variables and a bunch of insight

You’re all discovering firsthand that the high school admissions process is not a science. In fact, it’s sometimes more like a science experiment with missing steps or miscommunication. Sometimes there are no concrete answers to questions that seem to warrant them. There aren’t necessarily citywide specifications set into place and schools can make their own decisions on how to handle things. 

All this makes the process more complicated for families.

A bunch of issues have been raised today, which is awesome. I will do my best to share answers and insights. If I didn’t address your concerns, please email me again. If I have written about it before, can’t hurt to read it again ; )

Rubrics: screened schools have individualized rubrics - or the criteria they use to rank kids. They’re supposed to be transparent. Some schools post them or make them available. Not all do. Millennium Brooklyn shared theirs at the high school fair. Elro, NEST, the Museum School (thanks folks for sharing info) have them posted.

Switching schools: the DOE has a new policy as of last week that will hopefully make it easier for kids to switch if a school isn’t working out (thanks Hilary for the head’s up). As this policy is brand new I’m thinking no one knows how it’s going to work yet and so it’ll be interesting to watch kinks being worked out as it’s put into play:

Currently 9th grade students can go through the application process again. Keep in mind, there are not many seats available. And, at the moment, after that generally kids have to go to designated transfer schools. But looks like that is changing.

Absence/latenesses: there are two parts to this. First is keeping that number below 10 in 7th grade. That’s a red flag to principals when ranking. But, if there was a valid reason for those absences (hospital stay, broken leg, etc.) those are coded differently in the system and so noted on a student’s file. HEAD’S UP. That’s how it’s supposed to work. But double check with your guidance counselor if there are/were any issues to make sure that was actually done. Personal experience - it doesn’t always happen.

Part two: yes, if you end up applying in 9th grade to transfer to another school, it’s 8th grade info they take into consideration. If/when your child is late or absent for a high school tour, it’s generally up to the school whether they consider it excused or not. My daughter’s middle school was adamant that if you were out you were out, no excuses. Good to check with your guidance counselor if you have questions.

Reality of screened schools: in 2013 the Manhattan Comptroller did an audit of screened schools and found the process lacking in both DOE oversight and schools following their screens:

This is hearsay but it used to be thought that where your child was at middle school played into ranking - a school known for more rigor would perhaps have kids ranked higher than a fluffier counterpart. Keep in mind - hearsay (although I watched a bit of this happen firsthand - my daughter applied to HS in 2012). But, after this audit, it seems that there is more accountability and grades count as grades. a 95 is a 95 no matter where you go. Some high schools may weight an advanced or regents course, but that’s entirely up to them. Again, this isn’t published anywhere, it’s the kind of conversation people like to spin and expound on, but it seems things have changed since this audit. 

Seat offers: both specialized and main round schools send out more offers than seats, knowing not everyone they give an offer to will accept. Another imperfect science but principals, over time, get the sense of how many offers will turn into how many acceptances. 

Spots available: Not true that certain schools absolutely don’t have spots. Things can change, not necessarily after round 1 or 2, but after that as well. The principal of Bard Manhattan told me at this year’s round 2 fair (my son’s first year at Tech wasn’t going well and he was considering other options) said that spots often open up during the summer and parents should be in touch with schools in August to see if there’s any availability. I did that myself this summer and then Jack decided he wanted to stay.

Round 1 vs Round 2: First, Maria, thanks for sharing your experience. That’s very often how we all learn how this system works - first hand accounts. 92% of kids got matched first round last year. That left 8% who didn’t, which was around 6000 kids. And these are kids from all over. I heard 4 at Lab - again, parents talking, nothing published. And I was at the Round 2 fair - there weren’t many schools that would have been a good fit for my child. It’s important to make SMART CHOICES. Don’t rank a school if it’s unlikely your child will get in, if you’re outside their screen, the grades don’t match what they’re looking for. Include schools that have a different admissions method. Go off the beaten path of the few schools many families talk about and consider other terrific places that aren’t talked about as much. But, again, don’t list something that won’t work for you. I know of kids placed in schools ridiculously far away, or with lackluster graduation rates, because parents were told to fill 12 spots and they randomly listed things. Research and again, make smart choices.

Specialized open houses: a friend of mine at LaGuardia pointed this out today, which I hadn’t even thought about. These open houses happen too late to make much of a difference to 8th grades, who’ve already registered for the test/auditions. Would make far more sense to do this in 7th grade, so kids and families have a sense of what they’re striving for and whether or not that extra work is worth it.