high school admissions

First Person

barriers to entry

Opening doors

barriers to entry

barriers to entry

barriers to entry

sorting the students

Student Voices

acceptance day

special delivery

Decision day

opting out of ed-opt

student spotlights

First Person

book talk

By the numbers

high stakes interview

First Person

the end

the sorting hat

New York

After a long, fraught fall, high school applications are due today

Eighth-grader Jessica Escolah, right, told GothamSchools at a fair this fall that it's hard to choose a high school knowing her interests might change. High school applications are due today. Throughout this fall, we met students in the throes of a notoriously overwhelming process: deciding which schools to list on their high school applications. Today, they must make their final decisions. The applications are due this afternoon, and students will find out in March which school they will attend — or whether they must enter a second admissions process for students who are not placed anywhere. At high school fairs this fall, some students said they felt anxious about the application process; others said they were confident that they’d get their first choice or end up at another satisfactory school. Their priorities varied widely, as did the level of support they had gotten throughout the process from parents, teachers, and guidance counselors. For some eighth-graders, new information caused old ideas to evolve. Here’s one example: Back in September, Tiffany Mejia had her heart set on the School of Food and Finance because, she said, she likes to cook, and her best friends also wanted to go there. By the time she submitted her application last week in advance of today’s deadline, she had pushed Food and Finance to second place in favor of Humanities Preparatory Academy, a small school in Chelsea that enrolls both traditional ninth-graders and students who have previously struggled in other high schools.

high-stakes choice

seeking a match

admissions angst

New York

Test score drops mean uncertainty in screened H.S. admissions

Ananda Kimm-Drapeau, who hopes to attend Stuyvesant High School, is also considering several schools that will weigh her state test scores in admission. The city has instructed schools to screen students with lower scores this year because the state tests were harder to pass, but the process remains uncertain for families and schools alike. (Photo: Oliver Morrison) For eighth-grade students looking to attend a screened high school, the opaque admissions process has gained another layer of complexity — their own state test scores, often lower than they had been in the past. The city has been assuring parents and students that they won't be penalized for the drop in state test scores following the rollout of tougher, Common Core-aligned exams. If a school previously looked for students at a level 3 (out of 4) or above, for example, the city has said the school should look for students who scored at least a 2.25. For schools that tried to limit admissions to students with a 2 or higher, the city is suggesting using a 1.8 benchmark this year. Those equivalencies are meant to assure parents and students that this year's system won't work much differently than last year's. But that leaves two open questions: Will students apply to different schools than they would have because they are nervous about their scores? And will schools will actually look at students who fall closer the bottom of their test score range? "These kids, they were previously 4s and 3s, and now they're 1s and 2s. And they're really stressed about it," said Quincee Robinson, who oversees admissions at Bard High School Early College Manhattan, which screens for levels 3 and 4. "They're worried they're not eligible to apply to our school."

seeking a match

readmitted

New York

Federal civil rights office reopens high school admissions case

The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights has reopened a discrimination case into the city's high school admissions policies after dismissing it earlier in the month. The reversal came after the attorney who filed the legal complaint found that the office failed to follow its own dismissal procedures and argued for the case to be given new life. The complaint, filed in May by the Education Law Center on behalf of parents and advocacy groups, alleges that African American and Latino students are more likely to end up in high schools with large numbers of high-need students — and less likely to graduate — on account of the city's admissions policy. It claims that the city knew the policy was discriminatory, citing internal reports that suggested changes should be made to dilute the high-need populations in these schools. New York's Office of Civil Rights branch dismissed the complaint on July 8, citing a lack of evidence to support the claim. But the quick dismissal skipped a step in the process by failing to first notify lawyers who filed the complaint to let them know that more information was needed, which is required under OCR's processing manual. Wendy Lecker, the ELC lawyer, discovered the discrepancy and raised the issue in a July 17 letter: I never received any letter or email explaining the information necessary for OCR to proceed, nor any request for such information. Nor was I ever advised that the complaint would be dismissed in 20 days if such information was not received. On the same day, an OCR official responded  to say that the case woud be reopened.

early dismissal

sorting the eighth-graders

the tormented twentieth

excepted

frontiers of choice

New York

At AMS, easing the stressful high school search by staying put

The Urban Assembly School for Applied Math and Science is housed within the Bathgate Educational Complex, seen here. It shares the building with Validus Preparatory Academy and Mott Hall Bronx High School. (Photo by Andrew Wiktor) Stephanie Dejesus spent an invigorating three weeks last summer in the dormitories in upstate New York’s Bard College studying mathematical problem solving with the faculty. When she returned in the fall, she set to work applying for Bard, studying for and passing its entry exam. The school would be a tough commute from her Bronx home in Tremont, but she was enticed by its excellent academic reputation. Stephanie wasn’t applying for college. Stephanie is an eighth-grade student at the Urban Assembly School for Applied Math and Science in the Bronx, or AMS for short. She was considering applying for Bard High School Early College, a Lower East Side high school affiliated with Bard College. And Bard is just one of many New York City schools that require prospective students to test, interview, write an essay, and submit test scores for admission. It’s all part of a labyrinthine citywide system in which students must choose from over 500 high schools. Today, eighth-graders across the city will find out which of their choices has accepted them. For Stephanie, the news won't come as a surprise. She ended up declining to go through the interview for Bard and chose instead to stay at AMS, which enrolls students from grades six through 12. Stephanie says she’s glad she had the opportunity to choose from different schools and find different programs that might suit her, but she’s also happy to avoid the anxious wait for a school assignment. Plus, AMS is familiar, and it’s close to home.

vertical expansion

New York

Success Academy charter network sets sights on high school

First Person

a good match (updated)

New York

New Nobel prize winner designed city's HS admissions system

The latest Nobel Laureate is the economist who designed the system the city uses to match students to high schools. Alvin Roth, a product of Queens' Martin Van Buren High School who is now a professor of economics at Stanford University, was today named one of two winners of this year's Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science. The prize recognized his work in market theory, where he has studied markets of people, rather than prices. To address a time-consuming medical residency matching process that induced perverse incentives for applicants to list less-preferred options first, Roth engineered what is now known as a "deferred acceptance algorithm." The algorithm allowed the placement system to match applicants to residency programs based on their highest mutual preference. The deferred acceptance algorithm became the basis for New York City's high school admissions process in 2003 and remains the mechanism that the city uses to match nearly 100,000 students and schools each year. In a 2005 paper, Roth and two other researchers detailed the process that brought the algorithm to the Department of Education. He wrote that the department's then-director of strategic planning, Jeremy Lack, approached him to suss out whether the medical match system he designed could work in a sprawling system of public schools with diverse admissions policies. "The three authors of the present paper ... advised (and often convinced) Lack, his colleagues (particularly Elizabeth Sciabarra and Neil Dorosin), and the DOE’s software vendor, about the design of the match," Roth and his fellow researchers wrote.

decisions decisions

fair school finding

make the right choice

end of the road

try try again

New York

At second-chance school fair, students hope for better luck

Adasia Santos and her mother, Christina, arrived late but one of the remaining booths caught their eye: the high school formerly known as High School for Graphic Communication Arts. This weekend, thousands of eighth-graders and their families descended on the Upper West Side's Martin Luther King Campus to confront the bad news they received just days earlier: Unlike the majority of their classmates across the city, they still didn't have a high school to attend next year. That's because these students — about 7,700 in all, according to city data — weren't matched to any of their top high school choices through the Department of Education's main admissions process. To help them find a school, the city recruited 270 high schools that are still trying to fill seats to a "Round 2 High School Fair." About 4,500 people attended on Saturday, according to officials in the Office of Student Enrollment, which organized the event. GothamSchools attended as well and spoke to dozens of families about their plight. We found there were a variety of reasons for why students ended up without a matched school. Some applied to only the most competitive schools; others didn't fill out the applications properly; and some families suspected that schools turned away students with special needs. Other students were just unlucky. Jaqueline and Joshua Benitez Jaqueline Benitez's son Joshua wasn't matched to any of his twelve choices, which included top schools like Manhattan Village Academy and Museum High School. Jaqueline said she specifically singled out programs that a guidance counselor told her would have been able to accommodate her son's Individualized Education Program and his need for Integrated Co-Teaching, speech therapy, and testing modifications. "The thing that got me upset is that some of the same schools we chose are here for Round 2," she said pointing to Museum High School and Baruch, which are among the many selective schools that are opening their doors only for students with special needs.

It's Friday. Just show a video.

Compare and Contrast

New York

School choice advocates rank city's enrollment policies as best

The same admissions processes that leave city parents scratching their heads or, worse, pulling their hair out have put New York City at the head of the pack in a new study ranking districts' school choice policies. The report, by the nonpartisan Brookings Institution, which has long pushed for expanded school choice, compares choice policies in place in 25 urban school districts and how families took advantage of them. New York City came in first, in part because students here are never assigned to schools based simply on where they live. Of the 25 districts, New York was the only one where students are assigned to schools based on applications that asked for families' preferences, not just their address. The city has a labyrinthine citywide high school matching process and district-based middle and elementary school admissions processes that many believe could be improved. In a district with more than 1,600 schools (the Brookings report tallies 1,474), the processes are seen as bringing order but also as sometimes pitting schools against each other and limiting options, particularly in high school, for students who aren't happy with what they've chosen. The Brookings report also gave New York credit for making data about school performance public and closing or restructuring low-performing schools. But its B grade would have been higher if it had more virtual school options and provided transportation when students enroll in schools outside their districts. To tie in with the report, former city schools chancellor Joel Klein, who bolstered and expanded the city's school choice policies, is speaking at Brookings' Washington, D.C., offices today.

school choice

New York

Diverse approaches to admissions labyrinth on view at HS fair

Eighth-graders and their parents began queuing up outside Brooklyn Technical High School on Saturday an hour before the annual citywide high school fair's start time, and by 9:45 a.m. a long line of families wrapped around the block. When the doors opened at 10 a.m., they poured into the stuffy building, some of the tens of thousands of families that passed through the fair this weekend. Inside, Brooklyn Tech's eight stories were something of a labyrinth — but no more so than the high school admissions process itself. Parents and students that we met outlined varying strategies for navigating the fair and the journey to high school. Laura Napiza with daughter Samantha, left, who wants to be a teacher Laura Napiza and her daughter Samantha tried traversing the hallways but seemed completely lost. “We just got here and it’s very overwhelming,” Laura Napiza said. “We’re looking for a high school with a strong academic program that also has something that she’d be interested in. Right now she wants to be a teacher.” They said their goal was to visit the Queens High School of Teaching, Liberal Arts, and the Sciences and Maspeth High School — if they could find those tables. Saying they planned to inquire about graduation rates, student-to-teacher ratios and extracurricular options, the mother and daughter disappeared into the melee. Spencer Jackson and Beverly Brailsford creating a plan of attack for the fair Beverly Brailsford and her son Spencer Jackson came in with a clear plan of action: Head straight to the seventh floor and methodically work downwards, hitting only the schools with strong academic programs and track and field teams. First, though, the pair found a quiet hallway where they could sit down and prepare. With the high school directory in her lap, a pen in her hand, and a notebook turned to a fresh page, Brailsford took notes on schools such as Aviation High School and Medgar Evers College Preparatory School while Jackson played on his phone. “I think it’s more of a mom thing,” Brailsford said of the process. “As long as they have what he’s into, it works for him.”

streamlining

decisions decisions

New York

Pressure on top high schools shuts more eighth-graders out

tough choices

limbo

New York

As spring turns to summer, an 8th grader waits for placement

Even more anxious than teachers at schools without students for next year are the parents of students without schools. We received a letter to Chancellor Joel Klein from Catherine Fleischmann, an Upper West Side mother whose eighth-grader still doesn't know where she'll attend high school. Fleischmann's daughter is one of more than 6,500 eighth-graders who didn't get into any of the schools they applied to. Unhappy with the second-round school options, Fleischmann filed an appeal earlier this month and will find out the outcome by mid-July. "I can't begin to tell you what a nightmare this has been for us," Fleischmann told me. Here's her letter to Klein: Dear Chancellor Klein, I am writing to seek your help. My sweet, hardworking, dedicated daughter is an 8th-grade honor student at Delta middle school, an academically accelerated middle school. She has had almost perfect attendance since kindergarten. Unfortunately, she was not matched to one of her first choice high schools, even though there were still openings in those schools. Her second-choice tier of schools consists of schools at which she will neither be safe nor academically challenged. My daughter did not hear of this devastating news by way of a letter sent to our home but rather from her guidance counselor at school. An absurdity in and of itself! When she was told of this terrible situation, she was so distraught that she spent hours roaming the streets hysterically crying because she had no high school to attend.

decisions decisions

New York

Most students got a top HS pick; for some, choices remain

In a year when legal wrangling complicated the high school admissions process, the city managed to place more than half of eighth-graders in their first-choice school, city officials said today. Still, more than 6,500 eighth-graders didn't get into any high school at all, according to the Department of Education's annual press release touting admissions results. The city released the results today, nearly a month later than usual and more than two weeks after the department mailed out admissions decisions that had been delayed by a lawsuit over school closures. The 80,412 students who submitted high school applications included 8,382 students who applied to one of the 14 high schools the city tried to close this year. Originally, the department planned to assign those students to another high school listed on their application. But after the city lost a lawsuit stopping the school closures, the department generated new matches for the students, giving 1,397 of them a choice between attending a school the city has deemed failing and another school the student ranked lower. (The other 7,000 students ranked the schools slated for closure so low on their applications that they were placed elsewhere.) Students have until the end of next week to choose, according to a letter sent to principals last week by Leonard Trerotola, the department's high school enrollment director. An additional 174 students who were matched with schools originally slated to close will be able to submit an application in the supplementary round, typically reserved for students who were not accepted to any school.
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