boroughs. The centers are open Monday-Friday, 8 am to 3 pm through Sept. 12, with the exception of Sept. 1, Labor Day. Regular enrollment centers will be closed from Aug. 22 to Sept. 15.

All high school students should go to the enrollment centers, along with any elementary and middle school students who do not have a zoned school. Elementary and middle school students who have a zoned school should wait until the first day of school, Sept. 4, to register at the school, the Education Department said.

All special education students who have a current IEP (Individualized Education Plan) may enroll directly at their zoned schools on Sept. 4. Students without a current New York City IEP, need to go to an enrollment center or to a special education site, for those with more restrictive needs.

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Bill de Blasio had been mayor for less than four months when the city's elementary and middle school students took standardized tests this past April. And, according to numbers released on Thursday, more than 68 percent of students who took the tests this year failed to meet state standards in English; 64 percent fell short in math.

Still, the scores are somewhat higher than they were when de Blasio's predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, announced test results a year ago. To announce this year's numbers, de Blasio along with Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña held an ebullient press conference on Thursday, predicting that the administration's reforms would propel students towards bigger gains in the year ahead.

De Blasio made the announcement outside the Brooklyn Brownstone School in Bedford-Stuyvesant, which, he said, saw the percentage of its students scoring proficient—generally regarded as a level 3 or 4 score—on the English test rise from 27.5 in 2013 to 44.1 percent in 2014. The number of students meeting state standards in math also increased substantially.


Standing with school principal Nakia Haskins, de Blasio said Brooklyn Brownstone developed a program aimed at having students "think analytically—not just take a test ... This is a deeper approach."

"This school is a trendsetter for things that are starting to happen citywide," de Blasio said. In particular, he cited improved teacher support and training. "You can see the difference it’s making when our teachers are supported in their efforts to help students get to the root of things." 

De Blasio readily conceded many students still fall short on that measure. But he said he hopes the types of programs in effect at Brooklyn Brownstone, along with more professional development for teachers, the expansion of pre-k, increasing the number of afterschool programs for middle school students and creating community schools offering a variety of services and supports to students and their families would improve academic performance across the city.

"Test scores are one indicator of progress," de Blasio said, "but tests like this are only one measure. And I'll say this when scores are good and when they're not so good."

Certainly the tests will have less clout than they once did. Indications are that the city's progress reports for individual schools will put less emphasis on test scores. The state has barred selective middle and high schools from using the scores as the sole means for determining which students they admit. In response, the Department of Education has committees working on new admissions procedures, which are expected to issue reports by the end of September, Fariña said.

Education department officials at the press conference said students will be able to access their scores the last week in August.

In light of persistently low scores among many black and Hispanic students, particularly boys, Fariña said the department would create more single-sex schools, such as a new branch of the Eagle Academy for Young Men slated to open on Staten Island, and would improve guidance services. She said an emphasis on technology, while beneficial to all students, might particularly help these low-scoring boys.

Fariña said she was encouraged by the decline in the number of students scoring at Level 1, meaning the student is "well below proficient." In 2014, 34.7 percent of children were at level 1, compared to 36.4 percent in 2013. In math, the percentage dropped to 33.9 percent from 36.8 percent. Students with a level 2 are considered approaching proficiency and are thought to be on track to graduating high school, though perhaps not to being "college and career ready."

While the sharp drop in test scores last year—the first year that the tests reflected the new Common Core standards—spurred opposition to the Common Core, de Blasio expressed strong support for the standards. "This is a new standard and a higher standard and the right standard," he said.

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New York City students did slightly better on state standardized test this spring than they did in 2013, but about two-thirds of test-takers in grades 3–8 still failed to meet state standards on either the English language arts (ELA) or math tests, according to figures released by the state education department today.

In New York City, 34.5 percent of students met or exceeded state standards as measured by the math test, up from 30.1 percent last year. For the state as a whole, 35.8 percent passed the math test, compared to 31.2 in 2013.

ELA scores for the state remained largely flat, with pass rates—the number of children getting a level 3 or 4—increasing by a tenth of a percentage point, from 31.3 percent to 31.4 percent. New York City students, while still scoring below the statewide average, saw a greater increase in English scores, as 29.4 percent scored a level 3 or 4 as compared with 27.4 percent in 2013.

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Tuesday, 12 August 2014 12:55

Pre-k sign-up & info sessions happening now

If you're still uncertain what to do with your 4-year-old in September, you're in luck. There's still space available in many of the city's pre-kindergartens in schools and community organizations. To be eligible, your child must turn 4 by Dec. 31, 2014.

On Tuesdays in August, beginning today in Brooklyn, parents can meet with officials from the Department of Education's enrollment office at Brooklyn Borough Hall to find out how to enroll their 4-year-old in a pre-kindergarten for September. Enrollment officials have the list of schools and early childhood centers such as libraries, YMCAs or Head Starts that may still have openings. Community organizations enroll students on a rolling basis so enrollment numbers are changing throughout the summer. 

The Brooklyn sessions are on Aug. 12, 19 and 26 from 4 to 7 pm in the lobby of Brooklyn Borough Hall at 209 Joralemon Street. We've asked the DOE whether there will be information and sign-up sessions in other boroughs but there is no centralized list. Many sessions are organized by legislators as part of the city's push to enroll children in 53,000 pre-kindergarten slots by September so contact your borough president's office or local council members or go to a DOE enrollment office for help.

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Newcomers to New York City, who are entering 9th or 10th grade in September, must register by Tuesday, August 19, if they want to take the summer exam for admission to one of the selective specialized high schools, or to audition for the arts school, LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and the Performing Arts. Families may register and pick up an admissions ticket for the test and audition at any Department of Education Enrollment Office.

Eligible students are those who are entering 9th or 10th grade for the first time, moved to New York City after Nov. 1, 2013 and did not take the specialized high school exam (SHSAT) or audition for LaGuardia last fall.

You'll need these documents to register: proof of residence, proof of birth, immunization records and a final 2014 report card.

The exam will be given on Aug. 26; the auditions for LaGuardia will be held on Aug. 28. But you must be registered and have an admissions ticket to be admitted to the test or audition. You should find out whether you are accepted before school starts on Sept. 4.

Entrance to the specialized high schools is highly competitive. Most successful applicants spend a good deal of time preparing. See the 2014-2015 Specialized High School Handbook for a sample test and audition guidelines.

For more information, see the Department of Education's website, read our reviews and see our video below about specialized high schools.  

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Summer is a perfect time for rising seniors to visit some colleges. You won't be alone – hosting summer visitors has been the norm at most U.S. colleges and universities for the past 20 years. The number of visitors will usually correlate with the size of the campus – the larger the school, the larger the information sessions and tour groups.

Most colleges will have a "visit us" feature on their website (usually in the Admissions section). If you have to reserve a place on a tour, you can do so online or by calling the Admissions office. If you show up without a reservation, will they let you visit? Of course! The whole point of the college visit – from their perspective -- is to inspire students to become applicants. You are a prospective customer so they will be happy to see you.

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Evening workshops about the high school admissions process for 8th-graders and their families begin next week. Enrollment officials from the Department of Education wll lead information sessions and answer questions about the types of high school programs offered and how to fill out your application. All sessions run from 6:30–8 pm.

Insideschools will be at some workshops too, to meet parents and present our new mobiile high school search.

The first workshop is Tuesday, July 15 at Prospect Heights High School in Brooklyn; on Wednesday, July 16, there will be workshops at Lehman High School in the Bronx and at LaGuardia High School in Manhattan; and on Thursday, July 17, there are sessions at Queens College Kupferberg Center for the Arts (65-30 Kissena Blvd.) and at Staten Island Tech High School. 

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(This article originally appeared on DNAinfo.com by Rosa Golensohn)

The teachers union and state lawmakers are pushing to overhaul admissions at the city's top public high schools, calling the lack of racial diversity at the schools "an embarrassment."

In an effort to increase the enrollment of black and Hispanic students at Stuyvesant High School, Bronx Science, Brooklyn Tech and five other elite schools, a new state bill, backed by the United Federation of Teachers, seeks to broaden the admissions criteria beyond the current single test that determines which 8th-graders [and 9th] win admission.

Only seven of the 952 students admitted last fall to Stuyvesant High School were black—and just 21 were Latino, officials said.

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