School Daze (Blogisode Three)

Start the school year!

Start the school year!

Happy Wednesday!  I’d like to start with something about New York City Schools that is unrelated to the high school search, but is very related to my life today.  The school calender. As a born and raised mid-westerner, this yankee schedule took some getting used too.

First of all, the kids do not start school until after Labor Day.  So, as an example, the first day of classes was Tuesday, September 4th, but then again, because of faculty prep days, Charlotte didn’t actually start school until Thursday, September 6th.  Beatrix, whose pre-school is not part of the New York City Public Schools, still abides by their schedule and she started school on that Wednesday.  What does this mean for a parent?  A few things.

1)  You can vacation all the way up to Labor Day and if you are heading somewhere other than the Northeast where this schedule is common, you can get a good rate because no one is there.  Example?  Go to Hilton Head that week.  Empty.  Don’t go to Cape Cod, though.

2)  Just because school starts late doesn’t mean we have a shortened school year.  The kids go to school through June.  Yes, June.  This is terrible if you have a family reunion planned or a graduation to attend because–guess what–you can’t go because school is still in session.  June 25th?  School is still in.  Totally weird.  In most normal places (like Cincinnati, Ohio) school is out during the first few days of June and by June 25th you have a base tan, you are knee deep in popsicles, and your feet have completely toughened up for the bottom of the pool.  New York kids are doing algebra homework while you catch fire flies.

Oh, no wait a minute...

Oh, no wait a minute…

3)  Once school starts after Labor Day and then (and this is the point of this) almost immediately have 2 days off for the high Jewish Holidays, Rosh Hashanah, quickly followed by Yom Kippur.  This is awesome if you are Jewish and/or if you are the school kid, but for a non-Jewish Mom like me it feels like “I just got rid of you guys!  What are you doing here again?”  Please note (because I know I sound cranky) in the past 24 hours I’ve endured two major melt downs about the game Pretty, Pretty Princess and they escalated into all out tantrums.  So yes, I am glad to see Beatrix go back to school.  Charlotte hasn’t been feeling well, so I am glad she recovered enough to go back to school as well.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

Everybody out.

Please note (also) that in honor of the Jewish Holidays we had challah bread (yum) and ate at a Jewish Deli (Arties-yum). While we did not have the traditional apples dipped in honey, I did make applesauce.

So Shanah Tovah and let’s get back to school.

The next question in our high school quiz was:

There is a uniform selection and application process for all schools.  True or False?

This would be FALSE.

I mean, you would assume that would be true.  Wouldn’t you?  It’s not the college application process.  It’s not even private vs. public school.  In fact, it’s not even a different town.  We’re talking one district for the whole city.  The requirements should be the same school to school, right?  Students take one test?  Maybe (just maybe) if we are getting crazy we might think based on the results of that one test, schools might interview interested students, right?

Ha.  In your dreams.

Let me try to break this down and you should know that ****while I will give this my best effort I will get things wrong or leave things out.  There are entire classes and books on this subject.  I should not be your sole reference source or your kid will not get in anywhere and you will hate me****

Please sign and agree to that here ___________________________________

(The team of lawyers here at My Own Space made me add that for my own protection.  I am not an “expert”.  I prefer to call myself a “survivor”.  And my “team of lawyers” is my cat Sammy and Beatrix, both of whom are sound asleep but they approve this message.)

For the most basic and clear explanation, I am going to hand the reins of this blog over to Rob Meffe because he has a much more organized brain than I do.  As he just said, “It is very easy to write an short and easy explanation about how long and confusing this process is.”

Ladies and gentlemen, Rob Meffe.

Let me put the public high schools into three categories: Specialized High Schools, DOE (stands for Department of Education) High Schools, and Other High Schools.

1.) Specialized High Schools.  There are eight specialized public high schools in New York City and they are some of the most rigorous schools in the city and are the hardest to get in.  They include schools you might have heard of like Stuyvesant High School or Bronx Science, and some you might not, like Staten Island Technical High School.  Admissions to these schools is open city-wide, but you must have a certain grade point average and scores on your 7th grade standardized tests to even qualify to take the test to get into these schools.  The specialized high school admissions test (the SHSAT) is given to those qualified students in late October of the 8th grade.  Students are given the list of eight schools and they are to rank them in order of which they would like to attend (this, of course, is before they know their scores or have any idea if they might get in).  So it leaves students in the odd position of having to guess what their score is going to be and whether it is going to make it for the cut-off of their chosen school.

2.) DOE High Schools.  These are almost all of the other high schools in the five boroughs.  Many of them have

Stuyvesant High School.  Huge.  Hard.  Gateway to the Ivy Leagues.

Stuyvesant High School. Huge. Hard. Gateway to the Ivy Leagues.

names that gives you the impression that they specialize in a certain subject (like “High School for Environmental Studies”), but they all have to follow the NYC curriculum.  Here students are asked to rank the high schools that they want to attend (separately from the Specialized High Schools).  Some of these high schools have admission requirements like grade point average or standardized test scores, and some even require presenting a “portfolio” of Junior High work (like Beacon High School on the Upper West Side).

3.) Other High Schools.  These are other  high schools that fall outside of the parameter of the ones listed above.  Each one of them has a different admission policy and requirements.  For instance, LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts has an audition day where hundreds of kids line up early in the morning to spend the day being evaluated by the high school’s faculty.  Bard High School/Early College has both a test (a different one that the SHSAT) and if they score high enough on the test, they are invited to an interview with a member of the faculty.

After submitting the ranking of schools to which they would like to attend, the students sit and wait several months while the DOE collects all of this data.  In February of their 8th grade, students get a letter that tells them which high school they are going to.

Hi, it’s Sharon Wheatley again.  Thank you Rob Meffe.  Next up I will explain the step-by-step process for Charlotte and why I became obsessed with a town called New Rochelle.  I can’t promise another blog post this week because I have work all day tomorrow, Thursday and Friday.  Then again, two of those days are on a set and sometimes there is a ton of down time….so maybe I can.  Just can’t make a promise.

Oh!  And about the Lifetime series, it looks like the first episode airs October 17th, so I will keep you posted about when my episode is airing.  Fun.

Thanks, everyone!

(For the next post in this series, GO HERE)





About Sharon Wheatley

I'm a mother, an actress and a writer. I'm glad you're here.
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2 Responses to School Daze (Blogisode Three)

  1. Rachel says:

    That. Sounds. Miserable. I'm really glad I don't live in NYC right now.

  2. marbenais says:

    My grandmother & her sister, my mother & my aunts, and some of my cousins all went to Ursuline in New Rochelle. I was wondering if Charlotte would go there and I can't wait to hear about the application process. (They had a special 'three generations' thing in the alumnae magazine or newsletter or whatever it was then.)

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