NYC Middle School Choices & Admission Factors

In a previous post, we looked at how to apply to middle school in NYC.  Now we’ll examine NYC middle school choices and the admission factors which influence your child’s likelihood of being offered the programs they are applying for.

The NYC Middle School Admissions Guide, is a good starting point to research the programs your child is eligible for. A single school might offer multiple programs such as a zoned program as well as a scholar’s program. The directory lists stats for each school such as school size, academic and safety performance, number of seats vs applications received, etc.

Your residential address determines your child’s school zone, which specifies the district programs they are eligible for. They are also eligible for specific borough and city-wide schools/programs.

There are specialized programs you can apply for, eg. IS239 Mark Twain School for Gifted & Talented, but you MUST submit a Request for Testing (RFT) in October of the year your child is in Grade 5. Your middle school application form is submitted in the December of your child’s Grade 5 year.

If this sounds overwhelming – don’t worry! The district, borough and city wide programs your child is eligible for are listed in the Middle School Admissions Guide. Their application form, which they receive at their elementary school in October, is personalized to list each of these programs and any programs for which you’ve submitted an RFT.

choices to apply to New York public middle school

Admission Factors
An important part of determining which programs are a good fit for your child, and which ones they have the best chance of being offered, is understanding the admission factors for each program, eg number of seats, geographic priority of offers, admission methods, etc.

Admission Methods
There are up to seven different methods a middle school can use to select students, including a lottery, use of academic results, interviews, or entrance exams. For schools who use academic results (such as attendance, report card results, standardized test results, etc), the rubric varies for each program. It’s a very involved process and varies by school/program so we refer you back to the Middle School Admissions Guide.

Ranking Schools on Your Application
The way you rank schools on your application is a contentious issue that everyone seems to have an opinion on, including AWNY Mums. The application form enables you to choose up to 12 programs and rank them from 1 to 12, according to your preference. In the interest of transparency, we are sharing the information we’ve received, and ultimately you can make your own mind up about how you will approach the ranking.

The DOE recommends that you “Rank your program choices in your true order of preference”. However, several AWNY Mums observed that certain schools will check to see how you’ve ranked their program on the application form, and would not consider the child unless the school had been ranked as 1st choice.  Over the last few years there have been various complaints (here, here and here) about this issue as well as about the lack of transparency and consistency around the admissions process. The DOE has released policy changes to eliminate the “revealed choice” approach, due to be implemented for for the fall of 2019.

“There are several schools who won’t consider your application unless you rank that school as your first choice. In theory, they will consider you if they cannot fill all their places from first choice applicants, but these schools are generally the highly competitive schools so they would rarely, if ever, have to consider applicants who ranked the school as their second choice. Other schools consider first and second choice applicants.” – Charlene

Standardized Testing
Many academically-oriented programs have traditionally used results of 4th Grade Math and ELA standardized tests as a sole/key admissions factor. However in early 2017, state legislation was passed mandating that standardized test scores could no longer be used as the sole or primary admissions factor. Affected schools are required to redesign their admissions policies to accommodate students who opted out of standardized tests in elementary school.

alphabet blur books close up

Tips from AWNY Mums

School Attendance:
“Had I appreciated the importance some schools place on attendance (for their admissions criteria), I would have done what is the common approach to illnesses in Grade 4: send your child to school anyway and tell them to go to the nurse’s office after attendance has been taken.” – Charlene

“NYC schools are huge, and they can be really dangerous. Make sure the school you are sending your child to is safe. A small, local, specialized middle school may not have the reputation or scores of other schools you have heard about, but it may be a better fit for your child.” – Lou

Admissions Criteria:
“Looking at each school’s application rubric to determine what they look for with each applicant was informative. The rubric varies between schools. The extent to which state tests and school reports are incorporated into the process differs significantly between schools, some include a component for attendance, others do not, and others have their own testing requirements as well.” – Charlene

School Vicinity:
“Don’t underestimate how long it can take to get to school during the week vs. your test run on a Sunday in the bus or subway.” – Krista

close up of apple on top of books

The Last Word
Research is key to your middle school decision process and while it may seem overwhelming when you start, the information provided by your current elementary school, the DOE and Middle School Directory, and the middle schools themselves is top notch. Make sure you know the key dates at the beginning of your process, and then conduct your research leading up to each milestone date so you’re prepared.

More Information about Middle School
This post is a companion piece to our earlier post on how to apply to middle school in NYC. For further insights, you can join the Aussie Mums & Dads in New York Facebook Group. to connect with other Australian mums who have navigated through NYC middle school choices and admission factors.

A big thank you to the following AWNY Mums who contributed to this article:

  • Charlene*, from Perth who works and lives in NYC with her 3 children.
  • Joanna, from Sydney who has recently gone through the public middle school application process.
  • JS, from Sydney, who has 2 kids and relocated to NYC for work.
  • Krista, from Sydney, who lives in the USA with her French husband and American daughter.
  • Lou, from Melbourne, who owns a bar in Bushwick with her husband.

* pseudonym at request of contributor

Author: Angela Tohl

Adelaide-born Angela came to New York in search of the ultimate adventure, by way of Australia and Japan. She juggles technical and copywriting projects, with chasing her kids around (usually on roller skates). Find Angela on Twitter @angelatohl and at Image credit: Susie Lang

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