acceptance day

‘Did you get in?’ High school offer letters bring smiles, a few tears to Bronx classrooms

PHOTO: Stephanie Snyder
Eighth-grade students at M.S. 244 in the Bronx receive their high school admission letters.

Anticipation held eighth-graders at the edges of their seats at The New School for Leadership and Journalism in the Bronx on Friday afternoon.

The roughly 300 students, along with more than 76,000 of their peers across New York City, were seconds away from opening up their high school acceptance letters, informing them where they would spend the next four years. (See Chalkbeat’s guide to high school admissions debates.)

“I can’t do this,” shouted a boy at the back of the room, shaking as he clenched the white envelope in his hands.

After the school’s principal and guidance counselor finished passing out all of the letters, they signaled to the class to open them simultaneously. A clamor of shouts, cheers and sobs erupted across the room. Some students sprang up in excitement, while others sank into their desks in dismay.

Chalkbeat spoke with students at the school, also known as M.S. 244, about their high school offers as they were still reeling from the news.

Mariam Djaballah (left), an eighth-grader at M.S. 244, reacts to being admitted into the Beacon School.
PHOTO: Stephanie Snyder
Mariam Djaballah (left), an eighth-grader at M.S. 244, reacts to being admitted into the Beacon School.

Mariam Djaballah
First choice: The Beacon School
Accepted into: The Beacon School

Miriam Djaballah started crying immediately after opening her letter Friday afternoon. With hands covering her face, she appeared extremely disappointed. But Djaballah was simply overcome with emotion after winning a spot at one of the city’s most selective high schools.

“I am shocked. I am so happy,” Djaballah said. “This is a dream come true… Getting into Beacon really proves to me that hard work pays off, and I am so happy that my future is planned out right now.”

“Getting into a successful high school means that I’m that much closer to accomplishing my dreams,” she added. “It all starts now.”

Kevin Hilario (right) was comforted by friends and teachers after not getting into Talent Unlimited.
PHOTO: Stephanie Snyder
Kevin Hilario was upset after not getting into Talent Unlimited.

Kevin Hilario
First choice: Talent Unlimited
Accepted into: Celia Cruz High School

After opening his letter, Kevin Hilario stood at the back of the room with his arms crossed and his eyes fixed on the ground.

“I am feeling upset and disappointed right now,” Hilario said. “I was hoping to get into Talent Unlimited.”

In his audition for the performing arts school back in December, Hilario drew from his studies in music theory and hoped that Talent Unlimited would be the place where he would hone his skills.

“Not getting accepted makes me feel like there’s something I could’ve done better,” he said, adding that he plans to re-audition for Talent Unlimited in the fall.

Kadijah Belcher (right), hugs her friend after finding out she was admitted into LaGuardia High School.
PHOTO: Stephanie Snyder
Kadijah Belcher (right), hugs her friend after finding out she was admitted into LaGuardia High School.

Kadijah Belcher
First choice: Frank Sinatra School of the Arts
Accepted into: LaGuardia High School (specialized) and Repertory Company High School for Theatre Arts

“For the whole week I couldn’t sleep,” Kadijah Belcher said, adding that she even considered not coming to school on Friday. “The whole day, I was like — this is the day that I find out if I’m a failure or if I pass.”

Belcher said she was shocked by her acceptance to highly competitive LaGuardia High School because she had felt that her singing audition had not gone well, so she had ruled it out as a possibility.

“It was so surprising,” she said. “One of my closest friends also got into LaGuardia… I’ve got a few of my buddies.”

Erika Corniel found out she was not admitted into any public high schools during the first round of applications.
PHOTO: Stephanie Snyder
Erika Corniel found out she was not admitted into any public high schools during the first round of applications.

Erika Corniel 
First choice: Fashion Industries High School
Accepted into: No schools (second round applicant)

Along with 25 other eighth-graders at M.S. 244, Erika Corniel was pulled out of her first period class on Friday and told by the school’s guidance counselor and principal that she wasn’t accepted into any of the school she listed on her application.

“My mom is going to be so disappointed. She already has so much on her plate,” Corniel said as she planned out how she would break the news at home.

When Corniel went through the application process, she said she ranked her choices based on her interests in fashion, dance and forensic law. Corniel said she hopes to keep her grades up for the rest of the school year to get into a good school during the second round.

“This marking period, I’m trying to get more than an 80 in all of my classes so I can get into the schools that I wanted to,” she said.

Bernie Urena is comforted by students and one of his teachers at M.S. 244.
PHOTO: Stephanie Snyder
Bernie Urena is comforted by students and one of his teachers at M.S. 244.

Bernie Urena
First choice: Frank Sinatra High School
Accepted into: Pelham Lab High School

“I got into my third pick, and I have mixed feelings,” Urena said. “When I first opened up my letter I was upset because I wanted to get into Frank Sinatra.”

Urena said he was drawn to the band program at Frank Sinatra High School, where he hoped he could grow as a bass guitarist. But after talking to his teachers, Urena began to imagine some new possibilities at Pelham Lab High School.

“I’m feeling happy about getting into Pelham Lab now. My counselors and teachers are telling me it’s a good school,” he said, adding he was surprised to be accepted there because he didn’t think his grades were good enough.

Naylean Miranda was accepted into Fashion Industries High School.
PHOTO: Stephanie Snyder
Naylean Miranda was accepted into Fashion Industries High School.

Naylean Miranda
First Choice School: Fashion Industries High School
Accepted into: Fashion Industries High School

“I’m feeling emotional right now because I got into the school of my dreams,” Naylean Miranda said. “I worked really hard to get here.”

As part of her application, Miranda submitted a fashion portfolio that included images of mannequins dressed in her designs and was also interviewed by the school.

“Fashion is very personal for me, and I’m glad I have the chance to continue with it,” she said.

Di’Anna Bonomolo and Ahmed Hassan react to getting into their top choice specialized high schools.
PHOTO: Stephanie Snyder
Di’Anna Bonomolo and Ahmed Hassan react to getting into their top choice specialized high schools.

Ahmed Hassan
First choice: Bronx High School of Science (specialized) and Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering
Accepted into: Bronx High School of Science (specialized) and Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering

When Ahmed Hassan’s older brother wasn’t admitted into Bronx Science, he said it pushed him even harder to aim for one of New York City’s most elite public high schools.

“He actually is the one who helped me the most,” Hassan said. He wasted most of his summer helping me prepare for the exam” — the Specialized High School Admissions Test.

“I’m feeling very happy right now, very excited,” he said. “I really want to show this to my brother,” he added, holding his acceptance letter.

research shows

Race, not just poverty, shapes who graduates in America — and other education lessons from a big new study

PHOTO: Meghan Mangrum

The study landed with a gut punch.

Black men earn significantly less than white men, even when they were raised in families making the same amount. Poor black boys tend to stay poor as adults, and wealthy black boys are more likely to be poor as adults than to stay wealthy.

“Black men raised in the top 1 percent — by millionaires — were as likely to be incarcerated as white men raised in households earning about $36,000,” explained a New York Times article, complete with graphics to let you follow different kids’ paths.   

“It was sobering to read,” said Ryan Smith the executive director of Education Trust – West, an education and civil rights advocacy group. “Me being a black man, obviously I’ve experienced some of the data, but to see it in black and white was tough.”

The study, released through the Equality of Opportunity Project, is noteworthy in scope, using data on millions of people born between 1978 and 1983 in the U.S. And while it focuses on their economic outcomes, the research also looks at education, where the impact of racism on black boys is also apparent. Here’s what the study tells us about schools and education policy.

Poverty is not a proxy for race when it comes to academic outcomes.

That’s clear in the data: Black students are much less likely to graduate from high school and attend college than white students with the same family income.

The differences were substantial. Whereas poor white men graduated high school about 78 percent of the time, black men whose families had the same income graduated only 70 percent of the time. Disparities for women exist too, but were much smaller.

Education policy sometimes proceeds under the assumption that socioeconomic status matters, but that race and racism — aside from their impact on family income — don’t.

This study suggests that just isn’t so.

Here’s another example: On federal math and reading exams, white eighth graders who qualified for subsidized lunch (indicating low family income) slightly outscored black eighth graders who did not qualify.

This has real-world consequences. A number of states that do not have school funding gaps between low- and high-income students still have gaps between white students and students of color, one recent analysis found.

In California, where Smith of Education Trust works, the state’s funding formula sends more money to schools with many low-income students. The idea is to get extra help for students who need it. But there aren’t additional resources allocated for black students who are behind academically, regardless of their families’ income.

“There are middle-income and upper-income African American students who are chronically underperforming and yet we’ve not created a structure to actually support their success,” Smith said. His group is supporting a bill in the California state legislature that would increase funding for a district’s lowest performing subgroup of students that doesn’t already get extra money. In many cases, that means black students.

“If those are African-American students in your state, in your districts, in your school, then we must at least have the conversation about what we can do differently,” he said.

Test scores may miss something in black girls.

The authors note a puzzling phenomenon: On average, black girls score lower on tests than white girls with the same family income, but there’s no such disparity in their adult earnings. This suggests that test scores don’t fully capture the skills of black girls.

Ironically, Raj Chetty, coauthor of this study, is perhaps best known in the education world for pioneering but controversial research on the links between test scores and adult income. (That research focused on teachers’ impact on student scores, which was found to translate into higher earnings later in life.)

The latest study doesn’t overturn the previous research, but it does raise questions about whether test scores may be less accurate for certain groups of students.

Can good schools and neighborhoods help close these gaps?

The paper points out that kids of all races do better in certain neighborhoods. “Black and white boys who grow up in neighborhoods with lower poverty rates, higher test scores, higher median rents, and more two-parent households tend to have higher incomes in adulthood,” they write.

The research finds that up to 25 percent of the black-white income disparity is connected to the neighborhood a student grows up in. That suggests that ensuring families of different races live in the same neighborhood and attend school together — integration — can have a significant effect.

But it’s unclear to what extent the quality of a school makes a difference. This study relies on average test scores to define school quality, though that doesn’t actually say much about how effective schools are.

We do know that early childhood education, school integration, educational spending, certain charter schools, and better teachers can benefit students in the long run, sometimes substantially so.

list list

Here are the 50 New York City schools with kindergarten waitlists in 2018

PHOTO: Christina Veiga
Kindergarten students at the Brooklyn School of Inquiry.

It’s the most anxiety-inducing season of all: Kindergarten placement letters are out in New York City.

All kindergartners are guaranteed a spot in a city school, and almost all families that prefer their zoned school ultimately get to enroll there.

But the city’s admissions process yields waitlists at dozens of schools for a period of time every year — and this year, there are 50 schools where not all local families who applied by the January deadline could be given a spot. In all, 590 applicants were placed on waitlists, compared to 1,083 a year ago, according to the city’s admissions tally.

Here are the New York City schools with kindergarten waitlists right now:

Waitlists typically clear over the spring and summer, as families opt for schools outside of their zone, including private or charter schools, or relocate out of the city. But each year, some kindergartners are assigned to schools outside of their zone — an issue that typically affects a few crowded neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn.

Half of the schools with waitlists had five or fewer children on them. Three schools had waitlists with more than 60 children: PS 196 and P.S. 78 in Queens and P.S. 160 in Brooklyn.

In a sign of just how volatile the admissions picture can be, just 23 of the 50 schools with waitlists this year also had them last year.

Some schools with large waitlists had none last year, according to a comparison of education department data from the two years. P.S. 78 in Queens has 73 children on the kindergarten waitlist this year, for example, but last year all zoned students who applied by the deadline were admitted right away.

On the other hand, some schools that placed many students on the waitlist last year were able to take all applicants this year. Last year, 43 children landed on the waitlist at P.S. 176 in Brooklyn, but this year, the school has no waitlist at all.