A glimmer of hope for 8th graders who were rejected at their high school choices: Insideschools has learned that one-quarter of the kids who appealed their high school placements last year got a seat at one of the schools to which they originally applied.
Of the 3,028 rising 9th-graders who filed appeals last year, 761 were offered a place at one of the high schools listed on their applications, according to data released by the Department of Education in response to our request under the Freedom of Information Act. Another 783 were assigned to an alternative placement, but not a school they requested.
An appeal won't work if you were rejected at one of the specialized high schools, which require an entrance exam. And it probably won't work if you are assigned to a perfectly good, appropriate school that just doesn't happen to be your first choice--if, say, you are assigned to Bard High School Early College and you wanted Beacon.
But let's say you are assigned to a school that doesn't offer chemistry and physics and you want a college prep curriculum. In that case, you may have a shot.
Michael Krutyansky was one of those fortunate 8th-graders in 2013: His appeal on medical grounds landed him a spot at Millennium High School, the only high school he listed on his appeal form. It wasn't easy.
The DOE originally assigned him to the school he ranked fifth. After a daytime visit to the school, the family realized it would not be a good fit, and, when the 8th-grader became deeply depressed, they decided to appeal.
His mother, Angela Tessler, found the process fraught with confusion, discouragement and detours. The only consistent bit of advice she received from administrators, guidance counselors and DOE officials was that an appeal probably would not be worth the trouble: "Everyone told me the appeal would not work," she said. "It's a pretty devastating experience."
Grounds for an appeal include travel hardship, special education needs, medical or safety issues, or data entry error, meaning the middle school made an error in the application. However, Barbara Von Zerneck, a guidance counselor at Booker T. Washington middle school in District 3says most of her students who appeal check "other."
"They almost never appeal for the reasons listed on the form — transportation, safety, medical reasons, etc. — and almost always indicate that the schools to which they were matched are not academically rigorous enough to continue their education on the level of our school," Von Zerneck said.
Last year appeal forms were available from guidance counselors in June. Results were not distributed until mid-July.
You can't appeal until after you have been assigned to a school. The 7,452 students who were rejected at all their choices this week must apply again in Round 2 and get a placement before they appeal. All students may appeal, including those who got a match in the first round and skipped Round 2. On last year's appeal form, families could list up to three program requests and check a box stating whether or not the child should be matched to a program at the DOE's discretion or keep her current program if her three desired options are unavailable.
While the Department of Education would not give specifics about where those students were placed, enrollment officials said they look for consistency and try to place kids into comparable programs when the schools they applied for have filled.
For the past three years for which data is available, transportation was the most common reason for successful appeals, with 605 appeals granted for travel hardship (a commute of more than 75 minutes) in 2013.
The second highest number of appeals — 38 percent — were granted for "other" reasons: a catch-all category for any appeals that don't fit into other categories.
The DOE's enrollment office said that more people were happy with their placements in 2012 and 2013 because of a change in admissions policy that allowed students to apply to Round 2 high schools even if they received a first round match.
So what's the final word on appeals? If you're unhappy with your placement, go for it. "I never surrendered," says Tessler, Michael's mom, who called schools continuously through the spring. "Some didn't reply at all. But I found out that Millenium had seats on appeal." Tessler focused her appeal letter on Millenium, where her son ultimately was placed.
Here's the information the Department of Education gave us:
To see appeals data from the DOE for 2011, 2012 and 2013, click this link and download the excel file to your computer.