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Evaluating High Schools

It's never too soon for a middle school family to start thinking about high school. Keep in mind that the 7th grade scores are the ones that appear on the high school application, so help your child focus on studying and maintaining good attendance.

With many high schools from which to choose, gathering information before the process begins can help significantly. Having already navigated the search for middle school, you are somewhat of a pro, and there is much information to help ease you into high school admissions.

  • For starters, pick up a copy of the annual Directory of the New York City Public High Schools. You can find it online but it is especially helpful and useful to secure the very hefty paper copy from your child's middle school, at one of the City-wide fairs, or the local borough enrollment center. This telephone-book-size publication is easier to browse and includes various tips that you cannot find online.
  • The High School Directory lists the admission requirements for each school, while the Specialized High Schools Student Handbook is devoted to the eight specialized exam high schools, as well as LaGuardia, the arts school. It includes general procedures on how to apply and a sample exam.
  • If the specialized schools are on your radar, the Science Schools Institute offers free preparation for the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) for children with strong standardized test scores who are from low income backgrounds. Your child may apply in 6th grade, and if accepted, begin to attend classes during the summer between 6th and 7th grades.
  • The Department of Education offers admissions workshops for 7th and 8th graders and their parents. Check the DOE website and the InsideSchools calendar for schedules. The enrollment office sponsors summer workshops to introduce different types of high schools.
  • You might also consider attending one of the high school fairs in the Fall where you can meet faculty and students from most schools. New small high schools are usually introduced at fairs in February.

As a parent you will want to have as much information as you can about the school choices. Talk with friends, colleagues and use Inside Schools for your information gathering. It is most important however to ensure that your child is actively involved in the process and that you are listening very carefully to his or her concerns and opinions.

Be sure to schedule tours at each of the schools in which you are interested. Tours provide families with a chance to see the school in action and to gain a clearer idea about the environment and academic community that the school provides.

While you may be interested in the range of offerings you will certainly want to begin to narrow the list. School location and your child's academic record, learning style, interests and strengths will certainly be among the considerations. Two of the Department of Education's on-line guides - Making Choices: A High School Admissions Prep Book and High Schools at a Glance - are tools to help you consider the choices.