DOE gives incoming high schoolers admissions tips

By Tom Momberg

The city Department of Education presented tips to parents and students for high school admissions at the Queens borough president’s Parent Advisory Board last week.

With three of the top 10 best-ranked high schools in the state, according to U.S. News and World Report, Queens also has some of the most competitive schools for admissions.

And while the DOE suggests methods to help families get their children into the school of their choice, Queens DOE Director of Enrollment Margaret Rogers and Superintendent for Queens Juan Mendez said the system is as fair as possible.

“It’s interesting. When I was running for borough president and before that for the Council, one of the most controversial issues was clearly the high school application process,” Borough President Melinda Katz said.

The high school application process is open to every eighth and ninth grader in the city, letting them rank their top 12 choices of the city’s 496 high schools. The DOE suggests students put their top choices before their locally zoned schools, because they may always be accepted into those schools in the second round of applications.

Higher performing, more sought-after schools such as Townsend Harris High School, are called screened schools, and will look at several factors.

“So what determines high school admissions offers?” Rogers asked rhetorically. “First—seat availability—we tell you how many seats we have in a particular school and the number of people who apply for those seats. (Second)—our admissions priorities—this is the order in which applicants are matched with a particular program. Most of our Queens high schools are open citywide, so anyone who applies is equal. But certain schools do prioritize certain districts.”

In looking at admissions eligibility, the DOE takes a snapshot of students’ grades, standardized test scores, attendance and punctuality from June of their seventh-grade year, even for those coming out of private or charter schools.

Rogers said students seeking to attend screened schools are strongly encouraged to attend the open houses for those schools in October and November to be considered.

Eighth and ninth graders may also take the Specialized High School Admissions Test to list any of the city’s specialized high schools as their top choices. Those tests, as well as auditions to LaGuardia High School or other arts programs, are registered for and administered in October. Rogers said families should understand acceptance to schools of students’ choices may not always align with test results.

“Because the process is based on the children’s score against the group that took (the test) that year, the cohort score to get into a particular specialized school will fluctuate from year to year,” Rogers said. “So a student this year could get the same score as a student last year. One student may get in, one may not.”

For specialty arts schools, students must audition. Rogers recommended that students who have not auditioned, not list those schools as one of their choices.

Visit schools.nyc.gov/ChoicesEnrollment/High/default.html for more information or to look for deadlines and open house dates.

Reach reporter Tom Momberg by e-mail at tmomberg@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4573.