I have a son in a private school and I would like him to apply to public middle schools. I have been told that he will need to take the public school New York state exam in the spring of 4th grade year in order to apply to public middle schools. Is this the correct procedure? Is it possible for him to take this exam? Can he take gifted and talented testing?
Private school mom
Dear Private School Mom,
No need for your son to take the New York State standardized tests. It is true that middle schools (particularly the selective ones) use 4th grade state test scores as a criteria for acceptance. But schools are savvy – they are aware that most private schools don't administer those tests. Instead, they will use your child's grades and attendance record as benchmarks for placement. There are other criteria that schools use for both public school and private school kids. Many ask kids to submit portfolios of school work. Some give their own exams or auditions, and many hold interviews -- a good chance for your child to show his best strengths. In these cases, standardized tests are just part of the mix.
One caution: some middle schools ask for guidance counselor recommendations. This can be a problem for private school kids, since the schools usually want to hold on to their tuition-paying students. They may not be as cooperative as you like in making recommendations or in passing along records in a timely way. On the other hand, judging by the New York Times report on high tuition at private schools, in some schools there is probably a long list of student eager to fill his place.
If you plan ahead, your child can test for selective programs. That means applying for a ticket to the exam way in advance. Only some districts require the test for middle school. This year they were districts 17, 18, 20, 22, 24 and 30. The same exam is also used by New Explorations into Science, Technology and Math, a citywide K-12 school, for 6th grade admission. Mark Twain for the Gifted and Talented, open to the entire city, holds its own testing and auditions.
You can find the criteria for middle schools in your district in the district directories published by the Education Department. In many districts, there are non-zoned schools that you apply to separately, in addition to citywide or borough-wide options. You apply directly to those schools. Some districts have zoned schools -- others do not.
When applying to middle schools, it is wise to attend open houses so you become familiar with the school and can assess whether it is a good fit for your son.
Bottom line, whether applying from private or public school, start early, learn the criteria for admission and meet the deadlines for testing and filing out the application. This year applications were due in December.