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Tens of thousands await their high school fate

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(In the coming weeks, we will examine the events leading up to, and beyond, the expected March release of “Round 1” high school admissions results for New York City middle school families)

This past week was winter break for the million-plus New York City schoolchildren, and undoubtedly an agonizing one for the tens of thousands of middle school families. Why? Because with the time off comes a lot more time to think about their high school fate.

Back in December, middle school students submitted their “Round 1” high school application choices to their guidance counselors as part of what is one of the largest school choice processes in the nation. These applications represented up to 12 high school program choices from amongst the hundreds available throughout the city. Nearly 30,000 of those students also took the test for the 8 specialized high schools, generally regarded as the most coveted seats in the city.

Nearly 3 months later, these families wait anxiously to see if they will get an offer from one or more of these schools. Based on past results, some will get none, at least in the first round. Others will get a top choice, and still others will get a less-than-preferred choice but one that was submitted on the application nonetheless. A 2009 study by the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School found that most parents consider this process overwhelming.

As one could imagine, the weeks and months leading up to the expected early-March release date (set by the Department of Education and subject to change) – not to mention the release date itself and the weeks afterwards – can be intense ones for middle school families.

“I thought it would be stressful and challenging, especially searching for so many schools,” said Michael T., a Queens 8th grader going through the process. “I’m hoping for the best.”

Michael’s dad, Harry, went even further to say, “A lot of people don’t know how the process works. The process needs to be de-mystified and made more transparent. There are no guarantees, and we are waiting with anticipation, stress, and trepidation.”

Multiply this by tens of thousands of families, and the collective anxiety is daunting. In the coming weeks, we will look at other stories and challenges faced by families navigating this complex process, how they are coping, and how they fare once results are issued. Stay tuned…

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