Tuesday, May 20

Middle School Muddle: Clinging to childhood rituals at the end of elementary school

"Did you get the mail yet?'' my 5th grader asked yesterday, for about the 300th time in the last month.

I did not like the anxious look on his face, but I understand it. For reasons as of yet unexplained and articulated by anyone at the New York City Department of Education, middle school notifications are coming way later this year. As we forge ahead with graduation and birthday plans, end-of-year publishing parties and arts festival performances, a letter from a middle school is on the way.

Hopefully, the envelope will come from one of our top two choices, made after much discussion on our part, after many visits and careful consideration of everything from the commute to the class sizes. We can't be quite sure how that middle school arrived at the decision, as each one seems to do something a bit differently when choosing their 6th graders.

We do know all the top schools have way too many first choice applicants and simply can't take them all.

As the wait stretches on, 5th-grade parents in choice districts throughout the city are all a little anxious. If the news is not what we wanted, we must be nonetheless cheery and optimistic, explaining to our 9- and 10-year-olds that this does not constitute personal rejection and they will be happy wherever they end up. Or, we can choose to appeal the decision and push for one of our top choices nonetheless, prolonging an arduous process even more.

When my older son was going through this process two years ago, he knew by April where he was headed the following year. He was delighted, and promptly forgot about middle school and focused on enjoying the rest of the year with his close friends.

That is what I'm urging my 5th grader to do now. And I am focusing on the rituals of the wonderful elementary school we are about to leave behind, along with moments when my child might still grasp his hand and ask if I'm the one taking him to school or picking him up -- a concept that ends instantly for many parents in middle school.

I'm preparing to bake my last batch of birthday cupcakes to bring to his class on the big day, another ritual that disappears in most middle schools. And when I pick up my 7th grader this week, I'm making sure we meet somewhere not even remotely close to his school but in another neighborhood entirely.


Anonymous said...

I completely agree. I have a 10 year old also waiting at home to know where she is going. Its a big thing for these kids to know what to get adjusted to. I hope the letter comes soon to take this anxiety out of the way.

TrudiRose said...

Definitely. This blog is right on target. My son, too, is constantly asking when the notification will come. And you're right: it's a shame that these kids can't just enjoy their last few months of elementary school and all the fun events without this cloud of anxiety over their head.

Anonymous said...

My child asks every morning and every evening when I get home from school. I'm sure it's easier when one already has a child in middle school and the younger child knows that he/she will definitely be going somewhere. The more this drags on, the more nervous I become that this will be repeat of a few years ago when many children did not get their choice (first, second OR third) and were assigned to far away middle schools. A little more communication would be nice from the DOE. At this point I'm telling my child I don't know WHEN we'll hear.

dr. Monty Weinstein said...

I totally agree and noted previously that if the DOE had left it to the District's to decide parents could have had more imput and a decision would have been rendered earlier. This way, there is very little we can do once we get the decision as things close down in July. Naybe that was the DOE's intent all along. And who does one go to for the appeal process 0 SEPO - ir the District 21 teachers who wat on the panel assessing the talent of each kid in art, music, dance, etc? Please inform

Anonymous said...

Dr. Monty - well said. It reinforces my belief that they're really going to stick it to us this year with little to no recourse for the following year - especially when the private schools are all done with acceptances. Do they really think they're that transparent? And do they think we're that stupid?

D15parent said...

When my now high school bound child applied to D15 middle schools three years ago you had four choices. That was the year that approximately of high performing children were not placed. The tip off was that before acceptances were mailed these parents received flyers in the mail encouraging them to attend a Region 8 middle school fair. A lot of these parents made a lot of noise and were able to get their children into their first and second choices but it took persistence, lots of energy, and the skills to battle the DOE system.

My younger child is now waiting to hear from middle schools. It seems every year the process becomes more flawed and no one can ever answer how the process will work.

I now hear that the appeals process will be revamped and it would be nice if they would publicize what this new process this will be so that parents can be prepared and act expeditiously.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that the DOE wants the schools to 'run more like a business' and has implemented accountability for teachers, but what about itself? Where IS the accountability within the DOE and why don't we know what their processes are? When speaking to a school counselor I was told not to make waves (and voice my discontent directly to the DOE) because of possible retribution. This is our democracy and tax payer dollars at work?