Fourth and Fifth Grades / 9 and 10 year olds

Key advice: 4th grade is the time for parents and students to start preparing for the middle school admissions process. Find out what schools and programs are best for your child, what their specific admissions methods and requirements are, and how your child can be ready when applications are due in 5th grade.
Important Dates
First day of school: September 9, 2015
Early Fall: Middle School Directories distributed and Request for Testing (RFT) forms available for schools that conduct talent testing (5th graders)
Mid Fall: RFT forms due back to guidance counselor (5th graders)
Ongoing Fall: Middle school open houses, tours, events (be sure to sign in when required for admissions); contact charter schools if considering these as an option for middle school
Late Fall: Middle school applications given out (5th graders)
December: Middle school applications due (5th graders)

2016 Ongoing Charter school enrollment period (for many schools: April 1st)
Early 2016: Screened school testing, interviews (5th graders)
Spring: Notification letters sent out, appeals round starts (5th graders)
To be announced: Submit Request for Placement for 4th and 5th grade Gifted and Talented programs (3rd and 4th graders)
What’s important about 4th and 5th grade: Preparing for middle school
Most public school students start middle school in the 6th grade, but they begin preparing for the admissions process as early as 4th grade. “Middle school” is the name given to the 6th, 7th and 8th grades, and it is considered an important transition period that prepares students to move from elementary school to the greater responsibilities and challenges of high school. The move to middle school offers your child a chance to attend a school that more closely matches personal interests or aspirations, that offers more challenging programs, or that is simply in a different part of the city. Of course to achieve this a student must navigate the middle school application process. A parent’s help, guidance, and encouragement are important.

Most NYC public elementary schools end at the 5th grade, although some go to 6th or 8th grade. During the 5th grade, all NYC public school children should participate in the middle school application process (students attending schools that go beyond 5th grade can apply to stay at their current school, where they are given priority over new students).

It is important to realize that parts of a child’s 4th grade school record are sometimes considered for middle school admissions; their attendance record, state standardized test scores, and report cards from 4th grade are used by some schools in the admissions process. Some parents even pay for extra “test prep” (test preparation schools, materials, or tutors), thinking that this will help their child either have better standardized test scores or perform more highly on the admissions tests given by a select few middle schools. Although as of 2015 standardized state test scores cannot be used as the main criteria for school admissions or promotions to the next grade, some parents continue to do this, seeking to give their child any added advantage.

The middle school enrollment process will be explained below.
How to enroll in elementary school (for students new to NYC, grades 4-5)
A child should be enrolled right away in his or her zoned district school. To find your zoned school you can visit a Family Welcome Center in person, call 311 or the Department of Education at 718-935-3500, or use the ‘School Search’ tool at the Department of Education website: NYC.GOV School Search.

When speaking to someone either on the phone or in person, you can always ask for a translator if this would make the conversation easier.

If there is no space at your zoned school, your child will be placed on a waitlist and immediately assigned to a nearby school. If you live in one of the districts without a zoned school, you will be directed to the school closest to your home with available space. Going to a Family Welcome Center first is also a good idea if your child has received special education services previously and/or has an IEP from outside of New York City.

At your zoned/assigned school, you need the required documentation:
  • Child’s birth certificate or passport as proof of age
  • Immunization records
  • Latest report card/transcript (if available)
  • Individualized Education Program (IEP) and/or 504 Accommodation Plan (if applicable and available)
  • Required Proof of NYC Residence (any two of the following):
  • Utility bill (gas or electric) for the residence issued by National Grid (formerly Keyspan), Con Edison, or the Long Island Power Authority (for the Rockaways); must be dated within the past 60 days
  • Water bill for the residence; must be dated within the past 90 days
  • Original lease agreement, deed, or mortgage statement for the residence
  • Current property tax bill for the residence
  • Official payroll document from an employer (example: payroll receipt); must be dated within the past 60 days
  • Document or letter from a federal, state, or local government agency indicating the resident’s name and address (example: document from Internal Revenue Service (IRS), City Housing Authority, the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS)); must be dated within the past 60 days

If you do not have the required documentation, you should still go to enroll your child. They will be admitted to school provisionally while a solution is worked out (for example, if you are neither the leaseholder nor owner of your residence, you will be asked to submit a Residency Affidavit).

Remember that by law, students may not be required or asked to present documentation of immigration status nor can they be denied admission to school based on immigration status or failure to present documentation about immigration status. Also, references to the immigration status of a child or parent cannot appear on any school forms or records.

Charters schools have their own admissions processes. You need to contact these schools directly for more information on how to apply.
How to apply to middle school (for 5th grade students)
During the 5th grade, all NYC public school children participate in the general middle school application process. Students attending elementary schools that go beyond 5th grade can apply to stay at their current school, where they are usually given priority over new students.

Charter schools and a few middle schools listed in your child’s directory have their own admissions processes and do not participate in the general middle school admissions process described here. You need to contact these schools directly for more information about how to apply. For more information on charter school admissions, click here.

Students not currently enrolled in a New York City public school (parochial and private school students) will need to request an application for the district in which they live from their local Family Welcome Center. They will also need to provide a 2014 report card from the child’s school with grades, attendance, and teacher comments so that they can be included as part of the admissions process.

Students with disabilities may apply to all schools and/or programs available to the general student population in their district. They will be subject to the same admissions requirements as their general education peers, although testing accommodations will be provided if the student’s IEP requires these. Students whose IEPs recommend a specialized District 75 program and who wish to continue in a District 75 program are not required to participate in the middle school admissions process: these students will be notified of their District 75 placement in May or June. For students considering a move from their District 75 program to a community school, the Department of Education recommends that they participate in the middle school admissions process. For more information, visit: NYC.GOV Special Education.

The general middle school admissions process formally begins the in fall. Students and their parents should meet with their child’s guidance counselor or someone at the school who can help them understand the options available to their child. The options are the schools and programs your child is eligible to attend: your child will only be able to apply to schools/programs for which they meet the eligibility criteria. These options will include middle schools based in your child’s zoned district, “Boroughwide” middle schools open to all students and residents of the borough, and “Citywide” middle schools open to all students and residents of New York City. They should also receive (or ask for) a copy of the Middle School Directory for their district. It is also available on line along with other Department of Education resources at NYC.GOV Resources.

During September and October parents and students should attend district “Middle School Fairs” at which they can meet representatives from different schools. How should you identify a good fit for your child? There are many factors you and your student can consider: location, specialized programming or curriculum, educational approach or philosophy, class size, culture or atmosphere, test scores, student-teacher ratio, discipline or homework policies, facilities, performance record and diversity are only a few. Every child has unique needs and their considerations will be similarly unique. This is also time to submit to your guidance counselor a “request for testing” or “RFT” for schools that require students to take a test for admissions.

Families should directly contact any schools the student is interested in to be sure they understand the schools’ admission priorities (the order by which applicants are considered for placement) and admissions methods (the ways in which applicants are admitted). Ideally they should attend the schools’ open houses (when the school is open to the public for visits and to answer questions) or sign up for tours. Visiting the school allows you to meet teachers and students, see the facilities (see the library, lunchroom and classrooms), question the principal, and gauge the overall atmosphere. Also, safety starts to become especially important for middle school, and parents should not be afraid to ask about the climate of the school, how bullying is handled, whether children are safe traveling to and from school on their own, etc. Schools should always accommodate parents' needs for translation of the information provided. It is appropriate to ask if there will be an interpreter or bilingual speakers/guides at an open house or tour.

It’s important to note that some schools have selection criteria which give priority to students who attend an open house, tour, or Middle School Fair (in which case it is important to sign in at these events), and some schools’ admissions methods require writing samples, teacher recommendations, interviews or auditions. In addition to the admissions criteria, other factors can affect the likelihood of your child being accepted. The number of seats available may be smaller than the number of applications the school receives. How you rank these schools on the form can also affect their chances of being accepted. Each school’s admissions priorities, admissions methods, specific selection criteria, number of seats available, demand history, performance indicators, and other important statistics are listed in the Middle School Directory. Given the amount of data and variety of different procedures, you should start your own selection process as early in the school year as possible. If some aspect of the process is unduly burdensome or prohibitive to your family (for example, you cannot attend an open house because of work, distance, disability, or you are worried about language barriers), you should contact the school immediately and explore your options (work with your school guidance counselor to help you do this).

In November, students receive a middle school application that is pre-populated (pre-filled in) with all of the schools for which they are eligible. If your student’s form seems to be missing options you expected to see, it is important to meet with the guidance counselor as soon as possible to understand any omissions or to have the form corrected. You will rank your choices on the application form. If a middle school has more than one program (for example, an honors program), these will be listed separately on the application.

In December students submit completed applications to guidance counselors.

Early in the next year (January-March), where required, students will attend scheduled auditions or interviews and hand in outstanding materials necessary to complete their applications. Around March, a second application round is available for students who also wish to apply to newly opened middle schools. In May, approximately, middle school match results are distributed from both rounds. Students who are unhappy with their match may file an appeal by notifying their school by letter.

How to change schools / find a school better suited to my child
Applying to a new school or program:
One option for your child is to apply to a non-zoned or “magnet” school that accepts applications from students throughout NYC. You can sometimes apply to district schools in other zones if they offer a program or services your current school lacks and if their policy permits the admission of students outside their zoned area (sometimes, students from outside the zone can be admitted if space permits, or be placed on a waiting list).

The most up-to-date information on schools and programs is available at the Department of Education website, which is periodically updated. You can search for schools by borough using the DOE search tool at NYC.GOV School Search and then go to individual school web pages for more information. You can also ask for guidance at a Family Welcome Center. You will need to contact your desired schools directly to find out their admissions policy regarding students outside their zone, if/when they have an open house or tours, and how to submit an application.

The (non-DOE) website “Inside Schools” offers a search tool that allows you to filter your search by program: Inside Schools.

Another option is to apply to a charter school. These schools operate separately from the Department of Education and develop their own unique academic programs of learning, but they must meet performance goals to remain open. They have a separate admissions process and priorities (e.g., priority for children in a charter school’s community school district). Some charter schools are highly sought after, feature innovative programming, and have high testing and graduation rates. Critics say that some charter schools are of variable quality or use policies that manipulate measures of success.

The primary web source for charter school information is NYC Charter Schools

To apply to a charter school, you need to contact that school directly for information and for a paper application. Your may be able to submit an application through their own website or through the NYC Charter School Center website (in English, Spanish and other languages): NYC Charter Schools

If you are interested in changing schools, early fall is a good time to review the individual school websites, contact the school, ask about open houses or tours, and learn their admission process.

Applying for a transfer due to hardship, safety concerns, or poor school performance:
Beyond transfer options which include re-applying to a new school or program, you can request a transfer to another public school if your child’s current assigned New York City public school presents one of the following documented hardships:
  • Distance from childcare or parent employment (students in K-5 only): if the distance between your child’s school and your place of employment or your childcare location creates a hardship. You must provide supporting documentation from your employer and/or childcare provider verifying the childcare hardship.
  • To attend the same school as a sibling (students in K-5 only): for a sibling to attend school where another sibling currently attends and will continue to attend in the following school year (siblings are brothers/sisters including stepbrothers, stepsisters, foster brothers, foster sisters who live in the same household as the applicant).
  • If your child has a severe medical issue that can be addressed by a change in school: You must provide documentation signed by a doctor on the medical provider’s letterhead stating the medical condition and the reason why the transfer is recommended.
  • If you feel that your child is unsafe at his or her current school: All safety transfer requests and supporting documentation must come from schools themselves. Families should not bring the documentation to the Family Welcome Centers. Schools must fax an occurrence report or other school documentation; a police report, docket number or court documentation, Safety Transfer Summary of Investigation form, or a Safety Transfer Intake form, as appropriate.
  • If your high school student’s commute is 75 minutes or greater, or otherwise inaccessible by public transportation.

Through the Public School Choice (PSC) program, students who attend an eligible lower-performing school can apply for transfer to a school with “In Good Standing” status as determined by the New York State Education Department (NYSED). Priority is given to students who are identified as low-performing and low income.
  • A list of schools whose students may be eligible to transfer via the PSC process is available here:
  • A list of information sessions on the PSC program is available at the DOE Public School Choice webpage (or click here for materials on the PSC program in Spanish).

Students enrolled at schools designated as “persistently dangerous” have the opportunity to request a transfer to a school that is not so designated. Schools are designated persistently dangerous if they have two successive years of serious incidents that meet or exceed criteria established by the NYSED. Eligible families will be mailed a notification letter in September.
Key facts
Is it mandatory: Yes

Is it free: Yes, programs offered by the NYC Department of Education (district schools and charter schools).

Are there special public programs for “Gifted & Talented” children: Yes

Are there bilingual programs or programs for English language learners: Yes

Are there special programs or help for disabled students or other special needs: Yes

Important future dates to prepare for now
Early Fall/Fall 2016 – If you are interested in changing schools, this fall is a good time to review the individual school websites, contact the school, ask about open houses or tours, and learn their admission process. Admissions deadlines for the 2017-18 academic year can start as early as the first few months of 2017.

4th grade is a good time for families to learn about and plan for the 5th grade middle school admissions process, especially if their child might consider more competitive schools with complex admissions processes

Related topics that might help you.

Other Internet resources

New York City Department of Education elementary school enrollment page

For more information about Gifted & Talented admissions.

Information on free afterschool and summer programs from the “Inside Schools” website (sponsored by the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School): Inside Schools Free Programs