If you're an 8th grader who hasn't received an offer at any of your high school choices, take a deep breath. It will be a busy two weeks before the second round applications are due on March 15.
Try to visit schools that interest you and that still have seats. Many are offering open houses and auditions this week and next. Don't bother applying to schools if you clearly don't meet their admissions standards. But some of the selective or screened schools may have a little wiggle room in admissions in the second round. If you were rejected at a school and it DOESN'T appear on the list of schools that have openings, you are probably out of luck. But if it does appear on the list, you just may have a better chance the second time around--especially if you can show that your 8th grade report card is better than your 7th grade one.
To add to the confusion, some of the schools on the list told us they don't actually have space. Our advice: list them on your application anyway. (We'll let you know if we ever figure out what's really going on with the Department of Education computers that make these decisions.)
Guidelines for screened and audition schools
For entrance to NEST +M, a super-selective school that still has space for both general and special education students, you must take an exam for entrance. Students who have already taken the test do not have to retest, a guidance counselor told us. For those applying for the first time, there are new test dates.
Many audition schools, such as Art & Design and Fashion Industries, are holding a second round of auditions, although students who have already auditioned do not need to do so again. At Fashion Industries, students are being asked to bring in a copy of the their current 8th or 9th grade report card along with their portfolios. Bayside has set its music performance and production program auditions for March 11.
At Talent Unlimited, you'll need to speak to the parent coordinator to set up an audition for the two studios that still have a few slots: musical theatre and vocal. At Fort Hamilton, which has a few seats in its vocal and music programs, you'll need to contact the school.
Frank Sinatra is on the list of schools with openings, but they told us they have no space. In any case, the school is not offering any new auditions at for now. It doesn't hurt to add it to your application--but don't get your hopes up..
The NYC Museum school generally expects students to have 90 percent attendance in 7th grade, 3's and 4's on standardized exams and 80's in academic subjects, but a representative said that these requirements are "not set in stone." They will look at more recent report cards, for example, and letters of recommendation can be sent to the freshman guidance counselor at the school. You might have the most luck applying to such schools if your performance in 8th grade is significantly better than in 7th. Most screened schools told us they will look again at applicants who may have applied in the first round, especially when there has been improvement in academics.
Educational option programs
Educational option (ed opt) schools and programs accept a range of low, average, and high-scoring students based on their standardized 7th grade reading scores. Students will be admitted in the second round based on the same formula, although there may be some flexibility. According to a guidance counselor at Staten Island's McKee: "In the end those percentages don't really line up. They pull more from the middle and the bottom."
Students who score in the top two percent on the 7th grade exam and list an Ed Opt program first on their list are guaranteed admission. That should hold true in the second round as well.
About 50 schools on the list have only special education slots (in self-contained or integrated co-teaching classes) left to fill and were encouraged by the DOE to attend the fair to attract more applicants. Students with special needs must meet the same requirements for admission as all other candidates and a few schools we spoke to were uncertain as to how they would meet the "targets" set by the DOE.
"They told us we didn't accept enough special needs students," said a representative from the Cinema School which only has a few seats open for special needs students. Yet most kids visiting the table were not special education students. "I have to tell them [other students] honestly we don't have any general education seats." Young Women's Leadership School in East Harlem has only two special ed seats available. "For those two seats they told us we had to be here," said Suroja Kirbaran, a guidance counselor.
If the schools do not meet their target for admitting special needs students, they are not going to be penalized. "This is the first year that we're giving people a target," said a DOE spokesperson. "Next year we'll re-evaluate how it works."
How we can help
Check the updated blogpost with "our picks" of schools that have space. For more advice, or if you have information to share, please join the Insideschools Twitter chat Tuesday, March 6 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. See instructions on how to participate here.
If, after the second round, you still don't get a school you like, you will be able to file an appeal later in the spring, but the DOE hasn't announced the appeals procedure yet.