Since the NYC Public High School acceptance letters were sent out last week, the process has been the subject of multiple news articles. Not only is the process confusing at best, it is also discriminatory.
The 600 page NYC High School Directory (offered in 10 languages) is given to every 7th grader at the end of the school year with instructions to read through the 700 programs offered and select their top 12 choices to place on their applications by December 1. Imagine a 12-year-old being given this challenging assignment to complete independently. Without the assist of a guidance counselor, teacher or a savvy parent, many students simply give up and just apply to their zone school if they have one. Otherwise they may be assigned to a below average school outside their district. Why do students and parents complain of no help from teachers or counselors to help guide them through this process?
The system was designed with good intentions to give all students the option to apply to programs throughout the 5 boroughs. While the idea sounds equitable on paper, in practice it is anything but equitable. Appointment times to visit schools are limited and only the most informed parents know to call for these appointments early in the school year. The requirements beyond reading the directory and making school visits often include required parent participation. How can low-income parents be expected to take time off from work for school visits?
To apply to 8 of the most prestigious Specialized High Schools, students are required to take the Student High School Application Test (SHSAT) as the sole measure for acceptance. Previous achievement and recommendations are not even considered. And to top it off, there is no in school preparation for this test. Most students begin taking costly classes outside of school, a year in advance to prepare for this test. How are low-income families expected to pay for these costly classes and arrange for their children to get to and from the centers where they are offered?
The challenges and stress throughout this process are enormous even for the best students with hyper-vigilant parents. For those who lack understanding of the process, their children suffer the consequences. What can we do to help?
Make a more conscientious effort to inform parents
Guide students through this arduous process
Offer free preparation classes for the SHSAT during the school day.
And parents must:
Demand services for their children
Take advantage of their Borough Center offerings of assistance
Get to know the candidates running for their local Citywide Education Council and VOTE!