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Tuesday, 26 March 2013 11:21

Top 10 tips for choosing a charter school

If you’re unhappy with your neighborhood school, you may want to enter a lottery for a charter school. The deadline is April 1--so hurry. In most cases you can submit an application online. Get an application on the New York City Charter School Center website, on the individual schools' websites or at the school. (Some charter schools are open this week, even though the public schools are on Spring break.)

But which school? Here are tips for making your choice.

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For the third year in a row, Baruch College High School had more applicants than any other school in the city, according to the Department of Education.

Nearly 7,500 8th graders applied for 120 seats at Baruch, a selective high school in Gramercy Park that only accepts District 2 students. It had 1,000 more kids apply than in 2012. Two-thirds of Baruch students are Asian. The high school has a 100 percent graduation rate and solid college prep.

Pace High School in Chinatown and Eleanor Roosevelt High School on the Upper East Side were the second and third most popular choices.

Pace, which opened in 2004, accepts students citywide and does not screen its applicants. It had 6,040 students apply for 108 seats. About nine in 10 students graduated from Pace in 2012, and it does well with special education students. The student body is mostly African American and Hispanic. Of the top five most sought-after programs, Pace is the only unscreened school.

Eleanor Roosevelt, a selective school on the Upper East Side with a nearly perfect 2012 graduation rate, received 5,733 applicantsfor 125 seats. ELRO gives preference to students from District 2 and a majority of its students are white. It has a low poverty rate compared to other schools in the city: fewer than 1 in 5 students qualify for free lunch.

Townsend Harris in Queens ranked fourth, with 5,471 applicants for 270 seats, and Beacon High School was 5th, with 5,469 applicants for 330 seats.

Because the DOE released a list of the top 20 high school programs, Midwood High School in Brooklyn appeared twice. Its selective humanities program was the 8th most popular, with 4,361 applicants. And 4,343 kids ranked Midwood's selective medical science institute, making that the 10th most sought-after program.

Every school on the DOE's top ten list last year appeared on the top 20 list this year, and many of those schools were top schools the year before, in 2011

Thirteen of the city's most popular programs are selective high schools, which usually have high graduation rates because they weed out applicants who performed poorly in middle school. And five of the new small high schools opened under Mayor Bloomberg were among the 20 most popular.

One of those new small schools, the perennially popular Food and Finance barely made the "most popular" cut this year. Its unscreened culinary arts program had 1,000 fewer applicants this year than last, dropping it from the 10th most popular program to the 19th most popular with 3,600 8th graders applying for the school's 100 seats. 

Download the DOE's list of top 20 schools here [PDF]. These 20 high school programs received the most applications out of all the 400-plus high schools (and countless programs) in the city excluding the nine specialized high schools. About 28,000 kids took the Specialized High School Admissions Test for a shot at the exam schools, which offered seats to 5,229 incoming freshman for the 2013-14 school year. 

The top 20 list includes the number of 8th graders who listed the schools anywhere on their applications – it doesn't indicate how many students ranked the schools first. The DOE did not release the number of applicants for any other school.

 

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Here are some recommendations for high schools that still have room—either new schools opening in the fall or established schools that haven’t filled their 9th grade seats, according to the Department of Education "Round 2 program list."

Bronx

Westchester Square Academy, housed in Lehman High School, has seats in its new honors program. Founded in 2011 by the former assistant principal of Brooklyn Latin, Westchester Square has lots of good word of mouth.

For strong students, the Macy’s honors program at Dewitt Clinton High School still has seats. Although there are some concerns about safety and discipline in the building, the smaller honors program has challenging academics.

Bronx Design and Construction Academy is a new school that's off to a good start.

Bronx Latin has high expectations and a classical education.

Fannie Lou Hamer, Bronx Guild and Bronx Compass offer progressive, non-traditional education.

Bronx Collaborative High School, a new school housed in Dewitt Clinton High School, is modeled after the popular Institute for Collaborative Education (ICE) in Manhattan. Brett Schneider, former ICE assistant principal, is the new principal.

Brooklyn

Abraham Lincoln High School has a good photography program that still has seats. Overall, the school is better than its reputation and a good place for kids who can handle the huge size.

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Acceptance letters for high school went out today, and 90 percent of students got one of their choices. But if you are one of the 7,225 8th graders who didn’t get matched to a high school (or if you’re unhappy with your match) it’s time to consider one of the 16 new schools opening in the fall of 2013—or one of the established schools that still has space.

You can meet representatives from these schools at the second-round high school fair from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 6th and Aprll 7th at the Martin Luther King Educational Campus at 65th and Amsterdam in Manhattan.

Some of the schools will also have their own open houses. We've also compiled some recommendations for high schools that still have room.

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Friday, 08 March 2013 12:57

Ask Judy: Are state exams mandatory?

Dear Judy,

I have daughters in the 4th grade who are supposed to take the state exams this year. I'm told future middle schools will look at these exam results to determine acceptance. The stress my daughters are under during "test prep" is crazy. Is this exam really mandatory?

Fourth grade mother

Dear Fourth Grade Mother,

Yes, the standardized tests are required. Chancellor's Regulation A-501 makes that clear.

Whether or not you think that this system is right, I would advise you to have your daughters take the test.

Fourth grade tests are important because middle schools look at them to decide on admissions. Kids apply to middle school in the fall of 5th grade--before the results of the tests given in the spring of 5th grade are available.

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Q: My son just received an impressive-looking envelope inviting him to participate in the National Student Leadership Conference in Washington, DC. They make it sound like going will be a great thing for him to put on college applications, but will it really count that much? Will it open doors for him? If this is truly a great opportunity, I don't want him to miss out – but it's really expensive! What do you suggest?

A: Would participating in this program be exciting for your son? Probably so. Will participating add a line to his resume that will make a real impact on his college applications? The company organizing the program would like you to think so, but the real answer is: no.

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Parents whose children turn four this year may start applying for pre-kindergarten this week. Applications are available online now and the Education Department will host pre-K info sessions in all five boroughs this week, beginning in Queens tonight. Applications are due April 5.

Pre-K programs are housed in public schools or at local child care centers and community organizations, and are either half day (2.5 hours), or full day, (6 hours and 20 minutes.) The state mandates that each pre-k class may have a maximum of 18 students with two teachers. 

Applying for pre-K gives parents a first taste of New York City's competitive public school admissions process. Any child who was born in 2009 may apply, but admission is not guaranteed: Last year, 30 percent of the kids who applied for pre-K didn't land seats in DOE programs. 

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Monday, 04 March 2013 16:00

Apply now to new middle schools

Unhappy with your middle school choices? The Education Department plans to open 16 new middle schools next September. While choosing a new school over an established one is risky, at least two of these new schools look like promising options: School of the Future in Manhattan will open a sister school in East New York and the Eagle Academy for Young Men is opening another school in Harlem, in District 5.

Many of these new schools have yet to be approved by the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) which will meet to vote on school closings and openings at its March 11 meeting. A few are screened programs but most are unscreened, giving preference to students who attend an open house or info session. Students who are eligible to attend the new middle schools will receive application information from their elementary schools, according to the DOE. Or you can contact the new schools to find out when their info sessions are being held.

Applications are due on March 6, a week before the PEP meeting. Kids who apply and are accepted to one of the new schools may choose between the new school and the middle school they originally applied to, according to the DOE.

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Tuesday, 26 February 2013 12:56

Our Queens picks

Most children in Queens attend their neighborhood elementary schools, and there isn’t a lot of room for shopping around. However, if you are dissatisfied with your zoned school, here are some possibilities.

District 24

The most crowded district in the city, District 24 has had three new non-zoned elementary schools open up since 2010 to ease the overcrowding, including PS 290, PS 330, and PS 110, which opened in the fall of 2012.

District 25

District 25, serving Bayside and Flushing, has three well-regarded early childhood schools for grades K-3 which are open to children across the district: PS 130, PS 242 Leonard P. Stavisky Early Childhood School, and the Active Learning Elementary School. The Queens College School for Math, Science and Technology, a K-8 school hosted on the Queens College campus, accepts students by lottery from all over Queens.

PS 201 The Discovery School for Inquiry and Research, has a magnet grant, so children may apply from outside the zone.

District 26

PS/IS 266 in Bellerose accepts children from across District 26 through a lottery and shares a campus with PS/IS 208 and the Queens High School of Teaching, Liberal Arts and the Sciences.

Some neighborhood schools in the district also sometimes accept students from outside the zone. PS 031 Bayside and PS 046 Alley Pond have had some room for a few students from outside the zone in recent years.

District 27

Goldie Maple Academy is open to students throughout District 27.

District 28

The Academy for Excellence through the Arts is a small, arts-focused early childhood school open to applicants from throughout the district. PS 80 Thurgood Marshall offers a gifted and talented program that is not part of the city's gifted program, and while most general education students are from the zone, the school does maintain a waiting list for a small number of out-of-zone children.

District 29

Four schools in District 29 accept students by lottery, three of them are K-8 schools and a fourth is an early childhood school. All are housed in attractive well-equipped buildings and are open district-wide: PS/IS 208, PS 251, PS/IS 268, and the Gordon Parks School.

District 30

While District 30 does not have any non-zoned schools, some neighborhood schools have accepted out-of-zone students over the past few years. Some strong schools with dual language programs accept a few students from outside the zone each year, including PS 166 Henry Gradstein, PS Q222 Fire Fighter Christopher A. Santora School, and PS 228 Early Childhood Magnet School of the Arts.

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Tuesday, 26 February 2013 10:13

Ask Judy: Opting out of kindergarten

Dear Judy,

I am very concerned about the the direction that kindergarten is going. When will people realize these are babies, who deserve to play and learn at their own pace, mostly out and about in the world? Five year olds should not be taught material that's intended for 6-year-old brains, developmentally. Five year olds should not be asked to sit doing worksheets for hours a day, but that's what most teachers are doing now. Must I send my child to kindergarten? I would prefer to keep her away from all formal schooling until she is 6 or 7 (like the kids in Finland) but I am afraid I would be breaking the law.
Kg concerned

Dear Kg concerned,

The last time I explored this with DOE staffers, I was assured that the object of the law was not to "go after" the parents who do not send their child to kindergarten. Their concern is for the kids who were not let into crowded schools because kindergarten was not required. You may keep her out of kindergarten but you must enroll her for 1st grade (unless you decide to homeschool -- more on how to do that below.)

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