Accountability · Blog · Finding the Right School · New York City · School Choice

The Spooky Case Of the Mysterious, Missing SHSAT Tickets: Parents Sound Off On Department Of Education Incompetence (Part #3)

In late 2018, the New York City Department Of Education (DOE) unveiled their brand new, online Parent Portal, MySchools, which was supposed to make applying to all levels of the school system — Universal Pre-K, Kindergarten, Gifted & Talented, Middle and High School — more streamlined, efficient, and convenient.

In 2019, some parents couldn’t register. Others could register, but weren’t being allowed to pick a date, time, or place to test. Others were given a place and told they’d be contacted about the date and time… eventually. One mom was instructed to change her chosen location but, when she tried, kept receiving an error message until the site crashed. Still others wondered if they’d actually been registered as they never received a confirmation. One high-school registered no students. Placement results arrived garbled or as a blank page… then disappeared. Hundreds of kids had their G&T tests cancelled – without their parents being notified

For the 2019-2020 admissions season, the DOE doubled down on MySchools and announced that families could now use it to print out their tickets for the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) and auditions at LaGuardia, a task that previously had been handled by middle school guidance counselors.

On Monday, October 21, Chalkbeat reported:

A year after a glitch-filled rollout of the MySchools portal, parents said they’ve found missing or inaccurate information in their children’s official student profiles, which include test scores and attendance data. Those registering for the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test complained it’s unclear in the system whether they actually registered their child for the high-stakes exam, which is administered Oct. 26 and 27 for most students….

Education department officials, on the other hand,“have not received any significant amount of concerns about application profile information,” said spokesperson Katie O’Hanlon…. “We’ve heard positive feedback from families about applying online.”

On October 22, according to the NY Post:

The DOE insisted… that the vast majority of its SHSAT applications have proceeded smoothly and said test and admissions consultants have a vested interest in fanning discontent with the process.

“This afternoon, 18,500 students’ SHSAT tickets were successfully downloaded, and we released tickets the week of the test — the exact same as in previous years,” DOE spokesman Will Mantell said in a statement.

All students who registered will be able to take the SHSAT this weekend.”

However, on Thursday the 24th, the same DOE that was promising the above sent out the following to frantic parents:

We understand you are experiencing trouble accessing a SHSAT and/or LaGuardia ticket. We are working on resolving this issue and you will receive information within the next week.

Please know that the student will be able to take the SHSAT and/or audition at LaGuardia this fall and we apologize for any inconvenience.

A mom from a school where not a single child who registered for the SHSAT received a ticket, despite some having done it online and others in person, called The Family Welcome Center on Wednesday and was told the situation would be resolved “in four hours.” However, she was assured that they could see her child’s name in the system. When she asked for a receipt that the conversation took place, she was told to send a written letter “with a stamp!” – and that she would receive her confirmation in the mail… next week. The situation was still not resolved as of Friday at noon.

Another mom wrote me:

My daughter was getting nervous. She thought they were not going to even let her take the exam!  I reassured her that it’s a computer app error and not to worry. But I am really worried and angry.  When I went to see the school counselor weeks ago because I was concerned about the multiple registration receipts I got, he told me not to worry and just wait for the ticket. When I called myschools on Tuesday, they told me not to worry.  

A second parent confirmed, “I called the Family Welcome Center. They gave me a case number and promised to expedite my request. They said my child cannot take the test this weekend. They said they will call me next week. And if they don’t call me, I should call them.”

A third said they did not receive their SHSAT ticket, but were reassured they could still audition for LaGuardia. They had never asked to audition for LaGuardia.

It’s affecting the students directly:

At my school, the guidance counselor and the school tech person was trying to help a girl who did not get her ticket. It really bothers me that the student and our guidance counselor feel helpless with this situation. The 8th grader logged into her Myschool account and nothing was there. She was tearing and clearly nervous and upset. She was by herself. Some students are on their own because their parents are either not local, or don’t speak language to help. (Ed. Note: I suspect this is not the “culturally responsive” education Chancellor Carranza had in mind.)

Another parent tweets:

Along with: 

Frances Kweller, Director of Kweller Prep says, “There are at least a dozen families with no tickets, and a few parents whose children are supposed to receive test accommodations but don’t have any of that information noted on their tickets. We are getting calls and emails from parents daily.”

About the latter, a mother observed, “We still do not have a ticket. We have a 504 (a yearly accommodation plan for a student with a diagnosed disability), so hoping our school can print the ticket next week.”

While the DOE sees a plot to “fan discontent with the process” among those of us who do our best to help families navigate it, I, in turn, do not go along with those who suspect this latest screw-up is part of the plot to get rid of the SHSAT. When given a choice between deliberate malice and incompetence, I always choose incompetence. Malice takes intelligence, planning, and skills. All that’s required for incompetence is laziness and indifference.

Gifted & Talented Request For Testing Forms opened on Tuesday, October 15. Immediately, I was bombarded with emails from parents telling me that MySchools thought their child was two different people, that they’d registered to take the test in Russian but were assigned Manadarin, that they got no confirmation, and that some were being told their child would take the test at their UPK center on a weekday.

Because I received way too many emails to answer individually, I sent out a bulk reply to my mailing list, addressing the most commonly asked questions.

One of the emails must have made it to the DOE, because I heard back from Daniel Hildreth, Senior Director of Admissions at the Office of Student Enrollment, who informed me that the problems I reported should not be happening.

I agreed that they should not be, but reiterated that they, nonetheless, were.

He assured me that they would be fixed. I am standing by to hear if they were.

The same goes for the SHSAT problem which the DOE says is not happening — except for those to whom it is.

Please share your experience in the Comments! (I also invited Mr. Hildreth to chime in, again.)

For more information on the SHSAT, watch:

What do you think?

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