Nearly half of the 77,137 8th-graders who applied to high school last fall were matched with their first choice school, but 10 percent got no match at all, the Department of Education announced today. The results are nearly identical to last year's main admissions round when 90 percent of applicants got offers. Eighty-four percent of 8th-graders were accepted to one of their top five choices this year, as compared to 83 percent last year.
Similarly to last year, nearly 6,000 students received an offer to attend one of the highly selective specialized high schools. Of those, 5,360 received an offer to one of eight schools that accept students based only on their score on the specialized high school admissions test. The ninth specialized high school, LaGuardia, accepted 965 students based on their auditions and a review of their transcript. Of those 965 students, 328 also got an offer from one of the exam schools.
In a change this year, all high school applicants were notified at the same time of their results. In previous years, students who applied to one of the specialized high schools found out up to a month earlier than those who did not.
This week all 8th-graders in the city, and 9th-graders who want to change schools, will find out where they have been accepted to high school. The Education Department is sending results to schools today, Feb. 29.and schools will distribute letters to students by tomorrow, March 1.
In a change this year, all applicants will find out at the same time whether they have been accepted. In previous years, students who applied to one of the nine specialized high schools found out up to a month earlier than those who did not.
Those with more than one acceptance must decide by March 15 which offer to accept. Every year thousands of students are not accepted anywhere during the first round. Those students must apply again, choosing from a list of high schools that have available spaces or from one of a couple of dozen new schools which will open in September.
They will be introduced to the new schools at a "Round 2" fair this weekend at the Martin Luther King, Jr. complex on the Upper West Side. Any student applying for 9th grade may choose to apply to one of the new schools, even those who received a match in the first round.
A prep program for high-achieving, low-income middle school students aimed at bettering their chance for acceptance to one of the city's specialized high schools is open to both 6th and 7th graders this year. Previously the Specialized High School Institute (SHSI) 16-month prep course began only in the spring of 6th grade and continued until students took the test as 8th-graders in October.
The Department of Education issued new guidelines for the program now called DREAM - SHSI. Despite concerns that the program would be curtailed because of budget cuts, the DOE expanded it, from 10 sites to 18 to include both 6th-graders and a new class of 7th-graders. Seventh-graders will get twice weekly prep classes this spring and 38 sessions between July and October when they take the exam for entrance into one of eight specialized exam schools.
"It's a good thing because now there are multiple entry points," said Stanley Ng, a Brooklyn parent and member of the citywide high school parent council. Some parents don't hear about the program in 6th grade, he said, and now they may have another chance to enter.
Time is short to apply. The deadline to submit paperwork is Feb. 28, just two days after the winter break. Schools should have a list of eligible 6th and 7th graders, but some students could miss out on the chance to apply if they have not filled out free lunch forms. Many schools with a high poverty rate don't require all families to fill out lunch forms. Those families must get an income verification form from their school and submit it by Feb. 28. Private school students may also apply. They should download the application and income form and return by March 2.
Students invited to attend the program must meet economic and academic guidelines. They must be eligible for free lunch, have good attendance, and test at Level 3 or 4 on state exams (exact cut-off numbers are posted on the DOE's website). Since there are more eligible children than there are slots in some areas of the city, the DOE will conduct a lottery to determine who may attend.
Seventh-graders who join the program now will get approximately 38 prep sessions before the October exam. Sixth-graders will be in the program for 16 months, attending weekly sessions from April to June, Monday-Thursday sessions in July and August and twice weekly sessions during the next school year.DREAM - SHSI (stands for Determination Resilience Enthusiasm Ambition and Motivation) is overseen by the DOE's Office for Equity and Access headed by Dr. Dorita Gibson.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn says kindergarten should be mandatory for all 5-year-olds. In her State of the City address Quinn, who co-sponsored the Insideschools' event on applying to public elementary school this week, said she is working with the state legislature to get a law passed which would allow New York City to make kindergarten compulsory.
All children who turn five years old this year are guaranteed a seat in kindergarten although they do not have to attend school until they turn six and enter 1st grade. Some parents prefer to keep their children home or to send them to childcare centers that offer more hours of care. Some overcrowded schools have even been known to discourage parents from enrolling their children, reminding them that kindergarten is optional.
According to Quinn's office, a change in the law would bring in an additional 3,000 kindergartners into the public school system, representing about 4% of the city's five-year-olds.
“Every year nearly 3,000 5-year-olds in New York City don’t enroll in kindergarten. That means thousands of kids enter first grade every year having never set foot in a classroom. Many of them are kids who need kindergarten the most," Quinn said in her speech.
Quinn's office said the city's schools are prepared to accept the influx of 3,000 more students, despite overcrowding and kindergarten waitlists at some schools.
What do you think? Is it time to make kindergarten compulsory for all five-year-olds? Take our poll!
In the midst of the kindergarten application season, the Department of Education has posted its first-ever directory of all public elementary schools in the city. The listing indicates which are zoned schools, which are unzoned, and which have gifted and talented, dual language or magnet programs.
The 80-page 2012-2013 directory [PDF] should be an especially helpful tool for parents of five-year-olds seeking alternatives to their neighborhood schools. It explains the kindergarten application process, defines the priorities for admission to each program, and how the waitlist works for schools with more applicants than available space. All parents of incoming kindergartners may apply individually to as many schools as they wish -- but the best odds of admission to a school you aren't zoned for is at a school with special programs.
Physical education programs in New York City public schools are woefully inadequate. An October audit by the City Comptroller's office showed that few schools meet the state standards, which call for daily PE for grades K-3; three times a week for grades 4-6, and 90 minutes a week for older students.
The comptroller's audit was prompted by the Women's City Club of New York (WCC) a non-profit civic organization, whose members advocate for more physical education in all schools. They point to studies showing the correlation between academic success in school and physical fitness. (Alec Appelbaum blogged about this topic for Insideschools last year.)
Now, WCC members are speaking out again about the importance of phys ed in schools. In a taped interview which will air on Sunday morning, Dr. Katherine S. Lobach, a member of the WCC Task Force on Physical Education in City Schools, says, "We need more school administrators to recognized the academic value of physical education and more parents to insiste that their children get it."
Watch the interview and learn how you can help get your child's school to offer more phys ed and exercise.
Closing poor-performing schools is no guarantee that students will get a better education at schools that replace them, say advocates who are calling upon the Bloomberg administration and Chancellor Dennis Walcott to "learn from the lessons of prior years" before instigating school closures.
In a statement on Monday, Advocates for Children pointed out that 10 of the 25 schools now slated for closure or downsizing have opened since Michael Bloomberg became mayor and were meant to provide better alternatives than schools that were shut for poor performance. In a public meeting on school choice last week, Walcott defended the city's record of opening "quality schools". He said the administration has phased out 117 schools and opened 535 new ones.
A dozen schools on a list of 47 targeted as "struggling" earlier this fall are now slated for closure, Chancellor Dennis Walcott said today, with more school closures to be announced tomorrow. The all-boys Academy for Business and Community Development, where only one of 16 seniors is on track to graduate this year, will close outright at the end of this school year. The 11 others will not accept new incoming classes of students and will be phased out more slowly.
Three other schools will remain open but will lose their middle schools, including one which was one of the most sought-after in the district, PS 161 in Crown Heights. All closures are subject to approval by the Panel for Educational Policy which, in the past, has approved nearly all of the DOE's proposals.
Of the five charter schools that the Education Department identified as struggling, three will be monitored closely -- Academic Leadership Charter School, Bronx Academy of Promise and Future Leaders of America -- until their five-year charters come up for renewal. The fate of Opportunity Charter, the site of recent rallies by community members and parents fighting to keep it open, and of Peninsula Preparatory Academy, will be decided after their charter renewal hearings on Dec. 15, Walcott said.
For the past year and a half, a group of schools has been experimenting with ways to educate special education students more flexibly and in more inclusive classrooms. Now, Chancellor Dennis Walcott says the experiment, piloted in 265 schools, will be be rolled out to all schools in the 2012-2013 school year, according to a letter to principals last week.
The reform in special education is aimed at educating special needs children in the least restrictive settings possible, and, preferably, in their neighborhood schools, especially in elementary school. This might mean moving children from self-contained classes for special ed kids to larger classes that include general education students and have two teachers. Or it might mean grouping smaller numbers of students with similar disabilities into the same classrooms and providing extra help according to their needs.
Early data shows that fewer students have been recommended for more restrictive settings in "Phase I" schools than in those that have not yet adopted the reform, Walcott said. There has been a 16.6 percent decrease in recommendations of students to more restrictive environments in the Phase 1 schools, compared to a 3.9 percent decrease in other schools.
Can parents from schools with active Parents Associations help others from less-advantaged schools learn such basics as how to set up a PTA, run a fundraiser, or establish themselves as a non-profit? A newly formed parent group believes that they can and is reaching out to parents in all five boroughs to participate in a project called The Public School Parent Support Project.
Lisa Ableman and Rachel Fine, members of the active Parent's Association at PS 321 in Park Slope, decided to found the organization when they realized that there was no centralized place in the city for PAs and PTAs to connect with one another.
"Although most PTAs have similar general goals and are working toward some common ends, there is no good, central place for them to go to access and share information and resources," said Ableman. "Most PTAs function in relative isolation, replicating each other's learning curves, reinventing the wheel over and over again. Even individual PTAs themselves, often start over again year to year as new officers do not have a very good way of getting a primer on their roles and responsibilities"