What... (i.e. camp, dance class, birthday party)
Pick a NYMetroParents Region: All Regions   Manhattan    Brooklyn    Queens    Westchester    Rockland   Fairfield    Nassau    Suffolk  




     Home  >  Articles  > Education Advice & Tips
by Judy Antell


 Every year, parents around New York City go through an elaborate process of getting their kids into school.  From oversubscribed preschools to a paucity of seats at the best high schools, parents with kids across a broad age range are engaged in a fight to find seats in the right school.

   For most of us, preschool and elementary schools are whatever’s closest — so we choose where to live based on where we want our kids to go to school.  But middle and high school is an open process called choice . . . but which should really be called chaos.  Last fall, my middle daughter, Sela, applied to high school. This was our second time through the high school application process, so we thought it should be easier.  But although my husband and I had seen the schools two years ago, Sela never had, so we had the time-consuming slog through open houses and tours, then exams and interviews.

   In the past, many high performing kids took the Specialized Science High School Admissions (SSHAT) test and also auditioned for LaGuardia Performing Arts.  This year, the Department of Education purposely scheduled these on the same weekend, penalizing kids who wanted to take both, or making them choose before even taking a test.  The SSHAT is supposed to be completely democratic; any eighth grader can take the test and get into a specialized school, no matter his middle school grades. So it is patently unfair to make a 13-year-old decide if he is better at cello than geometry; if he is talented in both areas, he should get a fair shot.

   Not only that, Sela’s SSHAT was scheduled for 7:30am on a Sunday.  Some Brooklyn schools had to take the test at Brooklyn Tech the day of the NYC Marathon, with the marathon going right by the school.  The test was given early in the day so the streets wouldn’t be closed when we arrived. But since it took so long to get the test started, the kids heard the music and cheering while they took the test.  That has to impact on how they performed; Sela said she found it hard to concentrate with so much noise. The difference of just one point can mean rejection from a preferred school.

   Sela had to put together a portfolio, write an essay and have an interview at one school, take a two-hour test and then return for an interview at another, and then take a test at another school. And during all this, middle school teachers expect the kids to keep up with homework and their tests.

   A friend of hers auditioned for LaGuardia on harp and was assured that the school would provide an instrument for her.  The harp was so badly out of tune that a key string snapped when she tried to tune it; she had to continue the audition with a broken string.  She was allowed to return to re-audition, with a working harp, but this meant another day of testing. 

   At one school we visited, we were told applicants needed a letter of recommendation from their guidance counselor.  I don’t even know who that is.  But after we submitted our list, the school got back to us, saying that Sela was eligible for the schools she’d chosen.  This, of course, would have been useful before we went to the schools.  And though we were able to take time off to do tours, many parents cannot.

   I wonder how parents who aren’t fluent in English figure out the complex requirements.

Be the smartest parent in the 'hood

Receive our weekly highlights newsletter · Over 1,000 local activities

More Education Advice & Tips Articles

Earthly Messages in a Sci-Fi Film for Kids: 'Battle for Terra'
How To Help Your Child Tackle Homework
Money Lessons: Teach Your Children Well
Fun and Games for Kids in April...
How to Keep Kids Focused in School When Spring Fever Hits

Be a good fellow parent and share this with a friend who would be interested
Email Friend

Local Education Advice & Tips Sponsors

Barger & Gaines
116 Main Street
Irvington, New York
(914) 902-5918
Barger and Gaines offers a range of services to cl...
Westchester & Fairfield Swim Camp at Pace University in Pleasantville
Pleasantville Campus
Westchester and Fairfield Swim Camp offers a progr...

The Fashion Class
1812 Merrick Road
Merrick, NY
The Fashion Class provides fashion design and sewi...

Celebrations In The Kitchen
63 E. Old Country Road
Hicksville, NY
Our very hand-on baking parties and classes are de...

Briarcliff Pediatric Dentistry
325 S. Highland Ave.
Briarcliff Manor, NY
At Briarcliff Pediatric Dentistry, we believe in p...
See Our Education Advice & Tips Directory

local zones


Nassau cont.


Suffolk cont.


Westchester cont.



Rockland cont.


Queens cont.


Brooklyn cont.


Copyright 2015 NY Metro Parents Magazine Site Design: THE VOICE