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No matter how you feel about the end of summer (I am always sad and counting the days until the next one), this week marks the start of what may be a four-year fight for parents of high school freshmen.
A fight to make sure they get the right classes, the right teachers and even a lunch period. A fight to make sure they get support for what could be a tough adjustment from middle school.
A fight to make sure they are ready for college; too many U.S. students are not.
For New York City public school parents, it's likely an ongoing battle -- even at some of the city's best and most sought-after high schools.
School may not have started yet, but incoming 5th-graders and their parents may want to begin thinking ahead. The Department of Education offered this calendar of important dates for those applying to middle school for the 2014-2015 school year:
|Directories distributed to families|
October – December 2013
|Open houses at middle schools|
October 8 – 17, 2013
5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
|District middle school fairs. Click here for a full list|
|Middle school applications distributed to families|
|Deadline for families to return middle school applications in all districts|
December 2013 – February 2014
|Student interviews and testing at selected middle schools|
|New middle schools application packets distributed to families|
|New middle school application deadline|
|Decision letters distributed to families|
|Appeal decision letters distributed to families|
To begin your research, read more about the middle school application process, or check out these Inside schools videos:
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 enrollment centers beginning on Aug. 28 in all boroughs. The centers are open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. through Sept. 18, with the exception of Sept. 2, Labor Day and Sept. 5 and 6, Rosh Hashanah. Regular Department of Education enrollment offices will be closed during that time.
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. 9, 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. 9. Students without a current New York City IEP need to go to an enrollment center or to a special education site.
Our advice: do your research before you get to the enrollment center. Make up a list of schools that would be a good fit for your child. Read our school profiles on Insideschools and check out other reports about each school on the DOE's website. If you have doubts about your zoned school, know that there are other schools in every district that are alternatives. You can use our "advanced search" option to find "unzoned" schools, or look at the DOE's elementary and middle school directories online.
I just read the news on your site about lower NYC ELA and Math standardized test scores. My son is a soon-to-be 8th grader and this news is devastating. I haven't yet seen his score but I know that many screened/selective high school programs require a minimum of 3 on state standardized tests. Will admissions policies change in these schools in recognition that kids were tested on new standards they never learned? What advice do you have in navigating the high school admissions process for those who will begin the process this fall?
Concerned Parent in Brooklyn
Dear Concerned Parent in Brooklyn,
As you know, as of this week parents can access their child's test scores on ARIS. In fact, DOE officials are at city libraries to help parents access the scores and to explain them. If you have questions about your child's test and want to review it, you can ask the principal to set up an appointment for this purpose. You have to fill out a request and a professional will show it to you. This year, only some of the exam questions and answers will be shown. For general information, some of the questions are available online.
Many parents have complained that the percentile range shown on ARIS is too wide to be of use to determine if their kids are eligible for some of the highly selective schools. So far there is no word as to when more specific percentile information will be available.
As of yet,there has been only a little discussion of how the schools will handle these very low scores. We do know that in the spring, just after kids took the state tests, a group of principals distanced themselves, vowing to ignore results of what they saw as faulty and unfair tests.
In 2012 about 28,000 students took the Specialized High School Admissions Test and only 5,229 were offered seats at the exam high schools. Up against these odds, hundreds of hopeful rising 8th graders attended the Department of Education’s July 30 specialized high school workshop to learn about the admissions test and the specialized schools.
“I’m not going to kid you, this is not an easy test,” said DOE representative Leonard Tretola, who gave an overview of the admissions process to the crowd at Fashion Industries High School in Manhattan. Trerotola advised that applicants closely review the specialized high school handbook, which “clearly explains everything you need to know about the admissions and testing process.”
There’s no downside to taking the exam, known as SHSAT. Trerotola suggested reading to prepare for the exam, but parents concur that your chances of acceptance are slim without doing test prep. Trerotola also covered the timeline for the specialized high school admissions process, which can be found here.
On July 16, the Education Department held the first in a series of summer high school workshops for rising 8th graders and their families. The DOE hosts these workshops every summer to help 8th graders and their families prepare for the complicated high school admissions process.
Hundreds of parents, guardians and students attended the 90-minute session at Prospect Heights Educational Campus; many left saying they felt better prepared for the high school search. The workshop "gives you a starting point to look at the madness and see what you need to be doing," said Khen P. Brady, the parent of an 8th grader.
The DOE's Maurice Frumkin led the presentation, walking students through the phone book-sized high school directory and highlighting a few key recommendations for choosing a high school.
As many of my friends predicted, the decision of where to send Noodle for kindergarten has largely been made for me: After all the drama of G&T and charter school lotteries, we are right back where we started — at our zoned elementary school, PS X. Despite all the research, school tours and panel discussions, not much has changed except my blood pressure. But even though I know that PS X is a good school—some would say very good—I can’t fight the feeling that something better is out there.
For me this something better is PS Y— a smaller, newer school that is out of zone, but ironically, one block closer to my apartment. Despite its good reputation, PS X has me a bit worried. In this large school, I worry that my high needs son may get lost in the shuffle. PS Y is half the size, and prides itself on special ed. Because PS Y is so new, they don’t yet have a waitlist of in-zone students, and when I called on a whim after my application was rejected in April, I was surprised to hear from the plucky parent coordinator that Noodle might have a shot at getting in.
It's summertime and many families are on the move. Whether moving from one borough to another, from the city to the suburbs or to New York City from another state, which school a child will attend is a huge factor in family plans. This week’s inbox was full of questions from families on the move. Here are a few of them.
Can I still go to my charter school?
Q: We are moving to Yonkers in the summer and were wondering if our son can continue attending the Bronx charter school that he has been going to since 1st grade.
A: Yes, your son may continue to attend the city charter school. Here is what the Department of Education Office of Charter Schools told me in an email:
"If a family moves out of the five boroughs, but wants to continue sending their child to a charter school in the city, then the charter school would bill that district the cost of the per-pupil allocation of that school.
Similarly, if a child moves to the city, but chooses to continue attending a charter school outside of the city, then the charter school would bill the district of residence for the allocation for that student"
There is a big BUT:
"If a student moves out of the state, then the family would have to pay tuition and the school would not receive per pupil dollars."
The Education Department's new directory of the city's 413 high schools, and 705 programs, delivers an official hit to the autonomy of "audition" schools in selecting their future students.
A few months ago, parents and administrators were furious when the DOE assigned both general and special education students who did not audition to selective arts schools. The 2013-14 high school directory clarifies that policy, among others.
On page 5 of the directory, which went home with rising 8th graders last week, an astericked note next to the admissions methods for audition schools explains that the DOE's Office of Enrollment reserves the right to place students in audition programs if the school has not ranked enough students to fill their seats. That's a change from the admissions policy stated in last year's high school directory on page 8 which said: "You must audition to be eligible for admission."
"The revised screening policy at audition schools had been in place prior to this year, and based on feedback, we wanted to be even more public about it. We always want to build on our record of transparency in our admissions and enrollment policies," said DOE spokesperson Devon Puglia.
My daughter is going to 8th grade and she has to pick schools to go to in 9th grade. How can I find the perfect school for her? I'm looking for a safe-clean environment and high performance educationally. I am looking forward to have her in a specialized school like Bronx Science.
PAP, Planning ahead parent
You are starting the process at the right time. The Department of Education has announced July workshops for parents about the high school admissions process. Read our post on this issue and plan to attend those workshops.
Even before the sessions, you have homework to do! Your daughter's middle school should have given her a copy of the 2013-2014 Directory of New York City Public High Schools with information about every public high school in the city. If she didn't get one, go to the nearest enrollment office to pick it up, along with the Specialized High Schools Student Handbook, that has information about the eight exam schools that require a special test for admission. Bronx Science is one them. You can also find the directories online. The handbook includes a sample of the qualifying test: the Specialized High School Admission Test, (SHSAT),which will be administered on Oct. 26-27 this year. After taking the sample test, you and your daughter can figure out how much studying she needs to do to qualify for an exam school. Many students arrange tutoring, either individually or in a group, others study with friends or on their own and then take more sample tests. You can find these online or in prep books at a bookstore. See more tips on how to prepare for the SHSAT in a previous Ask Judy column.