Eighth graders applying to high schools aren't the only ones who should be mindful of the admissions calendar. Important dates are looming for students applying to middle schools and G&T programs for the 2011-12 school year. Here's the rundown for what you'll need to know for the upcoming weeks.
Most districts offer some degree of middle school choice, even in areas where the majority of students attend their zoned school. Some districts, however, offer a full-choice model offering students few or no zoned school options. In those districts, students must apply to in-district middle schools by ranking their choices on a middle school application.
According to the Department of Education's admissions calendar, middle school directories will be distributed to elementary school students during the week of October 4. They will also be available online. Friday, October 8 is the deadline for students to request to take the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT) for admission to selective schools in districts 17, 18, 20, 22, 24, and 30 as well as to request testing for admission to District 21's Mark Twain School, which is open citywide.
Beginning October 12, the Department of Education will hold middle school fairs in each district that offers school choice. All fairs will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Check the DOE's website for the date and location of the middle school fair in your district.
While fairs are a great way for parents and students to meet with school representatives and to ask questions, they are no substitute for attending a school tour or open house. Check schools' websites, or call schools to find out about their tour and open house schedule. Use our advanced search to access school profiles for contact information. Wondering what questions to ask when you visit? See our tips on what to ask on a school tour. Also check out the DOE's list of Fall 2010 middle school tour and open house dates.
For a full rundown of important middle school admissions dates, check out the DOE's calendar here.
Gifted & Talented Admissions
The Gifted and Talented Information Handbook for students entering kindergarten through grade 2 in September 2011 will be available on the DOE's website beginning October 12.
To schedule a testing date, parents will need to submit a Request for Testing Form (RFT) anytime from October 12 through November 17.
Insideschools reported back in June that 2010-11 may be the last school year that students applying to G&T programs will be evaluated based on their combined performance on the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT) and the Bracken School Readiness Assessment (BSRA). The DOE is planning to employ a new G&T admissions test once their current contracts with testing companies end in 2011.
With the release of the 2010 Progress Reports for elementary and middle schools, more than 700 schools (out of roughly 1100), including many charters, had lower letter grades. This is a dramatic change from 2009, where nearly 1000 schools saw their grades improve or remain the same from 2008. All these year-to-year fluctuations in school grades has left many wondering what to make of the annual school Progress Reports.
Clara Hemphill, founding director of Insideschools, cautioned parents to take the grades with a big grain of salt, particularly since the Department of Education has employed a different grading formula each year, making year-to-year comparisons unreliable.
And some schools' low grades for progress are in sharp contrast with their popularity with parents, students, and staff. Despite earning high marks for its school environment, the popular Community Roots Charter School in District 13 earned an overall grade of "F" on its Progress Report, in large part because of poor marks for student progress as measured by state test scores. But 2009-10 was only the second year Community Roots had students old enough to sit for the state English and math exams (it opened in 2006), and its first year for a Progress Report, which begs the question: Is it fair to measure student "progress" by state test scores alone?
We're also wondering how many, if any, families will care that Institute for Collaborative Education in Manhattan, which draws a high number of applicants from across the city, earned a "C". Like Community Roots, the school earned an "A" for school environment, but fell flat in the heavily-weighted student progress category. Or, is anyone surprised that for the second consecutive year, every school in District 26, the city's highest performing district, earned an "A" or "B" on their Progress Reports?
Overall, charter schools faired worse than traditional public schools, in large part because of the fallout from the city's poor performance on 2010 state English and math exams. Some charters, however, bucked the trend, such as Democracy Prep, Williamsburg Collegiate and KIPP Infinity, which all earned "As".
This week we'd like to know whether you agree with your school's 2010 Progress Report grade? Yes? No? Not sure? Take our poll and share your thoughts below.
The city released its 2010 Progress Reports for elementary and middle schools, giving each school a grade of “A” to “F,” based mostly on how children did on standardized tests compared to schools with similar demographics. The city has a tougher grading system than last year, and more than 700 schools saw their grades decline from 2009.
Our advice: take these grades with a very large grain of salt. There is a lot of year-to-year fluctuation in test scores, and the city has been changing its formula for grading schools each year. Schools that focus on improving tests scores on reading and math may get a higher grade than schools that have broader goals – such teaching kids science and history, or encouraging them to write well and speak clearly. A report by the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School, released in June, called the Progress Reports “seriously flawed.”
Still, if you dig deep into the reports, you can find some interesting data. For example, each school gets a grade for “environment” based on things like whether kids feel safe in school, or whether teachers feel their opinions are valued. Take a look at your school’s Learning Environment Survey to see how it stacks up. Lots of red means teachers and parents are unhappy with their school; lots of green means they are happy.
New this year: the city released Progress Reports for some District 75 schools (for children with disabilities) and for many charter schools. Also new this year: the city graded schools on a curve, deciding ahead of time how many would get “As” and how many would get “Fs.” It also changed the way it measures progress. Last year 97% of the schools got "As" and "Bs", leading many critics to charge that grades were inflated.
Read the Chancellor's announcement on the release of the Progress Reports here.
What do you think? Are this year's Progress Reports more on target....or still missing the mark?
I have an 8th-grader preparing for high school. I just received her citywide test scores for ELA and math. I understand the grading/scoring scale has changed -- her scores fell by 100 points. I wonder if this is something other families are noticing and how it will affect the admissions process for next year? Is there a way to obtain the test and the answer sheet, or an opportunity to appeal the scores/test?
In order to check the accuracy of your child's scores on the statewide tests, or gain some insight into the answers she gave, first speak to the school principal. According to Grace Pepe, the Department of Education's director of assessment operations, every principal has an “item analysis” for each child’s tests. You can ask the principal to discuss the test with you, or if this does not yield the detail you are after, I suggest you go the next step to look directly at your daughter's test along with a qualified person who can explain it to you.
To do this, ask your principal for a parent request form to see a copy of the standardized test and the answer sheet. You’ll need proof that you are the student’s parent so you may either get the principal to attest to that or you can have the form notarized.
As for how scores will affect high school admission, remember, there is a lot more than standardized tests that high schools look for including course grades and attendance. They also look at raw test scores, not just the Level 1,2,3, or4 designation. This allows them to judge students based on past experience. However, you should keep in mind that there will be some effect of the “higher bar” and choose schools carefully to match your child’s eligibility and learning style.
With the citywide high school fair scheduled for this weekend, Oct. 2-3, and the borough fairs to follow on Oct. 16-17, I would use the opportunity to speak to representatives from the schools your daughter would like to apply to. Ask them about their selection criteria and how lower test scores will affect admissions this year.
You can also pose that question directly to DOE enrollment officials who will be leading workshops at the fairs. Another option is to attend one of the many admissions workshops the DOE enrollment office is hosting between October 12 and November 10. There is always time for Q&A at the end of the presentations. Be sure to attend open houses and tours for schools on your daughter's list -- that's another good place to figure out her options. Check out our post: HS update: Workshops, tours, fairs, & deadlines for more suggestions and information.
Last February the Department of Education offered the city's 65,000 11th graders free access to an online SAT prep course through College Board. The goal was to stem the tide of declining scores since 2002 by offering students the free course in time to prepare for the March, June, or October 2010 SAT exams.
With news that only 8000 11th graders took advantage of the free course last spring, the DOE is opening up the program to current 11th graders. Free access expires in February 2011, so students will need to take advantage of it in the fall semester.
To register for the course, students will need to have an access code. All 12th graders should have received an access code last February. If you never received one, or lost it, contact your school's college office or guidance counselor for help. If you have your code, register here.
Current 11th graders who are interested in getting a head start on preparing for the spring 2011 SATs, should request an access code from their school.
See also our post about the slight gains made by New York City students on 2010 SAT exams. And if you are a student who took advantage of the free test prep last spring, let us know how it went by commenting below.
New York City students posted gains on the SATs in 2010 from the previous year, in contrast to statewide scores, which dropped slightly from 2009 to 2010. While the city's overall SAT scores inched up only a few points in math and English over 2009, the slight jump reversed a four-year downward trend in performance.
The modest gains were limited to Asian and white students. Performance by black and Latino students didn't budge much from 2009 (one point increase in math; three point decline in writing section), but the overall scores for these two sub-groups, which comprise the majority of the city's students, has declined since 2002, when Mayor Bloomberg first took office and gained control over city schools.
On the upside, many more minority students are taking the SAT exams than in 2002. “This year’s results suggest that more students have college on their minds,” said Chancellor Joel I. Klein in a press release.
More students in city schools are also taking Advanced Placement exams. In 2002, roughly 17,000 sat for at least one AP exam, fewer than half the 28,000 who took at least one AP exam in 2010.
On a related note, check out a New York Times article from 2009 on the correlation between family income and SAT performance.
And, do you have an 11th or 12th grade in need of SAT test prep? Check out our post about free test prep offered by the DOE.
On their first day back at middle school last week, my eighth-grade son and his classmates heard three words many have been dreading all summer: high school admissions.
“Can you believe they made us talk about it on the first day?’’ he said glumly afterward, unwilling to concede summer’s end so quickly.
It’s already time to decide if they want to register for the exam that determines who gets into some of the most competitive high schools in the U.S.
At 13, most of these New York City middle schoolers are already experienced veterans of school choice. Like it or not, they hear hundreds of conversations about schools from parents, teachers, classmates and siblings. In fifth grade, they likely toured up to a dozen or more middle schools. And they are getting ready to go back on the tour circuit again in the coming weeks, preparing portfolios in some cases and getting ready to be interviewed in others.
Already, the first decision looms: Signing up for the Specialized High School Admission Test, known as the SHSAT, the exam that determines who gets into the city’s oversized high schools with outsized national reputations. According to the Department of Education calendar, students sign up between Sept. 15 and Oct. 6
The exams take place on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 23 and 24. The test has two sections, verbal – with 45 questions – and math, with 50 questions.
“The test measures knowledge and skills you have gained over the years,’’ the test booklet says, a description that isn’t terribly helpful.
The test scores of students who take the exams – along with the way they rank the schools if they test high enough -- will decide admission into one of eight of the city’s specialized high schools: Stuyvesant High School (in Manhattan), Bronx High School of Science, Brooklyn Technical High School, Staten Island Tech, and Brooklyn Latin, plus three small specialized high schools located on CUNY campuses: High School of American Studies at Lehman College (in the Bronx), the High School of Mathematics, Science, and Engineering at City College (in Manhattan), and the Queens High School for the Sciences at York College).
Many eighth-graders students are already well into diligently prepping for the SHSAT, and with good reason: getting in opens the door to a high quality college prep experience, a challenging curriculum and a menu of advanced placement and language courses with clubs, sports and activities that aren’t easily replicated.
Many eighth-graders took prep courses last spring or over the summer, or are taking them now. Some may prepare by practicing test questions that can be found in the back of the specialized high school student handbook.
Competition is fierce: At Brooklyn Tech, for example, some 23,887 students listed the school as a choice on their application; the school offered spots to just 1,893.
I’ve always thought taking the exam is a good idea, on the theory that the more choices students have in the crazed admissions process the better. There’s little to lose in taking the exam, and it’s free. Students who get into specialized high schools in February will also hear where else they’ve been matched and can make a decision early on.
I’ve spoken to parents who have shunned test preparation. Plenty urge their children to simply sign up for the test and “wing it.” The tactic actually has worked in some cases, but other students missed the cut-off point for admission by just a few heartbreaking points. Their parents said they wished they had pushed test prep more
The specialty high schools are not for everyone, but they do offer a terrific education and opportunities not easily found elsewhere.
Insideschools.org would love some insight from parents and students on SHSAT test prep: What has worked particularly well? Is taking the practice exams at the end of the specialized student handbook enough? Did anyone wish they had spent more time and/or money on test prep? Finally, is a big push really worth it?
When the state delayed release of the 2010 English and math until late July, it meant that families didn't find out their students' individual scores until mid-August -- and only then if they logged on to ARIS Parent link. Those who couldn't -- or chose not to -- access ARIS, will get their test results during the first days of school.
In our last poll we asked you if you had logged on to ARIS yet. More than 600 readers weighed in, with mixed results. A slim majority of voters -- 53 percent -- said they have logged on to ARIS. Another 28 percent said they haven't. Comments, too, were mixed. One commenter called ARIS a "huge waste of money"; another said it was "a great resource."
Then there's the 17 percent of poll takers who apparently had no idea what this poll was about, voting "ARIS. What's ARIS?"
I was wondering if you knew about the situation with some Regents exams being discontinued. I know that only a few language Regents are being kept, and the language I am taking isn't one of them. How can I get an Advanced Regents diploma?
As you know, in order to get an Advanced Regents diploma you must have completed three years of a language other than English, and pass a Regents exam in that language. But many languages offered by the city high schools do not have Regents exams attached to them. This will not jeopardize your chance of earning an Advanced Regents diploma (formally called a Regents Diploma with Advanced Designation.)
According to Grace Pepe, Director of Assessment and Operations at the Department of Education, the "NYC Languages Other Than English" (LOTE) test is a Regents-like comprehensive examination offered in 15 languages for native language speakers in grades 11 and 12 and for students taking a course in one of these languages. The test is an option for earning Advanced Regents credits. The NYC LOTE is currently offered in Albanian, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese (simplified), Chinese (traditional), Greek, Haitian Creole, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Punjabi, Russian, Urdu, and Vietnamese.
However, there are now some languages that formerly offered Regents exams but no longer do – German, Latin, and Hebrew were just voted out as a cost cutting measure. Italian got a last minute reprieve, at least until the end of 2011; Spanish and French Regents exams are still given.
According to Steve Katz, director of the Office of State Assessment, the New York State Education Department approves the use of the SAT II subject exams for Regents credit in several languages. NYC could approve New York State substitutes for foreign language Regents but the city will likely provide its own exams, as they have in the past.
My advice: Contact your principal or your assistant principal of foreign language for information on what exam you'll need to take after three years of language study. You can also read a Q&A covering current state requirements for earning LOTE credits, including modifications or exceptions for students with disabilities and students whose native language is not English.
According to Katz, there is an ongoing review of assessment in world languages that will result in recommendations for changes in testing to the Board of Regents. From what I hear, there is ongoing discussion about Regents assessments in all subjects: stay tuned for developments as we all race to the top – or at least to graduation.
Good luck for the new school year!
A second August meeting of the Panel for Educational Policy was attended by angry parents last night, who challenged the Department of Education over the results of the 2010 state standardized reading and math tests. After the state raised the passing scores this year, far fewer students achieved "proficiency."
A NY1 story by Lindsey Christ, reported that 40 parents who signed up to comment, protested that the DOE had not adequately explained the reasons for the lower test scores, had "lied" to them, and kept parents out of the loop.
For its part, DOE officials said that although proficiency levels dropped after the passing standards were changed, students have still made progress.
According to NY1, fewer than half of the panel members were present at the meeting, which was scheduled after the regular August meeting was cut short by parents seeking an explanation for the test scores. Midway through last night's meeting, parents "shouted over" DOE officials, "turned their backs to the stage" and walked out. See the NY 1 story here.
PEP meeting Aug. 31
Tonight Today, Aug. 31, the panel will meet again -- this time to reconvene its regularly scheduled August meeting about DOE contracts and budget.
CEJ test score meetings Sept. 1 & Sept. 2
On Sept. 1, the NYC Coalition for Educational Justice, an advocacy group, invites interested parents and community members to help plan a response to the 2010 test scores. A meeting is scheduled for 3-5 p.m. at 74 Trinity Place, 2nd floor. See our calendar for details.
Update Sept. 1: A second meeting has been set for the following evening. The CEJ invites parents to a planning meeting, from 6-7:30 p.m. at 74 Trinity Place. This meeting is open to all parents to want to help set a "back to school action plan" in response to the test scores.
Are you attending any of the meetings? Please share your thoughts below.