school choice

For 86,000 high school applicants, the waiting is finally over

Eighth graders at many middle schools this afternoon enacted one of the more emotional rituals of New York City public school life: Comparing their high school placement letters.

Back in December, each eighth grader submitted an application ranking up to 12 high schools, joined by a handful of high school freshmen hoping to change schools for tenth grade. Then the Department of Education’s computer system matched applicants to schools based on their qualifications and preferences. (Check out Insideschools for a more detailed description of the matching process.) Today, students found out what result the computer spat out for them.

The DOE announced today that 86 percent of the 86,169 applicants matched with one of their top five high school picks, and that 91 percent matched with a school somewhere on their list. About 6,000 students found out their high school options last month by scoring high enough on the specialized high school exam to win admission to one of those schools, or by winning admission to LaGuardia, the city’s elite performing arts school.

The DOE delivers match letters to middle schools, and the schools pass them on to their students. Many simply hand out the letters at the end of the school day, allowing students to compare outcomes, meet with guidance counselors, and in some cases, be humiliated by not getting in anywhere. I spoke to one mother today who said her daughter’s school had elected to send the letters by mail. “I guess now they’ll cry it out at home,” she said.

For the fourth year in a row, 9 percent of applicants — this year, 7,455 — didn’t get into any of the schools they listed. They have a week before they must submit a new application listing only schools that still have spots. In the past, those schools have usually been low-performing or too new to have a track record.

Here’s the DOE’s full press release about this year’s high school admissions results:


Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein today announced that 86 percent (74,064) of the 86,169 students who applied for admission to a New York City public high school in 2009 have been matched to one of their top five choices. Over half of the applicants – 51 percent (44,012) – received their first choice school, up slightly from 50 percent last year. A total of 76 percent (65,780) of the students who applied received one of their top three choices, the same percentage as last year. This is the fourth consecutive year that more than 80 percent of high school applicants received one of their top five choices. In total, 91 percent of students (78,714) were matched with one of their choices, the same percentage as last year.            

“The right high school can prepare a student for success in college and beyond. That’s why I’m so pleased that for the fourth consecutive year, more students than ever before will be able to attend one of their top choice schools,” Chancellor Klein said. “These results show that students and their families are taking advantage of the new high school options we’ve created and the extensive information we provide to help them make informed choices.” 

This year, 18,213 students listed a new small school as their first choice, and 11,384 of those students – 63 percent – were matched to their first choices. A total of 197 new small secondary schools accepting 9th graders have opened since 2002, and 10 more will open at the start of the 2009-10 school year. Seven additional schools opened since 2002 will enroll their first 9th grade classes in the 2009-10 school year.            

The Department of Education conducts extensive outreach to families about the high school admissions process, beginning during the sixth grade. High school applicants receive the annual, 500-page High School Directory, which provides them with information about every high school. They also receive several other publications that guide them through the admissions process. In addition, the Department of Education hosts Citywide high school fairs, workshops, and information sessions for several months before students’ applications are due.  Middle and high school administrators, guidance counselors, parent coordinators, and community partners help students and families evaluate their options and make informed choices. 

Students can list up to twelve high school programs on their applications in order of preference. Schools also rank students. Then, students are matched to the school they ranked highest that also ranked them. The admission process consists of three rounds: the first round for students applying to the City’s Specialized High Schools, the main round (this round), and the supplementary round for students not matched during the main round.             

On March 31 from 6 to 9 p.m., the DOE will host an information fair at the Martin Luther King Educational Campus for students who will participate in the supplementary application round. Representatives from schools and high school admissions counselors will be available to discuss high school options with students and their families. Supplementary round applications are due to school guidance counselors on April 3. Students who participate in the supplementary round will receive their high school match by April 30.             

Details about the 2009 high school match results are below.  

Choice Total
1 44,012
2 13,736
3 8,032
4 5,082
5 3,202
6 1,968
7 1,138
8 695
9 407
10 233
11 119
12 90
None 7,455
Total 86,169

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.