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NYC High School Search: There's Got to be a Better Way!

As I try to get a head start on the high school application process for my seventh grader, I have two goals: keep an open mind in exploring options that would be a good fit for my son; and be efficient with my time. I refuse to get sucked into the ludicrous and hellish circus that parents describe as normal.

But when the DOE requires me to give them a ranked list of 12 school programs out of a possible 487 schools (including chartered) with 800 unique programs, it’s hard to stay optimistic.

However, I love data and especially free data about public programs like education! So when I discovered the DOE’s NYC School Finder on-line tool, my initial reaction was relief. But then I actually used it.

If you’d also prefer to search by using an easy to sort online tool rather than plowing through a 670 page analog directory, this would seem to be a terrific user friendly leap by the DOE. But if the developers of the online directory had only bothered to speak with some parents first, a few minor features could have really made it more useful than frustrating.

For example, in our search we include every borough except Staten Island. But if we only include schools with admissions criteria such as Screened, Academic Option, and Test, we still get a list of 330 schools. REALLY.

I know what my son is good at, I know what he needs and I know what I would like in an academic and social environment. But the categories that the DOE has created for searching are limiting. What I really want to do is a cross-tabulation of data with two or more categories so I can compare and contrast in a way that applies to our preferences.

Unfortunately, NYC School Finder requires me to go through each school one by one to decide if I should keep it as a favorite or not. You can add a search term like engineering (my son’s interest). However, that still returns 30 schools. Many of which don’t meet my other criteria.

And most annoying, there’s no function to download the search results into an Excel or CSV file for me to further analyze and quickly screen.

Recently the DOE rolled out their on-line high school application portal MySchools . Last year it was expanded to middle school applications —with a few hiccups. Even with this tool (essentially the same as Find My Schools except that you can save your schools into an application form.)

As it stands, we can’t use it until he’s eligible to apply (fall of 2019). Like I said, I’m trying to narrow down to a manageable number BEFORE the fall madness of tours and open houses. Clearly, parents were not consulted on what would be useful to them.

I’m not asking for a lot. Just a few tweaks to a basically decent tool that should be designed to facilitate the application process for everyone —not just the data nerds like me who aren’t content with a mediocre tool.

The closest solution at this point is going straight to the NYC Open Data portal where there are 462 data variables for 427 high schools. If you’d like to help us build a more robust and accessible NYC high school search tool, we’d love to hear from you!

Tricia Davies