The new 2012-2013 middle school directories are online just in time for the district fairs which begin this week for 5th graders and their families. District fairs run from 5:30-7:30 p.m. beginning on Wednesday. All schools are supposed to send representatives.
There will be copies of the guides at the fair, but it's a good idea to go through them before you arrive and make a list of the schools that your child is eligible for and any questions you may have. The fairs can be crowded and a little overwhelming, so arrive prepared. Our video on how to apply to a middle school is here.
The latest middle school Progress Reports are also available online now. These are report cards, complete with grades, that the Education Department gives to each school every year. They are supposed to give a sense of how the school is doing. They are useful to look at, but take the "grades" with a grain of salt. They are mostly based on how much progress kids have made on state exams. So for example, three popular, progressive Manhattan middle schools, Institute for Collaborative Education, School of the Future and IS 289, all received Cs this year, even though on average about 80% of their kids are reading and doing math at grade level. Meanwhile, the Middle School of Marketing and Legal Studies in East Flatbush, Brooklyn got an A, even though less than 40% of the students at the school are reading at grade level.
Thurgood Marshall Academy for Learning and Social Change got a C, even though it can be a very good fit for students who may have been suspended or had problems in the past and are looking for a second chance. JHS 383 Philippa Schuyler in Bushwick also got hit with a C, even though it has very high test scores and is one of the most popular and highest-performing middle schools in the city.
Achievement First Endeavor in Fort Greene received an A and is popular with parents seeking a very structured environment. Others, however, may find the discipline too strict and the high suspension rate objectionable.
So, 5th grade parents, now's the time to gather your info and decide what is most important for you and your child in a middle school. Then go to the fair, ask lots of questions and try to tour all the schools this fall. Don't be shy. It's your right to know everything about the school where your kid will spend these important years.
Don't know what to ask? See our tips on what to look for on a school tour.