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.
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.)
As I planned to relocate to New York City to begin a fellowship at Columbia University this fall, a housing specialist advised me to move into School District 3 because it had “better options” for my 12-year-old daughter.
By the time I established residency — a prerequisite for enrolling in the city’s public schools — the “better options” in District 3 had been filled to the hilt.
On our third visit to the makeshift enrollment center in the auditorium of the High School of Fashion Industries on 24th Street (the first time we were turned away because we lacked a lease; the second time there was a “transmission error” as my daughter’s records were being faxed over) we secured a referral to Community Action School.
But after an interview with the school’s assistant principal, my daughter — who earned almost entirely A’s and B’s at her last school — was rejected in favor of another student for what was purportedly the last remaining seat.
High school graduation rates are higher than ever before but college completion remains frustratingly elusive for New York City's public high school graduates.
Barely half of students who enroll in CUNY schools graduate with a Bachelor's degree in six years; fewer than one in five of the students who enrolled in city community colleges in 2009 earned a two-year Associate's degree by 2012. Many city high school grads begin college at a disadvantage: not even a third of New York City's class of 2012 earned high enough test scores to avoid remedial courses at CUNY, which has been nicknamed the "13th grade."
A new report from the Center for New York City Affairs (Insideschools' parent organization), Creating College Ready Communities: Preparing NYC's Precarious New Generation of College Students, explores why so many New York City high school grads struggle to earn college degrees. It gives recommendations on how the city's Department of Education and schools could improve college preparation in K-12 enabling students to have a better chance of success. The report follows four years of research by the Center in 14 low-income city schools which were working to improve their college numbers.
(This story first appeared on DNAInfo.com)
Don't forget to put an extra quarter in your child's backpack starting on Monday.
The price of school lunch is rising 25 cents to $1.75 — the first price increase since 2003, when the cost of lunch jumped from $1 to $1.50, according to Department of Education officials.
Monday is also the deadline for parents to register for free lunches — as the city is now allowing all students who formerly qualified for "reduced lunch" to receive free lunch instead, officials said.
This weekend, Sept. 28 and 29, is the Department of Education's gigantic citywide high school fair from 10 am to 3 pm at Brooklyn Technical High School. Prepare for a hectic day, where you will meet teachers, students and administrators and find out about their schools.
You can attend information sessions several times during the day, led by staff from the Education Department's enrollment office. This will be helpful especially if you're a newbie to the process (and it will give you a place to sit down and take a breather.)
Here's the schedule provided by the DOE:
- High School Admissions at 11 am and 2 pm on both Saturday and Sunday
- Auditioning for High School Arts Schools and Programs at 12:30 pm on Saturday and Sunday
Most schools will have a table staffed by students, teachers, parent cordinators, guidance counselors and, sometimes the principal. Each borough has a dedicated space between the 2nd and 7th floors. The nine specialized high schools are set up in the first floor gymnasium.
Before you go, make sure to make a list of your "must see" schools. Read the reviews on Insideschools and watch the slideshows and videos. Look at our new "Insidestats" section. It'll give you a thumbnail description on a school's safety and vibe, how well it prepares kids for college, the graduation rate and much more.
Here are some questions you might want to ask school representatives:
- How much homework is typical? Is homework assigned over school vacations?
- Are students allowed outside the building for lunch?
- Does the school offer four years of math and four years of science? (Important for college prep)
- Are Advanced Placement classes offered? What subjects? What are the requirement to take an AP class?
- Besides passing required Regents exams, are there are requirements for graduation? Some schools require you to present a portfolio of your work, or perform community service.
- If the school has a graduating class, which colleges did graduates attend? What percentage of grads went to college? (Check out our Insidestats for that info as well)
- How does the administration handle discipline?
- Are there metal detectors?
- How does the school help students who are struggling?
- How does it challenge the strongest students?
- What are my chances for admission if I don't meet the specific requirements?
- Is there a uniform?
- What are the after school activities? What teams do they have? (Note that this can change from year to year and the directory might not be accurate!)
Here are a few more pointers for the day of the fair:
- Rather than carry around a hefty, heavy directory, consider ripping out the pages of schools that most interest you beforehand.
- Bring a notebook and pen to write down your impressions and any notes
- Collect fliers, or write down, the dates and times of school info sessions and tours
- If there's a sign-in sheet for a school that interests you -- sign in! That gives you a leg-up in admissions for some schools
- Dress for summer. It gets hot and steamy inside the huge building and there is no place to stash a jacket.
- Wear comfortable shoes and bring water. You'll be climbing up and down stairs. There will be food and drink for sale, but still, nice to have your own supply.
- Don't drive! Brooklyn Tech is close to virtually all subway lines and many bus routes. Traffic in the surrounding residential streets can be horrendous, so do yourself a favor and take public transportation.
Insideschools will be at the fair. Stop by our first floor table too.
Before you go, be sure to watch our video: Making the most of the high school fair
If you don't make the big fair this weekend, there will be fairs in every borough on Oct. 19 and 20. Insideschools is hosting our own Applying to High School event on Oct. 9. Watch for details.
I will be leaving on sabbatical to India next year, Sept and Oct. 2015. My child will be going into 6th grade. I am wondering if I can take her out for these two months and get an educational plan from the DOE, so upon our return, my child will have an easy transition back into her school?
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.
School may not have started yet, but incoming 5th-graders and their parents may want to begin thinking ahead. The Department of Education offered this calendar of important dates for those applying to middle school for the 2014-2015 school year:
|Directories distributed to families|
October – December 2013
|Open houses at middle schools|
October 8 – 17, 2013
5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
|District middle school fairs. Click here for a full list|
|Middle school applications distributed to families|
|Deadline for families to return middle school applications in all districts|
December 2013 – February 2014
|Student interviews and testing at selected middle schools|
|New middle schools application packets distributed to families|
|New middle school application deadline|
|Decision letters distributed to families|
|Appeal decision letters distributed to families|
To begin your research, read more about the middle school application process, or check out these Inside schools videos:
A new program rolling out in New York City aims to bridge the "digital divide" and get low income students connected to the internet at home. About one in four, or 2.2 million New Yorkers, are without internet access at home and most of those New Yorkers are low-income and minority, according to EveryoneON, the organization running the Connect2Compete program that gives access to discounted internet service and low price computers.
Mayor Bloomberg held a press conference in front of a class of 7th-graders on the Upper West Side's MS 258 on Wednesday to promote the Connect2Compete program, which is already underway in other major cities like Chicago. He was joined by Carlos Slim Domit, son of Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helú, former NBA Knicks star John Starks, Education Department Chancellor Dennis Walcott and the principal of MS 258, John Curry.
"What we are doing today is getting together to try to provide the same opportunities to you and to other students," Domit said. He explained that more than 60 million Americans are not connected to the internet (as opposed to 35 million who are not connected in his home country, Mexico) and many of those 60 million are people of color. Domit's family foundation is a partner of Connect2Compete and working to decrease those numbers in Mexico and the US.