NEW YORK CITY — With middle school applications due in just two weeks, education leaders in District 2 are demanding the Department of Education release the exact criteria used to make admissions decisions in its area schools.
While some schools in the district clearly outline what they look for in prospective students — good attendance, good test scores, a positive interview — others aren’t so forthcoming and don’t tell parents what they require.
For instance, District 2's Battery Park City School gives priority to students in its school zone, but the students who are admitted from that pool are then "randomly selected," according to the DOE's 2016 middle school directory.
With so little information, the middle school admission process becomes a guessing game for parents, according to CEC2 member Eric Goldberg.
"If you put the wrong school first because you don’t know how they choose students, you're wasting six choices," he said. "This is why we're urging the DOE to share information. School choice without information is really just school chance."
District 2's Community Education Council adopted a resolution on Oct. 14 asking the Department of Education to compel all middle schools in the district to reveal key information about its student population and the rubric they use to consider admissions.
Murray Hill resident Eric Schwartz said his son, Jamie, went through a very "aggravating" time getting into middle school in 2013 — after not getting into his top choice school, the Salk School of Science, he was passed over by the Manhattan Academy of Technology, his second choice, because he didn't rank it as No. 1.
Jamie ended up going to Simon Baruch, but only after appealing the school's decision not to accept him because he ranked the school as his third choice and the school had filled its seats. Schwartz argued his son should have gotten in on merit and the principal opened up more spots, he said.
"At the time I was pissed," Schwartz said. "How you rank a school becomes more important than how well you did on merit. There were no interviews, no essay submissions. It is a very opaque process that has zero visibility into what the schools are looking for."
When it came time for Schwartz's daughter Julia to pick a middle school two years ago, the family decided to keep it simple because he "didn't want to go through the same sort of process," he said. They picked a school they know they'd get into because it was within their school zone. They chose Simon Baruch and ranked it first.
"The shame of it is, you discourage kids from shooting high," he said. "You never know what the hot school is going to be and what the schools' criteria are."
To shed light on the process going forward, the council is pressing the DOE to require middle schools to provide information on how many applications they receive, total offers given by student preference and a profile of its admitted students, including their demographics and which elementary schools they've come from.
The DOE said this week that it encourages all schools to release their criteria, but did not comment on whether it would consider requiring them to do so.
"Our goal is to make the admissions process as easy for families as possible, and to that end we have encouraged every school to make their rubrics publicly available and provided outlines of admissions rubrics in the middle school directories, which are available online," said DOE spokesman Harry Hartfield.
"We will continue to work closely with families and the CEC to ensure that the admissions processes are clear," he continued.
All middle school applications are due Dec. 1. For more information on how to apply visit here.