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With new mayor, could SHSAT be history?

Written by Anna Schneider Monday, 28 October 2013 11:57

Last weekend, Oct. 26-27, thousands of 8th graders buzzing with the pressure of months (sometimes years) of preparation sat for the two-hour long specialized high school admissions test (SHSAT). Could this be the last year that entrance to a specialized high school hinges on one incredibly high-stakes exam?

If Bill de Blasio is mayor, that's a real possibility.

De Blasio, whose son attends Brooklyn Tech, told the NY Daily News that the high-stakes SHSAT should not be the only factor determining specialized high school admissions. “These schools are the academies for the next generation of leadership in all sectors of the city, and they have to reflect the city better,” de Blasio told the newspaper.

Watch our event: Applying to high school

Written by Pamela Wheaton Friday, 25 October 2013 11:36

Confused about high school admissions? Do you still have questions about how to fill out the 12-school application? Insideschools covered those topics and more at our Oct. 9 high school admissions workshop.

Clara Hemphill and Jacquie Wayans of Insideschools were joined by Hussham Khan, the director of high school admissions at the Department of Education, Stanley Ng, parent member of the Citywide Council of High Schools; Liz Willen, of the Hechinger Institute and two high school students: Paul Michael Wayans, of Eagle Academy in the Bronx, and David Mascio, a junior at Stuyvesant High School.

Here are some takeaways from the conversation:

  • Don't list a school you don't want to attend; however the more schools you list, the better your chances of acceptance. Choose at least six.
  • You'll get more individual attention at a small school, but there will be fewer high level courses.
  • District 2 priority means that those students get accepted before all other applicants. Most D2 schools fill with district students, says Kahn.
  • Test out the commute to the school before applying, preferably at rush hour.
  • Read the Learning Environment Survey. You can supplement some things, such as sports, but it's harder to change things like a bad principal or an unsafe environment.
  • If you're not happy with the high school assignment, continue to advocate for your child, says Kahn.
  • Stuyvesant students get 3 hours of homework nightly, on average; Eagle students between 1.5-2 hours.
  • Not all schools allow all students access to AP courses. Make sure to ask.

If you missed the event, you can watch it on our YouTube channel.

G&T programs still have openings

Written by Pamela Wheaton Wednesday, 23 October 2013 15:43

Given the frenzied competition for gifted and talented seats each year, it was surprising to find that, nearly two months into the school year, there are many empty spots. The Department of Education is reaching out to eligible children to try to fill them by Oct. 31 when registers close.

PS 165, on the Upper West Side had only 14 children enrolled in kindergarten G&T last week, in a class that should have 25 students; their 1st grade only had 10 students enrolled. PS 163, also in District 3, had openings as did PS 33 in District 2. Even the citywide gifted and talented school, NEST+M had some empty seats.

Last spring there were multiple snafus related to the scoring of exams. The testing company Pearson apologized twice for its errors, which were brought to the DOE's attention by parents. When the dust settled, thousands more students had qualified than there were seats available.

More than 13,000 four-year-olds took the tests for entrance into a kindergarten G&T program and about 40 percent of those tested scored high enough to qualify. Some 3,100 offers were made to students around the city for approximately 2,700 seats but apparently not enough of those students accepted the placements. 

The kindergarten register at PS 165 was full on the first day of school, according to DJ Sheppard, the District 3 family advocate, but many students didn't show up.  "We tell families 'if you're not going to take the seat please let us know' but not all do that," she said. 

Latecomers out of luck with school choice

Written by Jamaal Abdul-Alim Wednesday, 23 October 2013 10:54

After enrolling my daughter in middle school earlier this year, I wrote a piece about how difficult it can be to get your child into a good school if you should happen to arrive in the city around the start of the school year. My daughter ended up in a school that was far from our first choice: a "turnaround" school, once slated for closure.

As it turns out, our less-than-optimal enrollment experience is hardly unique in New York City.

A new report from Brown University shows that many of the 36,000 "late-enrolling" high school students are disproportionately being sent to the city's lowest performing schools.

Ask Judy: Algebra Regents in 8th grade?

Written by Judy Baum Thursday, 17 October 2013 11:34
Dear Judy:

I am the proud father of two bright girls in 8th grade. Both have excelled in school overall, especially in math. One of them was provided with 8th grade math Regents this year and the other (who also scored over a 3 on the 7th grade state exam but slightly lower than her sister) did not make it into Regents.

Is it acceptable for the school  to use a certain grade on the 7th grade state exam as the sole criteria for Regents class acceptance? If so, what right do I have to know whether the school truly followed this "test score" criteria as the approach for determining acceptance? Is there any way my daughter can still take the Regents without being in a Regents Class? It is my understanding that some NYC schools allow Level 2 students to take the Regents. If so, why not my daughter?

College Counselor: Common App isn't working

Written by Dr. Jane S. Gabin Wednesday, 16 October 2013 09:56

Q: Help! I am having trouble logging on to my Common Application account. Some of my friends are also having trouble with Common App. It's almost November 1, and I am worried that problems at Common App are going to make my application late. What can I do? Should I write to my colleges and explain?

A: The Common Application staff is aware of some technical glitches that are occurring, and so are the colleges. This is not your worry. Just keep working on your application and supplements, and remember to do "print preview" so you have a physical record of what you have written.

The Common Application started out with just a few colleges using its forms, and now there are hundreds. The organization recently increased the size of their staff from 10 to 65. They are initiating a 24/7 help center as well. But they are also experiencing unprecedented high usage. This is putting a lot of pressure on their system.

Just as you are frustrated, so are the colleges. Some of them cannot download or access the information they need. As a result, many colleges have already said that they are prepared to be a bit flexible with the Nov. 1 deadline for Early Decision. However, please do not wait until late on Oct, 31 to test the system. Prepare your materials so that you can hit "submit" on Oct. 29 or 30.

Do your part in ample time, and college counselors and admissions offices will handle the rest. Try not to worry—you are not alone!

Find out about middle school tours, forums

Written by Pamela Wheaton Tuesday, 15 October 2013 11:56

Parents of 5th graders spend the fall calling parent coordinators and checking school websites to find out about middle school tours and open houses. Some who aren't quick enough find themselves closed out of daytime tours at popular schools.

Now the Department of Education has compiled a list of school open house and tour dates for many districts. It doesn't include every school -- and some of the schools require you to call and make an appointment anyway. Still the list is a helpful start for busy parents. Find the list of dates and schools here [PDF].

Some districts hold Principal Forums for parents, invitiing principals to give a brief show and tell about their schools. District 15 in Brooklyn is holding a forum on Monday, Oct. 28 at Sunset Park High School; District 3 on Manhattan's Upper West Side is holding one on Tuesday, Oct. 29 at PS/IS 76. 

Middle school fairs conclude this week on Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 16-17, from 5:30 - 7:30 pm. Check our calendar for details and districts.

Upcoming deadline: Sign for OLSAT testing in Queens' District 24 and for the Mark Twain School for the Gifted & Talented test and audition by Wednesday, Oct. 16. See the DOE's middle school admissions timeline here

High School Hustle: Get ready to compromise

Written by Liz Willen Wednesday, 09 October 2013 17:54

When I look back on the full-time job of finding a New York City public high school for my kids, I’m reminded of looking for my first apartment.

Anyone else remember coming to New York City with big dreams and a tiny paycheck? And being shown moldy, tiny apartments, up endless flights of stairs, in neighborhoods no one wanted to visit?

Remember fantasizing about fireplaces, decks and duplexes? Maybe the dreams weren’t even that big. In those early days, I would have happily settled for views of anything other than brick walls, proximity to a subway, and maybe a small washing machine.

Sorry to say that the real estate comparison is valid when you are searching out high schools in Gotham. Your fantasy apartment is out of reach; the perfect high school does not exist.

Sign up for G&T test by Nov. 8

Written by Aimee Sabo Tuesday, 08 October 2013 10:08

It's that time of year again for families of four- and five-year-olds interested in the Department of Education's much sought-after gifted and talented programs. Although last year's testing season was a bit rocky, with a new, harder test and much-publicized grading errors, this year the DOE promises few changes (and hopefully less drama). Admissions expert Robin Aronow of School Search NYC spoke with us and noted that the only major difference this year is that the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT) and the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test (NNAT2) now each count 50 percent toward the total G&T percentile score. (Last year the Naglieri was approximately 66 percent and the OLSAT 33 percent.) Aronow emphasized other key dates and procedures that families should keep in mind:

November 8th is the deadline for completing the Request For Testing (RFT) online, but the sooner the better to get a desirable date, time and location. You will be offered options for test dates, times and locations during weekends in January. (If your child is also applying to Hunter College Elementary School, which has a separate application, remember to take Hunter's second round evaluation dates into consideration when selecting your DOE test date).

Prospective kindergartners will be tested one-on-one and will point to answers; they do not need to bubble in answers. If applying for first grade and up, your child will be tested in small groups and will need to bubble in answers.

Alternate language assessments are available in Arabic, Bengali, Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin), French, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish and Urdu. It is not permissible to alternate between languages during the test administration. As children do not answer any questions orally, test your child in the language he or she most understands when spoken by an adult. Please note that applicants already in a DOE program may only take the test in an alternate language if entitled to services in English as a Second Language.

Scores in the 90th percentile or above qualify your child for a district G&T program, although seats are not guaranteed. Please note that children are compared to others whose birthdays are within three months of theirs. If your child is eligible, you will receive an application in early April due back by April 18, 2014.

Scores in the 97th percentile or above qualify your child for a citywide program. In reality, your child will need to score in 99th percentile—and have a stroke of luck—to be offered a citywide placement or a highly desirable district placement. This is due to the high number of applicants scoring in the 99th percentile.

For more information check out the G&T Handbook online and attend one of five information sessions (one in each borough), beginning October 16 in the Bronx. We'll post updates as we get them!

Applying to middle school? Here's how.

Written by Pamela Wheaton Monday, 07 October 2013 18:13

Middle school admissions season kicks into high gear this week for parents of 5th graders. You can meet school representatives at evening district fairs held between Oct. 8-17. Middle school directories for 2013-2014 are online and hard copies are being distributed by elementary schools. Clara Hemphill of Insideschools will be giving a free talk about middle school options on Thursday at New York University.

Now is the time to sign up for school tours and open houses! Check school websites, or call the school to find out about them. In some popular schools, especially in Manhattan where there is active school choice, many tours are already fully booked. If you're shut out, try contacting the parent coordinator to see if additional tours will be added.  

In addition to fairs, some districts hold informational nights where principals talk about their schools. Check with your district's family advocate to see if one is scheduled. (You can find their names and contact information on our district pages.)