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Friday, 07 June 2013 15:55

No pre-k seats for 30% of applicants

Almost one-third of the families whose four-year-olds applied for pre-kindergarten did not win a spot in any public school program, according to the Education Department, which sent offer letters to families this week. 

This spring, 30,118 kids applied for 23,405 full and half-day seats in public schools and 29.4 percent of them did not get an offer. That percentage is slightly lower than last year, when 30.3% did not get pre-k offers for school-based programs. 

The DOE is offering about 1,500 more school-based, full-day seats for the 2013-2014 school year than it did last fall, and the city plans to continue to grow the number of pre-k seats by a total of 4,000 in the next few years, the DOE spokesperson said. But even those additional seats would not satisfy this year's demand. Furthermore, the number of families seeking public school pre-k seats is trending up: from 28,815 in 2011 and 29,072 in 2012 to more than 30,000 this year.

If your child is one of the nearly 7,000 kids who did not get a pre-k offer, you still have some options. About 1,500 full-day pre-k seats remain unfilled at public schools, according to the DOE. Nearly all of the half-day morning seats are filled but 600 seats remain unfilled in afternoon pre-k programs. A list of schools with open seats is available on the DOE website [PDF]. And thousands of seats are still available through programs in Community Based Organizations (CBOs), according to a DOE spokesperson, who said that more than 60% of the city's pre-k seats are provided by CBOs.

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Tuesday, 11 June 2013 10:00

Middle school rankings rankle parents

Many New York City families who send their children to neighborhood elementary schools are in for a rude awakening when their child reaches 5th grade and they learn that choosing a middle school is not so straightforward. Applying to middle school can be just as nerve-wracking and time consuming as applying to college.

“Kind of feels like you’re going to see Oz behind the curtain,” said a Cobble Hill dad in District 15, whose 5th grader didn't get accepted by any of the schools he applied to. “Who is making these decisions? The DOE? The middle schools?”

The answer? It depends on where you live.

Unlike high school admissions – a mostly uniform, citywide process – the middle school process is decentralized and different rules apply in different districts.

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Students who applied in the second round of high school admissions will learn on Friday, June 7, where they were matched, according to middle school guidance counselors, who will distribute the responses at school.  In some cases, students have already gotten letters from high schools directly, letting them know they have been admitted and alerting them of open house dates.

Students who are not happy with their assignment may appeal for another school. Appeal forms will be available on June 7 from guidance counselors and must be filled out and submitted by June 14.

Unlike previous years, the appeal results will not be available by the end of the school year, June 26, but instead will be sent by mail to families sometime in July. The high school admissions process was delayed this year by Hurricane Sandy when thousands of students were displaced from school and the enrollment office was scrambling to find places for them.

Although this year's appeal forms are not yet available, in past years the main reasons appeals are granted are for safety, travel distance from school, health concerns or administrative errors on the student's application.  In addition, students can fill in other reasons. The DOE does not say how many students file appeals and how many are granted. 

In 2012, 75,690 8th graders applied to high school and 68,465 got one of their choices. That left about 10 percent of students without a spot and they entered the second admissions round. Other students who wanted to apply to a new school, or to a different school, also entered Round 2.

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The NYCDOE will mail decision letters for public school pre-kindergarten (pre-k) applicants this week and families who were matched to a pre-k program may register at schools from June 5 to June 19.

Families who applied online will receive email notification as well as letters in the mail. Parents should contact the school to arrange a time to register.

To register, bring your child and these required documents:

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My daughter is in 9th grade and while she has had some good experiences overall, she's not thriving at her large high school. We've been told that a smaller school might be a better option for her. Is it possible to transfer? We missed the window of applying through the general admissions process for 10th grade!

High school parent

Dear High school parent:

Changing high schools at the end of 9th grade is difficult, but not impossible. There are three official transfers that the Department of Education will allow: Health, travel time and safety issues, including bullying. You can read more about these on our high school transfer page or, for more details, see Chancellor’s Regulation A-101.

In certain circumstances, you can ask for what used to be called a guidance transfer but no longer officially exists. That is best approached with a recommendation from the guidance counselor attesting to the mismatch of child to curriculum or atmosphere of the school, Unfortunately, the enrollment office makes the decision, and although you can specify the school or schools you want, there is no guarantee that she will be assigned to one of them. For this kind of transfer, you can go to the enrollment office right now, or wait until the very end of the summer and go to one of the special high school enrollment centers that operate for a few weeks into the school year. Be aware that these transfers are tough to get but persistence may pay off.

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A group of 15 principals from across the city announced this week they will no longer be using results from a controversial new state test as part of their middle and high school admissions criteria.

In a letter to parents, students and school communities, the principals — from Manhattan, Brooklyn and The Bronx — explained their dissatisfaction with the Common Core, which they said did not live up to their expectations.

"Inauthentic tests and test prep are taking away time for quality instruction and authentic learning and testing," the letter stated.

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A group of public school parents and community groups filed a complaint today with the U.S. Office of Civil Rights alleging that New York City’s high school admissions policy discriminates against black and Hispanic students by concentrating them in low-performing schools where they are more likely to fail.

Filed by the Educational Law Center in Newark, N.J.,  on behalf of 13 parents, the Alliance for Quality Education and several community organizations, the complaint takes aim at the city’s complex system of school choice which assigns students to 386 high schools across the five boroughs.

Excluded from the complaint are the eight specialized high schools, including Stuyvesant, Bronx High School of Science and Brooklyn Tech, which require an entrance exam. Admission to those schools is governed by state law, not city policy. Also excluded from the complaint are “international” schools, which serve new immigrants, and transfer schools, which serve students who have been unsuccessful at traditional schools.

“Of the 386 high schools at issue in this sweeping federal complaint, 242 schools (or 63%) have a student population that is more than 90% African American and Latino. Thirty-seven of the 386 high schools (or 10%) have a student population that is more than 24% white, thus more than double the percentage of white students in the district,” the Alliance for Quality Education said in a press release.

Some scholars, including Bruce Fuller, Richard Elmore and Gary Orfield in their 1996 book "Who Chooses? Who Loses?," have suggested that an unfettered free market of school choice tends to increase racial and economic segregation because the best educated and wealthiest parents are best equipped to navigate a complex admissions process.

The Parthenon Group, a consulting firm hired by DOE to examine its NYC high school admissions, wrote in a 2008 report that concentrating students with high needs in any one school increases the overall chances of student failure and school closure. “Yet, despite this evidence DOE has continued to concentrate the highest-need students in minority schools, creating a vicious cycle that has doomed more minority schools to closure,” the press release said.

The Bloomberg administration dramatically expanded high school choice, closed low-performing schools and created hundreds of new small schools in the hopes that competition would force bad schools to close and allow good schools to flourish. Rather than attending school based on their address, all students must now apply to high school. Some selective or “screened” schools rank the students they want to admit based on their test scores and grades; others schools are assigned students at random. Some popular schools may have 5,000 applicants for 125 seats and attract high-performing students; unpopular schools struggle to fill their seats and get mostly low-performing students

The complaint calls this a “hands-off” approach to school assignment which results in disproportionate numbers of black and Hispanic children being assigned to low-performing schools.  “There are, apparently, no controls to ensure a distribution of students that will not overwhelm certain schools with high concentrations of students with high needs,” the complaint states.

As a proposed remedy, the complaint suggests the city could institute a system of "contolled choice" that limits the number of high needs students in any school.

The DOE responded by saying that choice has “empowered” families and suggesting that critics wanted to “turn back the clock.”

"This administration inherited an unequal system-–where zip code often determined a child’s fate,” deputy chancellor Marc Sternberg said in a press release. “Today, because of our nationally recognized high school admissions process, every student has the freedom to apply to any school throughout the city.” Sternberg said that graduation rates had increased for black and Hispanic students during Bloomberg’s tenure.

A copy of the complaint can be downloaded below.

 

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Fifth-graders around the city should find out today or tomorrow where they have been accepted to middle school. That's several days earlier than the May 20 date posted on the Department of Education's calendar.

Public elementary schools are picking up the letters at the enrollment offices on Thursday and will distribute them to children.  If you don't get a letter today or tomorrow, contact your parent coordinator. Private school students should get their school assignments in the mail; if you don't receive a letter, go to the nearest enrollment office for help.

Unlilke the citywide high school application process, middle school admission varies by district. Some districts have zoned schools where children are assigned to middle school based on their address. Other districts have school choice and no zoned schools. A few, such as District 2, offer both zoned and unzoned schools. All students are guaranteed a seat at a school in their district. Those who apply to citywide, charter or other non-district choice schools may be accepted at several schools.

If you're not happy with the school to which you have been matched, you can appeal. Public school students should ask their elementary school guidance counselor for an appeal form; private school students may get one at the enrollment center. Wednesday, May 29 is the deadline to appeal.

Insideschools would like to hear from families who have appealed their middle school assignments in the past. Parents would like to know how the process works and whether appeals are generally successful. This is information that the Department of Education does not make public...at least they have not done so in the past.

 

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Q: Is there any point in going to a college fair? I went to the NACAC fair held last week at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan. My friends and I waited on line for half an hour just to get in! Then there were hundreds of booths, and huge crowds, and colleges I’d never heard of. The colleges I had heard of had lots of people crowded around so you couldn’t really get to talk to the reps. I got a lot of brochures, but don’t feel I gained any in-depth knowledge about the schools.

A: There are many types of college fairs, and the one you went to is not designed to provide ”in-depth knowledge” but rather to give a huge array of colleges and universities exposure in a large urban market. That is why these large NACAC fairs are held in major cities across the country. For most students, this will be their first exposure to the many possibilities out there in the word of higher education. It’s a good place to start, to browse, and get a general idea. So the purpose of this was to 1) provide publicity for the colleges and 2) to get students to write, go to the website or visit for more information.

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The kids in Manhattan's richest neighborhoods are even more gifted than we imagined two weeks ago--and poor kids still don't make the grade.

At least that's according to the latest results of the city's Gifted & Talent exam--recalculated after Pearson testing company botched the original grading of the exam. 

The new data shows that 40 percent more prospective kindergartners in District 2, which includes the East Side of Manhattan and the West Side south of 59th Street, qualified for citywide gifted programs than they did in April--593 compared to 418. Children must score in the 97th percentile or higher to be considered for a citywide gifted program.

However, there are far more children who qualify than seats: Citywide, 2,771 children made the cut, but there are only about 220 kindergarten seats available in the city's five citywide gifted programs after seats are assigned to qualifying siblings who get first dibs.

The rescoring didn't help many kids in low-income districts. The numbers went ever-so-slightly above the originally reported test scores – just four prospective kindergartners from District 7 in the South Bronx qualified for the citywide program, only two more than Pearson originally reported. In District 23 in the Ocean Hill - Brownsville section of Brooklyn, five qualified, compared to just one two weeks ago.

This year, The DOE adopted a new assessment -- the Naglieri Non-verbal Ability Test -- in an attempt to level the playing field for families who don't have access to tutoring for their four year olds. Children from low-income neighborhoods -- such as D7 and D23 -- are historically under-represented in G&T programs.

In total, 4,700 more children qualified for district or citywide G & T programs than originally reported. Out of the 36,000 kids entering kindergarten through 3rd grade who took the G & T test, 32.4% made the cutoff for either district and citywide programs, according to the DOE’s updated numbers. Children who score in the 90th percentile are eligible for district gifted programs.

Here are detailed break downs of the revised test score results, via the DOE: test scores by district (PDF), test scores compared to last year (PDF), and the district tallies of kids who scored in the 99th percentile (PDF)

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