The Middle School Appeal Process

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Here, parents in the PSP Tweens group talk about the middle school appeal process...

One parent asks:

"Hi all, wondering if anyone can share information about the appeals process and what is needed to appeal. I hope I don't need the information, but I want to be prepared since it's a quick turn around time."

 

Useful links and resources:

Middle School Applications

Middle School Interview Questions

Middle School Mayhem!

From the DOE: Middle School Notification Letters and Appeals

 

Replies:

 

Rerank, and wait (and wait):

"We appealed last year when our twins were admitted to different middle schools. The acceptance letter you receive in May will have an appeals option that you will need to submit to your elementary school. You basically get to re-rank schools. I believe it took 4 or 5 weeks (June!) before the first round of appeals were granted. Some people won't hear until summer or even early fall once school starts and schools see how many seats remain unfilled. Note, that if a school did not rank your child, appealing may not be an option for that school."

 

Typically, your child will be placed in a school in the neighborhood:

"I believe students who don’t receive one of their ranked choices are typically placed in a school in his/her neighborhood that still has spots. For example, in the Bococa neighborhood that has been the School for International Studies on Court St. (There has been a lot of positive talk about that school this year, and I’ve heard good things about the new principal and the curriculum. Hopefully that school will soon become as sought-after as some of the more established middle schools in D15.)"

 

Be open to options:

"There are many families the Middle School Application & Appeals process does not work for & there are charters & private schools that have become an option for these families as a result. For many students, these charters & private schools turn out to be an even better option than the "Top 3" Public Middle Schools in District 15. Be open to options........"

 

Consider letters of recommendations:

"When my son (now in HS) appealed for middle school, we just submitted the form in the formal process, but we put together a package of teacher recommendations that we hand delivered to our top two schools. I don't know whether that had any effect for sure, but we did get him into our first choice on appeal."

 

Another member shares:

"The appeal is just a simple form where you put down your top 3 choices in ranked order. Later, you can get letters and do whatever you can/want in order to be heard and feel like you are fighting  for your kid. But the appeal is just a one page, simple form.

The best advice I can give you is to rank your schools wisely. When they are reviewed it is done is the order you have ranked, not by child. For example, if they are looking at child A and she has ranked a school #1 but that school still has no open spots, they don't then continue to look at child A's list to see what her second choice is, they move on to the next child that has ranked as number 1 School B which does have an opening. I know, it's confusing.

You also need to be on the schools' waiting lists which happens automatically from your original application. Also, don't put down anything as 1 or 2 that originally needed an audition, unless your child already auditioned during the regular, initial  process. You'll be told that your child needs an audition, which, you can no longer get. If you already auditioned, I repeat, then it's ok.

I unintentionally made a mess of my child's appeal last year because I made both these mistakes. To summerize, try to find out how over enrolled a school is before you rank it on your appeal. If the school has no spots at all, no one will be placed till way later, if ever, at that school. Last year, they were so over enrolled due to computer predicted attrition, that despite, everything everyone was telling me, they weren't able to offer any spots till the first week of sixth grade this past September.

We completely wasted the first spot on appeal. Which, you may recall, means they now move to the kids that rank school B number one They do not go down your list.

And, don't bother ranking an audition school one or two if you haven't already auditioned. It's ok if you have already auditioned. This was my other "ate my heart out" mistake. Wasted spot 2 because she was not considered  at all because they don't give appeal auditions. Remember, if you are one of the unfortunate families that gets stuck in this position, the majority  is moving on to wrapping up the year. No more auditions given, people are busy :-(.

Thats about it on appeals but if you are interested, read on a little more about my experience.

I did do all the things that you wrote about. Letters from teachers and principals, portfolios, went to schools, spoke to principals, pulled any string I thought  I had etc. etc.  I felt I had to do these things. Leave no stone unturned. It all seemed so unfair. To make things worse I already had another child just one grade older, in sixth grade at the time, who was excelling at one of the "big 3" so I thought my second child (who is a sweetheart with 3 and 4's) would be a slam dunk. So, I was entirely unprepared for the shock of getting NOTHING we had initially listed.

In the end, after everything I did with trying to make our case and make myself heard without being annoying, after getting our appeal denied, after my daughter graduating with all the ensuing celebrations with the gray cloud of uncertainty still hanging over our heads, finally in the 3rd week of July, after  putting significant  amount of money down for a non- refundable deposit a small private school (would have been a life changing struggle to maintain tuition had that happened), finally I get a short email from one of the 3, the one I now really wanted for her, offering her a seat. But, not the same school where her sibling is. That one (at the time) was still over enrolled.

Don't get me wrong, I'm very, very grateful that things worked out in the end. But it's a really nutso, crazy, broken system. It should  not be this hard and there is really no reason why my kids, one grade apart, should be in different  schools. It's a tremendous  waste of energy, time and resources for both the family and the school."

 

And a following poster writes:

 "I don't mean to be the negative note here, but having been someone whose kids got a bad match, went through appeals and were again badly matched... I can tell you it does not work out for a little over 20% of families. On my journey I have met many families who moved to the burbs, moved to District 2, took out loans to pay for private school, scrambled for Catholic school, left the state, home schooled (god forbid). It took until September for my kids to finally move to the school we had wanted for them. But we were the minority of this final group of mis-matched families. I learned a lot and was not thrilled with the lack of transparency and nepotism that starts on the appeals process. I was told point blank at the appeals office "find a connection." I am not judging anyone who used a connection in a messed up system--believe me, I was frantically looking for one.  I do believe they are working to close that loop hole this year. But really who knows because the DOE is not  transparent.

So in the end, I would say: yes... it all depends on how you rank your schools. For the popular 3--ranking the third position is basically not ranking. If your child did not get an audition say, at New Voices because you put that third...you won't win that appeal. If you ranked MS88 third but want one of the popular three---you are going to lose your appeal because MS88 is considered one of your choices schools.

Letters of recommendations, portfolios, report cards? Those work after appeals and as schools start to figure out their real enrollment numbers throughout the summer. Good to collect that stuff before everyone vanishes for the summer. If your principal is well connected... those phone calls can also help on behalf of your child.

And although the number of not well matched students is growing because of the population boom of 9-12 year olds in Brooklyn (this year will be more than 20%), there will still be close to 80% of families who get well matched. So don't fret too much because you may never have to worry about it."

 

Work with you guidance counselor:

"To add to the line of thought that [the poster above] started here (and also sorry to be so negative) - I also know a family who outright refused to send their child to the under-performing school he was matched with. The family struggled all summer long to work every angle. Eight days into the school year, they got him into a school that they did not rank on their application.  The family worked closely with the guidance counselor at their elementary school who has some connections with various schools and found out about a space in one of the "top 3" though not the one they ranked, and mid Sept he started attending classes there."

 

Sometimes it's about luck:

"We were among the families whose child did not get any of his ranked choices nor did our appeal go through. It was a really difficult process, and we ultimately got lucky with a lottery # at a local charter school.  Luck should not have anything to do with your child's education. So yes, in the end it did seem to all work out and we are very happy with our son's school.  But no 10 year old should have to go through this!  I would suggest back up plans to your back up plans.  There are so many stories out there and I think the situation will get worse before it reaches critical mass  (if it hasn't already) and more transparent and fair process comes to be."