Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Happy Ending?

InsideSchools reports that gaining admittance to the elite high school of one's choice is not necessarily a dream come true. Funny that piece should come up for me today. I have a student in that very same situation.

TMS2, I'm finding, is the second-choice school of quite a few of my students. Having applied to specialized or well-regarded main round schools and not gotten in, they end up at TMS2, and most seem happy enough, at least so far. TMS2 was the second choice of one of my students in particular, a girl I'll call Sara.

Sara was accepted to one of the specialized schools, and, to hear her tell it, she was very pleased. She had worked hard to study for the test, and believed this school would be the place for her. Imagine her surprise when her first week of school did not turn out as she'd hoped. She found the teachers to be intimidating and the pressure cooker of student life already cranked up to 11. It wasn't right for her. She ended up at my school, her second choice, and she is beginning to flourish. So maybe, we hope, Sara does get a happy ending, even if not the one she envisioned.

I've had many of my former students tell me that Stuyvesant, LaGuardia, Bronx Science, Townsend Harris, and the like are everything they dreamed of and more. I'm happy for them, too. But I worry about kids like Sara, who see in those schools' promises more than they can or should bargain for. I worry that the test-only schools take kids who are not emotionally equipped to handle the environment. And I worry that the emphasis on a few brand names make kids overlook some really special schools doing wonderful things.

Your thoughts? I still feel, despite several years teaching eighth graders, that I don't have a 100% tight grip on the high school admissions process, so your thoughts, as always, are welcome.
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