decisions decisions

Pressure on top high schools shuts more eighth-graders out

More eighth-graders applied to New York City’s highest-performing high schools this year, forcing the city to deny more students their top choices than in the past.

Data released on high school admissions by the Department of Education today shows that while fewer eighth-graders applied for seats in public high schools — down from 80,412 last year to 78,747 this year — the process has become more competitive. Fewer students were matched to one of their top five choices and more of them weren’t matched to any schools at all.

City officials’ explanation for this shift is that more eighth graders’ top choices were concentrated in the same set of schools. With so many students vying for the same schools — many of them among the city’s top-performing — fewer students got what they wanted.

This year, 83 percent of students landed one of their top five high school choices, down from 86 percent last year. The number of unmatched students — eighth-graders who weren’t paired with a high school and who will have to reapply to schools with open seats — swelled from 6,694 last year to 8,239 this year.

DOE officials attributed the sudden popularity of some schools to the city’s decision to include schools’ graduation rates in the high school directory. Schools with graduation rates above 90 percent saw a 30 percent rise in applications, while schools whose graduation rates are below 50 percent received 34 percent fewer applications.

The school with the highest number of applications, Baruch College Campus High School, is listed as having a 100 percent graduation rate. It received 7,606 applications, 61 percent more than last year.

“What we see is that when families have more information, especially with regard to graduation rates, they naturally gravitate toward those better options for their kids,” said Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg in a statement. “So we need to keep providing families with more high quality schools.”

Another possible explanation for the increase in applications to top schools is that students might have been deterred from applying to schools the city said it would try to close, in part because of the schools’ low graduation rates. Earlier this year, the citywide school board voted to close 14 high schools starting this summer. Students who had applied to the schools couldn’t be matched there, making it more likely for them to wind up without a placement at all. In contrast, last year, a lawsuit required that students be assigned to schools the city had tried to close.

Not all students learned which high schools they’ll attend next year. In addition to the over 8,000 eighth-graders who were not assigned to a high school, some schools sent acceptance letters to students’ homes. While these letters will take a few days to arrive, other students were told directly by their guidance counselors today. Eighth-graders who were not matched must apply by April 15 to schools that did not fill up in the main round of admissions. They’ll find out by the end of May where they’ll enroll in September.

Here are the 10 most-applied-to high schools this year:

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

More in What's Your Education Story?

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.