Parents and students in limbo as NYC procrastinates over high school admissions

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Frustrated parents slam the mayor of Blasio and the city’s education ministry as nervous eighth-graders agonize over this year’s shattered high school selection process – as the administration drags on feet, for the second year in a row, on announcing the admission rules for prospective first year students.

“Neglect is not the right word. Cruel is the right word, ”said Alina Adams, a mother of three who runs the NYC School Secrets website. “They are 13 and 14 year old children, and they absolutely torture them.”

“I’m very worried about this,” said Morgan LaBella, an eighth-grader at Christa McAuliffe School IS 187 in Borough Park, Brooklyn.

In the past, students were given a thick phone book the size of a telephone book in June of grade seven, as a guide to the city’s more than 400 public high schools and 700 separate special interest programs. In September and October, eighth-graders could attend several high school fairs and open houses to choose up to 12 schools to include on their applications.

The selection requirements – which the high school says may include grades, auditions, essays or special tests – were made public months before the application deadline in early December.

Vito LaBella with his daughter, Morgan, an eighth grade student at IS 187 in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.

But the coronavirus pandemic turned all of that upside down in 2020 – and despite the end of distance learning and students returning to class, the application system remains in turmoil.

“De Blasio is a lame duck who can now make all the changes he never dared to make when he ran for office,” Adams accused. “Now he’s dirty the earth. “

High school fairs never took place this fall, schools did not hold in-person tours for prospective students, and the high school directory was replaced by a hard-to-navigate online portal that requires families to check out each school’s website for information on programs and admission requirements.

“It’s incompetence bordering on meanness,” said Maud Maron, a Manhattan city council candidate whose eighth-grade daughter attends MS 255, she added.

More importantly, the city has yet to say whether high schools can use their old methods of selection – which have woken up critics called a form of segregation – to choose students.

It left schools and families in the dark. One school canceled a scheduled high school information session this week “due to lack of complete information from the DOE,” they told parents in an email.

Meanwhile, crippled high schools have no admissions rubrics to give prospective students – and families have to obsessively search their target school’s websites for news.

“It’s daily, monitoring, checking,” said Jessica Chiu of Harlem, whose daughter Leah is in eighth grade. “I am very proactive.

Adding to the confusion, the DOE has eliminated based on geography high school admissions policies this year in the name of fairness.

This will make it harder than ever to get admission to top-ranked schools, previously reserved for district or borough residents, like Eleanor Roosevelt in Manhattan and Millennium in Brooklyn – and apparently put an end to zoned high schools that guarantee a place for students. children who live nearby.

“They’re pretty vague about removing zoned high schools, which would have huge ramifications, especially for families in Queens and Staten Island,” said Maurice Frumkin, a former DOE official and consultant who runs NYC Admissions Solutions. . “There are a lot of families who have moved into these neighborhoods just to go to these coveted schools. “

They include the already overcrowded Bayside, Cardozo and Francis Lewis.

Jessica chiu
Jessica Chiu is frustrated with the city’s mid-air high school selection process.
Lea Chiu
Jessica Chiu’s daughter, Leah, is in eighth grade.

“Now you have kids all over town applying,” Maron said. “It’s basically a lottery.

The DOE announced on Wednesday – five months later than usual – that the SHSAT, the entrance test for eight specialized high schools, will be handed out to eighth-graders in DOE middle schools on December 2 and to students in private and charter on December 5. .

But students still do not have an application date for non-special schools in the system – nor do they know when they will receive an admission decision.

The DOE website on Friday assured eighth-grade families that “welcome letters” with their much sought-after application instructions “are in the mail.”

“We are weeks into the new school year and look forward to continuing to share more information about the upcoming admissions process with families soon,” DOE spokeswoman Sarah Casanovas said.

“Following the unprecedented impact of the global pandemic, we have made common sense and fair changes to our admissions policies,” she added.

Worried parents take no chances.

“Were [also] pass the Catholic high school tests, ”said Vito LaBella, Morgan’s father, whose older children attended Brooklyn Tech. “We wouldn’t have done this normally. We just need to have all the options open.


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