Now that standardized test scores based on the new Common Core testing in New York City are out, tens of thousands of 8th grade families across New York City will be asking themselves (and to some degree, have already been asking themselves):  How will this affect high school admissions?


Let me preface this by saying that I am not a testing or assessment expert, nor do I claim to be a statistician.  However, I am an expert in the NYC high school admissions process.  And based on my evaluation, middle school families should not worry.  Here’s why:


1.  Students are no less “smart” than before they took these new tests.  In fact, one could argue they are even more prepared for high school on the basis of the Common Core aligned instruction to which they have become exposed and most assessment experts agree is worthwhile – but that’s a whole other discussion.


2.  Principals get it.  At the end of the day, high school principals who see test scores (remember, not all of them do – no one said school choice was simple) want students who are the best fit for their school. Nothing more, nothing less.  Comparing this year’s test scores to last year’s is apples and oranges. Principals know this and won’t consider a student less qualified just because their score is lower.  Put another way, let’s say New York State called the new test, “The New Test.”  Would anyone be having this discussion?  Probably not, since there would be no reason to compare one test to another one that’s completely different.


3.  Scores went down virtually across the board.  No one was spared.   When high school principals are looking at their applicant pool, they are looking at the relative strength of the students in it.  In theory, one year’s applicant pool could be completely different than another year’s, and principals will take that into account.  They still want to – and need to – fill their incoming class with the most qualified students in that year’s applicant pool.  Indeed, it is conceivable that there will be far fewer students with a performance level of 4 in one year’s pool vs. another year, and principals will select students accordingly.  Remember, the selection criteria listed for programs in the NYC High School Directory are targets only, and students may or may not meet those criteria exactly.


4.  It’s the baseline.  Ultimately, high school principals want to fill all their available seats with the most qualified applicants for their school, whether students are getting all 4s or all 3s.  Knowing that students are no less “qualified” simply because test scores are lower, the threshold by which applicants are selected will shift.   In other words, why would a principal want to miss out on a well qualified, terrific applicant, simply because their score shifted just like most every other student?  Remember, the baseline changed.  Not the child.


5.  Avoid pitfalls.  Finally, and following up from my point in #3, I’d like to briefly touch on the applicant’s point of view (it is about student choice, no?).


From the standpoint of making informed decisions and completing the high school application, nothing should change in your approach.  Again, test scores as a component of selection criteria are targets, not hard and fast rules.  When completing the application, choose programs that you have some interest in and select as many as you are comfortable with – the more the better.  The last thing you want to do is leave a program off the application because of a lower test score.  Don’t do it.  That would be like leaving a desired program off your list because you got a 79 in just one class, 90s in the rest, and the program selection criteria was 80 and above for all classes (guess what?  Many students with the 79 may get in.)  There is no reason to leave that program off the application if you are interested in it.  Especially given the fact that most students don’t complete all 12 spots on the application, anyway!  You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.


One of the worst things you can do is decide AFTER the fact that you should have listed a program.  List them in your order of preference only and be done with it.   Better to list them now than to rely on the appeals process later (remember, it’s called appeals for a reason – it’s not called round 3).  And finally, remember what InsideSchools so aptly says repeatedly:  Don’t list any school on your application that you would not be comfortable attending.


So for now, rest a little easier.  The test is over, the results are in.  You still have that shot at your top choice school.  I welcome your comments below or by email at