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High School Hustle: What are we fighting for?

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.

Get ready. Start asking questions the minute you see your child's schedule. The stakes are simply too high to sit back. Don't take no for an answer. Camp outside of the guidance counselor's office and be the squeaky wheel. Get on waiting lists and keep calling and writing until the mess is straightened out.

A few weeks ago, when I dropped my oldest child off to college for the first time, I contemplated whether it was time for high school parents to back off. I wondered if it was time to let our children start fighting their own battles.

I have since decided it is not. They need you now more than ever.

Perhaps there are some children who manage to get all the classes they need; the Advanced Placement courses, the right foreign language, the sequential science course, everything they need for college and beyond.

Don't hold your breath. That has not been my experience. My kids have been shut out of physics, foreign language classes, AP classes they wanted and yes, even a lunch period. In some cases, the problem was fixed.

I am bracing for the call today from my junior, and putting the number of the guidance counselor (who I have never met) on speed dial.

Once they get to college, sure, leave them alone. Most likely, they do not want your interference. I can't possibly imagine trying to track down a professor with a parental demand; the idea of it seems appalling.

Based on a recent conversation with my college freshman son, I am sure my help is unwelcome.

Me: "How are classes?

He: "Good."

Message taken. Even if there are problems, I can't fight his battles anymore.

On the other hand, if I had not fought for so many years to make sure he got into the right classes, he might not even be in college.

There are no easy answers here, and none of the mayoral candidates can possibly address the critical shortage of guidance counselors, the lack of sufficient quality high schools that prepare students for college, and the inability of even some of the best high schools in the city to have enough room in AP courses, college math and science, and foreign languages.

So parents, take notice. Ask about the schedule. If something important is left out, find out why. If you hear there is no more room in a class, get on a waiting list. Keep calling. Don't give up.

And feel free to swap tips and advice in the comments below.

Last modified on Monday, 16 September 2013 17:52

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