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

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.

For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.

Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.

call out

Our readers had a lot to say in 2017. Make your voice heard in 2018.

PHOTO: Chris Hill/Whitney Achievement School
Teacher Carl Schneider walks children home in 2015 as part of the after-school walking program at Whitney Achievement Elementary School in Memphis. This photograph went viral and inspired a First Person reflection from Schneider in 2017.

Last year, some of our most popular pieces came from readers who told their stories in a series that we call First Person.

For instance, Carl Schneider wrote about the 2015 viral photograph that showed him walking his students home from school in a low-income neighborhood of Memphis. His perspective on what got lost in the shuffle continues to draw thousands of readers.

First Person is also a platform to influence policy. Recent high school graduate Anisah Karim described the pressure she felt to apply to 100 colleges in the quest for millions of dollars in scholarships. Because of her piece, the school board in Memphis is reviewing the so-called “million-dollar scholar” culture at some high schools.

Do you have a story to tell or a point to make? In 2018, we want to give an even greater voice to students, parents, teachers, administrators, advocates and others who are trying to improve public education in Tennessee. We’re looking for essays of 500 to 750 words grounded in personal experience.

Whether your piece is finished or you just have an idea to discuss, drop a line to Community Editor Caroline Bauman at

But first, check out these top First Person pieces from Tennesseans in 2017:

My high school told me to apply to 100 colleges — and I almost lost myself in the process

“A counselor never tried to determine what the absolute best school for me would be. I wasted a lot of time, money and resources trying to figure that out. And I almost lost myself in the process.” —Anisah Karim     

Why I’m not anxious about where my kids go to school — but do worry about the segregation that surrounds us

“In fact, it will be a good thing for my boys to learn alongside children who are different from them in many ways — that is one advantage they will have that I did not, attending parochial schools in a lily-white suburb.” —Mary Jo Cramb

I covered Tennessee’s ed beat for Chalkbeat. Here’s what I learned.

“Apathy is often cited as a major problem facing education. That’s not the case in Tennessee.” —Grace Tatter

I went viral for walking my students home from school in Memphis. Here’s what got lost in the shuffle.

“When #blacklivesmatter is a controversial statement; when our black male students have a one in three chance of facing jail time; when kids in Memphis raised in the bottom fifth of the socioeconomic bracket have a 2.6 percent chance of climbing to the top fifth — our walking students home does not fix that, either.” —Carl Schneider

I think traditional public schools are the backbone of democracy. My child attends a charter school. Let’s talk.

“It was a complicated choice to make. The dialogue around school choice in Nashville, though, doesn’t often include much nuance — or many voices of parents like me.” —Aidan Hoyal

I grew up near Charlottesville and got a misleading education about Civil War history. Students deserve better.

“In my classroom discussions, the impetus for the Civil War was resigned to a debate over the balance of power between federal and state governments. Slavery was taught as a footnote to the cause of the war.” —Laura Faith Kebede