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Will It Be Easier To Get Into Your First Choice NYC School For September 2021 – Or Harder?

My December 21, 2020 post, Answering Parent Questions About Getting Into NYC Kindergarten 2021: COVID-19 Edition, prompted an avalanche of — what else? — more questions.

On top of asking whether there will be Gifted & Talented testing and how seats will be filled at those schools if there isn’t (answer: we still don’t know; I’ll tell you as soon as we do), the majority of parents were anxiously wondering:

With so many families leaving the city, will there finally be room at those coveted General Education public schools which, in the past, have barely been able to accommodate all of their zoned students?

Traditionally, the New York City public school Kindergarten application process has gone like this:

  1. Parents rank their top 12 General Education choices in their Parent Portal (assuming they can get through all of the technical glitches). For 2021 admissions, those rankings are due on January 19, though the city regularly extends their own deadlines arbitrarily.

  1. In March, parents are notified where their child was placed for Kindergarten — usually their zoned school — and that they were waitlisted at all the schools they ranked ahead of the one where they were placed.

  1. Those waitlists move a bit throughout the spring, as families who have already accepted a place at a private school or Hunter College Elementary School decline their offers.
  1. Charter schools hold their lotteries in April, so families who prefer a charter school to their zoned school also decline, shifting the waitlist a bit more.

  1. In late May/early June, families are notified about whether their child got into a Citywide G&T school or a District G&T program. Because students who are zoned for the “good” General Ed public schools are also, coincidentally, the children of middle-class, college-educated parents, a disproportionate number of them also qualify for G&T programs. They give up their spots in General Ed for G&T and the waitlist really picks up speed then, moving throughout the summer.
  1. During the first week weeks of September, schools realize that some families who had previously accepted an offer have changed their minds, accepted a private school spot, moved out of town, etc… and failed to notify the school that they wouldn’t be coming. This opens up a few more seats.
  1. School rolls close on October 31. After that, schools can no longer get anymore funding for enrolling a new student. Up to this point, it has been a seller’s market. Parents calling schools starting in the spring and every week through the summer and fall have been told the equivalent of “Don’t call us, we’ll call you.” Now, however, it’s a buyer’s market, as schools desperately need to fill the empty spot or lose the close to $30,000 per student that comes with it. Now they’re the ones desperately calling you.

Except this year might be a little different. And not only if the timelines and deadlines are off.

On the one hand, if there is no Gifted & Talented testing, the roughly 2,000 students who, otherwise, would have opted for such programs won’t give up seats at their General Ed elementary schools to go elsewhere, meaning there won’t be seismic waitlist movement in late spring and fewer out of zone seats will become available for your child.

On the other hand, if there is no Gifted & Talented testing, schools that previously housed district G&T programs might turn them into General Ed classrooms, meaning more seats for those who also listed the schools on their General Education application. 

But with over three and a half million people reportedly having left New York City over the past year — the majority of high earners being replaced by lower earners who have moved in, for a net loss of seventy thousand total — doesn’t that mean there will inevitably be seats available in the “high-achieving” schools they’ve left behind?


As I wrote on October 19, 2020

Enrollment is down at some of the most coveted NYC public schools by as much as 20 percent.

Do you realize what this means? Some of the highest performing schools in the city — the “good” schools that many complain are too rich and too white (who cares that they inevitably fail their neediest students, that’s not part of the approved narrative) — at long last have room to accept children from outside their catchment zone!

Integration activists have been demanding this for years!

And, no. 

As I also wrote on October 19, 2020 after a back and forth series of emails with a Department of Education spokesperson:

After years of complaints that Gifted & Talented programs and high-performing schools are not diverse enough, when there is finally a feasibility to enroll students in schools they otherwise wouldn’t have access to, the DOE has decided to make the process “not a priority?”


As a mother who reached out to me me reported:

I have twins, one at Wagner, one at ESMS. I called ESMS directly to see if there was any way to get my child in and they said and I quote “your child is worth a certain amount of money to Wagner and we have decided to not take any child away from a zoned school in order to not take this money away from that particular school. However if you feel like you want your twins together you can always take the child you have with us and transfer them to Wagner.” I asked wouldn’t that take away money from ESMS? They seemed unable to answer. It felt very transactional and it didn’t address the fact that there are less than 25 kids per class (so plenty of room for additional children). 

If this trend continues, then the answer is, no, it will not be easier to get your child into the school of your choice at any level – elementary, middle or high school –come September 2021, even if the school has room for them. 

Even if more and more families leave the city, and even if your child is trapped in a school where the majority of children are not performing at grade level. Because, you see, “your child is worth a certain amount of money to their school.” 

Read more about it in: Follow the Money and See Where It Goes: NYC Schools Edition

What do you think?

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