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NYC’s middle and high school application deadline extended after website crashes

Students walk past white lockers in a school hallway

The education department extended the deadline for middle and high school admissions to Dec. 5 after MySchools crashed the night before applications were due.

Karen Pulfer Focht/Chalkbeat

After New York City’s middle and high school applications portal crashed the night before the Dec. 1 deadline, the education department extended the deadline to Dec. 5, officials said Thursday.

Many parents of fifth and eighth graders across the five boroughs, already stressed out by the application process, felt frustrated to see that MySchools was inoperable — though for those familiar with the system, it came as no surprise. The application portal has been riddled with glitches since launching in the 2018-19 school year and routinely crashes under the weight of families rushing to get their applications in by the deadline. 

The first year the city made the switch to MySchools — students previously submitted their applications through guidance counseling departments or at family welcome centers — the application deadline was pushed back nearly two weeks. The following year it was pushed back four days. 

The site’s issues affect the amount of faith that families have in the school system, some parents said. 

“This is the kind of thing that further diminishes trust in the DOE with parents,” Jessica Simmons, a parent of a fifth grader and a member of the Community Education Council in Brooklyn’s District 13, wrote in an email to Chalkbeat. 

She described a scene of disgruntled parents venting on social networks on the eve before the application due date. At about 10 p.m., she recalled, the site said it was down for “scheduled maintenance,” which touched off even more anger.

“Would they schedule maintenance the night of submission?” Simmons wrote. “Probably not, but clearly the site couldn’t handle the traffic.”

Quipped another person on Twitter, “Taylor Swift tickets were easier!!” than submitting an application.

Though MySchools has been a consistent problem, this week’s glitches compounded an application season full of “significant changes and untold unknowns” that have brought on additional stress, said Elissa Stein, who runs the High School 411 service to help families navigate admissions.

“Families have spent this last-minute application submission stretch dealing with MySchools technical issues, system crashes, information missing from high school applications, and then a last-minute reprieve the day applications are due,” Stein said. “There has got to be a better way.”

Schools Chancellor David Banks said parents wouldn’t be “penalized” for the problem.

“Websites crash from time to time,” he said at an unrelated press conference on Thursday, “but folks are going to get the time that they need to make the application for their child.”

After admissions criteria were upended the past two years by the pandemic, the city made some changes for this year’s application season. The education department charged the superintendents of each of its 32 local districts to decide whether to bring back selective middle school admissions. In the end, fewer districts brought screened schools. There are now 59 of 478 middle schools selecting at least some segment of next year’s incoming sixth graders based on their fourth grade marks. That’s down from  196 middle schools that used some academic screening for the 2020-21 school year.

For high school, the city aimed to streamline the process for applying to screened schools by grouping this year’s eighth graders into tiers based on their seventh grade averages in core subjects. “Group 1,” for instance, included students with final seventh grade course grades with an average of at least 94.33 for the citywide threshold, or students in the top 15% of their school, with an average of at least 90.  (Here’s an explainer with application tips.)

There are also more than 40 high school programs participating in the city’s “Diversity in Admissions” program, setting aside a certain percentage of their seats for students from low-income families or in temporary housing, for instance. If students from Group 1 who meet those admissions criteria don’t fill all the available seats set aside for them, those seats will then go to “Diversity in Admissions” applicants in the next group, education officials said. 

The process is similar for seats set aside for students with disabilities, of whom roughly 3% to 5% are expected to qualify for Group 1, according to the education department’s website. Schools are supposed to enroll a number of students with disabilities that match their borough’s percentage. Across the city, about 20% of children are classified with disabilities. 

Amy Zimmer is the bureau chief for Chalkbeat New York. Contact Amy at azimmer@chalkbeat.org.

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