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June 2013

How to Search for the Perfect High School—Just for You

A student at Bronx Science is interviewed for an video on how to choose a high school. Photo: Ken Browne Productions

“Some young people think the High School of Hospitality Management has something to do with hospitals. Others spend hours applying to schools where their grades don’t make the cut,” says Jacquie Wayans of The high school choice process can be overwhelming and lead families to make rash and ill-informed decisions. Thankfully for eighth graders, finding the right high school (among the 500 in the City) is about to get much easier.

“Many eighth graders are searching for high schools with little help from their parents,” continues Wayans. “When we watched them use our website in a focus group, we realized we needed a search tool tailored just for them.” A $120,000 grant to The New School’s Center for New York City Affairs, which runs, supports the creation of a search tool for eighth graders that identifies schools that best fit each student’s interests, commute preferences, grades, and test scores.

The website got started when author of New York City’s Best Public High Schools, Clara Hemphill, wanted to share her work with more City families. “We launched the site in 2002 when the word ‘choice’ wasn’t in the Department of Education’s literature and the average parent didn’t know they had one when it came to where they sent their child to school,” says Wayans. Since then, has become the leading resource for independent research on City schools.

This work builds on a $150,000 grant from our Donors’ Education Collaborative that helped create Insidestats, a comprehensive set of public high school scorecards that succeeded in pressing the Department of Education to revise its own school progress reports.

It also complements the 16 “how-to” videos, made with a $70,000 Trust grant, which cover what to look for in an elementary school and a school for a child with special needs; how to apply to a specialized high school; and even what a commute from Staten Island to Bronx Science entails. “Sometimes kids fixate on a school in another borough, get in, but drop out because the commute is impractical,” offers Clara Hemphill. “We created a video that shows kids what they would be getting into.”

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