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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

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