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After enrolling my daughter in middle school earlier this year, I wrote a piece about how difficult it can be to get your child into a good school if you should happen to arrive in the city around the start of the school year. My daughter ended up in a school that was far from our first choice: a "turnaround" school, once slated for closure.
As it turns out, our less-than-optimal enrollment experience is hardly unique in New York City.
A new report from Brown University shows that many of the 36,000 "late-enrolling" high school students are disproportionately being sent to the city's lowest performing schools.
When I look back on the full-time job of finding a New York City public high school for my kids, I’m reminded of looking for my first apartment.
Anyone else remember coming to New York City with big dreams and a tiny paycheck? And being shown moldy, tiny apartments, up endless flights of stairs, in neighborhoods no one wanted to visit?
Remember fantasizing about fireplaces, decks and duplexes? Maybe the dreams weren’t even that big. In those early days, I would have happily settled for views of anything other than brick walls, proximity to a subway, and maybe a small washing machine.
Sorry to say that the real estate comparison is valid when you are searching out high schools in Gotham. Your fantasy apartment is out of reach; the perfect high school does not exist.
High school graduation rates are higher than ever before but college completion remains frustratingly elusive for New York City's public high school graduates.
Barely half of students who enroll in CUNY schools graduate with a Bachelor's degree in six years; fewer than one in five of the students who enrolled in city community colleges in 2009 earned a two-year Associate's degree by 2012. Many city high school grads begin college at a disadvantage: not even a third of New York City's class of 2012 earned high enough test scores to avoid remedial courses at CUNY, which has been nicknamed the "13th grade."
A new report from the Center for New York City Affairs (Insideschools' parent organization), Creating College Ready Communities: Preparing NYC's Precarious New Generation of College Students, explores why so many New York City high school grads struggle to earn college degrees. It gives recommendations on how the city's Department of Education and schools could improve college preparation in K-12 enabling students to have a better chance of success. The report follows four years of research by the Center in 14 low-income city schools which were working to improve their college numbers.
(This story first appeared on DNAInfo.com)
Don't forget to put an extra quarter in your child's backpack starting on Monday.
The price of school lunch is rising 25 cents to $1.75 — the first price increase since 2003, when the cost of lunch jumped from $1 to $1.50, according to Department of Education officials.
Monday is also the deadline for parents to register for free lunches — as the city is now allowing all students who formerly qualified for "reduced lunch" to receive free lunch instead, officials said.
Confused about high school admissions? Have questions you need answered about particular schools, or how to fill out the 12-school application?
Insideschools.org can help! We are offering a free workshop for parents on Oct. 9: High School Hustle: How to apply.
Leading the discussion will be Clara Hemphill, founding editor of Insideschools and author of New York City's Best Public High Schools. Joining her are other experts on high school admissions, including Jacquie Wayans, Insideschools assignment editor and Bronx parent of three public school students.
We'll present Insidestats, a new way to judge high schools, explain what to look for in a high school, talk about the various types of high schools and provide plenty of time for Q&A.
The event is sponsored by the Center for NYC Affairs at the New School. It will take place at the Theresa Lang Community & Student Center, Arnhold Hall, 2nd floor, 55 West 13th Street, from 6-8 pm on Wednesday, Oct. 9. It is free, but you must RSVP to EventBrite.
See you there! (Let us know in comments below what questions you'd like to see answered.)
This weekend, Sept. 28 and 29, is the Department of Education's gigantic citywide high school fair from 10 am to 3 pm at Brooklyn Technical High School. Prepare for a hectic day, where you will meet teachers, students and administrators and find out about their schools.
You can attend information sessions several times during the day, led by staff from the Education Department's enrollment office. This will be helpful especially if you're a newbie to the process (and it will give you a place to sit down and take a breather.)
Here's the schedule provided by the DOE:
- High School Admissions at 11 am and 2 pm on both Saturday and Sunday
- Auditioning for High School Arts Schools and Programs at 12:30 pm on Saturday and Sunday
Most schools will have a table staffed by students, teachers, parent cordinators, guidance counselors and, sometimes the principal. Each borough has a dedicated space between the 2nd and 7th floors. The nine specialized high schools are set up in the first floor gymnasium.
Before you go, make sure to make a list of your "must see" schools. Read the reviews on Insideschools and watch the slideshows and videos. Look at our new "Insidestats" section. It'll give you a thumbnail description on a school's safety and vibe, how well it prepares kids for college, the graduation rate and much more.
Here are some questions you might want to ask school representatives:
- How much homework is typical? Is homework assigned over school vacations?
- Are students allowed outside the building for lunch?
- Does the school offer four years of math and four years of science? (Important for college prep)
- Are Advanced Placement classes offered? What subjects? What are the requirement to take an AP class?
- Besides passing required Regents exams, are there are requirements for graduation? Some schools require you to present a portfolio of your work, or perform community service.
- If the school has a graduating class, which colleges did graduates attend? What percentage of grads went to college? (Check out our Insidestats for that info as well)
- How does the administration handle discipline?
- Are there metal detectors?
- How does the school help students who are struggling?
- How does it challenge the strongest students?
- What are my chances for admission if I don't meet the specific requirements?
- Is there a uniform?
- What are the after school activities? What teams do they have? (Note that this can change from year to year and the directory might not be accurate!)
Here are a few more pointers for the day of the fair:
- Rather than carry around a hefty, heavy directory, consider ripping out the pages of schools that most interest you beforehand.
- Bring a notebook and pen to write down your impressions and any notes
- Collect fliers, or write down, the dates and times of school info sessions and tours
- If there's a sign-in sheet for a school that interests you -- sign in! That gives you a leg-up in admissions for some schools
- Dress for summer. It gets hot and steamy inside the huge building and there is no place to stash a jacket.
- Wear comfortable shoes and bring water. You'll be climbing up and down stairs. There will be food and drink for sale, but still, nice to have your own supply.
- Don't drive! Brooklyn Tech is close to virtually all subway lines and many bus routes. Traffic in the surrounding residential streets can be horrendous, so do yourself a favor and take public transportation.
Insideschools will be at the fair. Stop by our first floor table too.
Before you go, be sure to watch our video: Making the most of the high school fair
If you don't make the big fair this weekend, there will be fairs in every borough on Oct. 19 and 20. Insideschools is hosting our own Applying to High School event on Oct. 9. Watch for details.
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.
A few of the city’s best-known schools have new principals this year.
This week, an email announced to parents at Bronx High School of Science that Jean Donahue, assistant principal for biology and physical sciences, isl taking over as the school’s interim acting principal. An alumna of the school, parent of a recent graduate, and former teacher at Bronx Science, Donahue knows the school well. She has a PhD and did cancer reasearch before she came to Bronx Science, where she lead the 3-year-research program. According to the Alumni Association’s facebook page, she has strong relationships with many faculty and with the Alumni Association. She will be taking over after former principal Valerie Reidy retired this summer after over a decade as the principal of Bronx Science. She stepped down amidst a high-profile investigation about incidents of hazing on the boy’s track team and after years of tension between teachers and administrators.
Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts also has a new principal this fall. This summer long-time principal Kim Bruno announced that she was leaving LaGuardia for a job as the principal of the Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts in Los Angeles, California. Lisa Mars, former Assistant Principal of Language, Art and Music at Townsend Harris High School will take over as interim acting principal in her place. Parents at LaGuardia told Insideschools that they are hopeful that Mars will be a good leader for the school. However, according to members of the school’s Drama Parent Association, the transition is off to a difficult start since Mars still has not appointed a new assistant principal for the school’s Drama and Tech Studios, making them the only arts studios in the school without an AP.
At Brooklyn Latin founding principal Jason Griffiths announced this summer that he is leaving the school to lead Harlem Village Academy Charter School. Gina Mautschke, who has been with the school since its founding in 2006, is taking over as principal this fall. Mautschke began by teaching math at Brooklyn Latin until she was promoted to Assistant Head of Master of Operations in 2011, according to The Greenpoint Gazette. While Griffiths got high marks from teachers at Brooklyn Latin, according to the school’s Learning Environment Survey, he chose to leave after seven years, reportedly because of his frustration with dealing the city bureaucracy.
High schools aren’t the only ones with new principals this fall. Some of the city’s noteworthy elementary schools are also undergoing leadership changes this fall. This fall, former principal of PS 212 Midtown West, Dean Ketchum, will be starting as the new principal at Hunter College Elementary School. According to the Hunter College website, Ketchum served as principal of Midtown West for nine years, where he got excellent reviews from teachers. Still no word on who is taking Ketchum’s place at Midtown West.
A new program rolling out in New York City aims to bridge the "digital divide" and get low income students connected to the internet at home. About one in four, or 2.2 million New Yorkers, are without internet access at home and most of those New Yorkers are low-income and minority, according to EveryoneON, the organization running the Connect2Compete program that gives access to discounted internet service and low price computers.
Mayor Bloomberg held a press conference in front of a class of 7th-graders on the Upper West Side's MS 258 on Wednesday to promote the Connect2Compete program, which is already underway in other major cities like Chicago. He was joined by Carlos Slim Domit, son of Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helú, former NBA Knicks star John Starks, Education Department Chancellor Dennis Walcott and the principal of MS 258, John Curry.
"What we are doing today is getting together to try to provide the same opportunities to you and to other students," Domit said. He explained that more than 60 million Americans are not connected to the internet (as opposed to 35 million who are not connected in his home country, Mexico) and many of those 60 million are people of color. Domit's family foundation is a partner of Connect2Compete and working to decrease those numbers in Mexico and the US.
The first week of middle school a few years back, I learned that two cherished rituals were soon to be stripped from our lives: bringing cupcakes to our children's class for birthdays and traveling to school together with them.
"Your kids are going to be taking the subway alone to school soon, deal with it,'' the principal told an auditorium full of parents on day one, as some cowered in fear and uncertainty.
Soon enough, parents got used to the subway ritual, after following close behind for a few days – just never close enough to be seen. The principal just laughed at the parent (me) who asked about bringing cupcakes, and it never came up again.
By the time your child starts high school, you are deep into what I call "The Age of Embarrassment" and long past cupcakes and drop-off worries. Still, you may be filled with uncertainty about what your role should be during these four critical years.