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About Homeschoolers Applying to NYC Public High Schools

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From the general FAQ:

  • How do I go about applying for entry into a specialized NYC public high school for my homeschooled child? updated

For students interested in applying to NYC specialized high schools (such as: Bronx Science, Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Tech) you must take an exam (the SHSAT). You will need a test admission ticket for the SHSAT exam. This ticket must be picked up or received in the mail in early October for a test date at the end of October. Check the DoE calendar well in advance. If you miss the registration deadline for this test, you miss your chance to apply to one of these schools. You should receive a SHSAT confirmation in the mail once you are registered to receive a test ticket. See also DoE page on applying to specialized high schools.
As of July 2014, the official at the NYC DoE who helps homeschooling parents arrange for these exams is Yolanda Hendley-Bagley at (917) 339-1750 or send an email Yolanda joined the homeschooling office in 2013-14 and will return for 2014-15 as their high school application content expert. Parents have cited her helpfulness.
Make certain that your applications to these schools are submitted well in advance. Do not rely on the DoE homeschooling office to submit paperwork or applications for you, or to transfer necessary paperwork or records to the schools you are applying to. The parent must personally make sure that all of these tasks are taken care of, and that the test ticket is reserved in advance.

Page Index

NYC Specialized High Schools
Specialized High Schools not requiring the SHSAT
Other "Specialized" Schools
A note about Ed Opt Comments from Parents
Achievement Exams
Alternative for gifted test takers and Alternative Assessments

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Many homeschooled students become curious about school and want to try it out. I have known many teens to experiment with the public school experience. Some are happy; some are not. Homeschoolers may do well in school and still be unhappy there. Others may find the courses and community they are looking for. It is worth noting that homeschoolers do not have to go to high school or earn a high school diploma in order to get into a topnotch college or university. (For more info, see About College.) Also, homeschooled teens in NYC have a wide variety of activities, both academic and social, to choose from. If your teen is looking to apply to a public NYC high school, here are some resources.

  • has up-to-date accurate information about individual schools.
  • Attending a high school fair will increase your options. Students can express their interest in a particular school there, or while attending a tour or open house at the school. The NYC Dept. of Ed. holds a citywide fair in October and also lists borough fairs and school fairs and open houses.
  • Surveys for each public school are accessible on-line at the DoE site for this and past years. Survey forms are done by three groups: teachers, students, and parents. It's a good idea to cross reference with Inside Schools reviews. Even seeing a drop-off in student reviews is information. For example, if a school seems strong and popular, but then has a fall-off of upper classpeople engaged and giving in their reviews, it's information. Find a DoE school survey here: Find a School’s Survey Report. You can also use School Search from the DoE.
  • There is a new homeschool guidance counselor in the DoE office named Donna Cuccurullo, e-mail:, telephone: 917-339-1750. She can be extremely helpful in making sure that your application is filled out correctly and submitted on time. She is located at the Central Office of Homeschooling on Tuesdays and Thursdays only from 4:30 - 7:30 PM. E-mail her in advance for appointments. If you contact Ms. Cuccurullo by e-mail outside of official office hours she should reply to you when she is back in the office.
Tip: Include teacher recommendations and writing samples to enhance the test scores. If the student has been taking standardized tests in the public schools, their records are already in the computer. If the student has home schooling records and CAT or PASS (or other) scores, the family will need to assemble and submit a portfolio for each school they've listed.
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NYC Specialized High Schools

The specialized high schools of New York City are selective public high schools, established and run by the New York City Department of Education to serve the needs of academically and artistically gifted students. The Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT) examination is required for admission to all the schools except Hunter and LaGuardia.

The schools:

Each of the specialized high schools has its own unique features but most emphasize mathematics and science. They offer many intriguing electives and advanced placement courses, including enrichment courses in the humanities. Originally there were three of these high schools: Brooklyn Tech, Bronx Science, and Stuyvesant. The other schools were later created to absorb some of the students who did not get into these three specialized high schools. In 1934, Stuyvesant implemented a system of entrance examinations. The examination was developed with the assistance of Columbia University, and the program was later expanded to include the newly founded Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech.

Their status as specialized schools was frequently threatened by factions within the New York City school system and government. As a way to preserve their special status, in 1972, the Hecht-Calandra Act was passed by the New York State Legislature, designating these schools as specialized science and math high schools for New York City. The Hecht-Calandra act called for a uniform exam in math and science to be administered for admission to these schools, in keeping with the uniform examination that had already been required by the New York City Board of Education for admission to these schools. The School of Performing Arts and The High School of Music & Art (consolidated in 1984 into LaGuardia High School) were also designated by the legislature as specialized high schools, and admission was by audition and portfolio rather than examination, in keeping with their artistic mission.

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Bronx High School of Science

The Bronx High School of Science was founded in 1938 as a specialized science and math high school for boys, by resolution of the Board of Education of the City of New York, with Morris Meister as the first principal and guiding light of the school. They were given use of an antiquated Gothic-gargoyled edifice located at Creston Avenue and 184th Street. The building, built in 1918 for Evander Childs High School, had been successively occupied by Walton High School (1930) and by an annex of DeWitt Clinton High School (1935). The initial faculty were comprised in part by a contingent from Stuyvesant High School. Principal Meister put his imprint on the school from its formation, for example selecting as school colors "green to represent chlorophyll and gold the sun, both of which are essential to the chain of life.

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Brooklyn Latin School

Unlike nearly all other specialized high schools, Brooklyn Latin has a strong focus on the humanities and classics. All students are required to take four years of English, History, Latin and a modern foreign language. All classes regularly hold Socratic Seminars, in which students lead roundtable question-and-answer discussions, and all students take part in declamation (public speaking) exercises. Because of the small class size, Brooklyn Latin offers a relatively small student-to-teacher ratio (currently around 10 : 1). In disciplines such as English and History, there is a focus on classical studies, and all students will receive a grounding in literary and historical traditions before graduating. Latin instruction begins during the first year of instruction and continues throughout.

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Brooklyn Technical High School

One of the original three specialized high schools in New York City, (Stuyvesant High School, Bronx High school of Science, and Brooklyn Technical High School). In 1918, Dr. Albert L. Colston, chair of the Math Department at Manual Training High School, recommended establishing a technical high school for Brooklyn boys. His plan envisioned a heavy concentration of math, science, and drafting courses with parallel paths leading either to college or to a technical career in industry. By 1922, Dr. Colston's concept was approved by the Board of Education, and Brooklyn Technical High School opened in a converted warehouse at 49 Flatbush Avenue Extension, with 2,400 students. This location, in the shadow of the Manhattan Bridge, is the reason the school seal bears the image of this bridge, rather than the Brooklyn Bridge. Brooklyn Tech would occupy one more location before settling into its current (as of 2008) site, for which the groundbreaking was held in 1930.

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High School for Math, Science and Engineering at City College

The High School for Math, Science and Engineering at City College was created in 2002, with an emphasis on engineering. HSMSE was designed to be a small school with only about four hundred students.

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High School of American Studies at Lehman College

The High School of American Studies at Lehman College is located on the Lehman College campus, one block from the Bronx High School of Science, in the Bedford Park section of the Bronx. Unlike the rest of the specialized high schools, American Studies curriculum emphasizes U.S. History, offering three years (as opposed to only one) of AP-level U.S. History. The partnership with Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History has afforded the school to plan multiple trips outside of New York City, with students paying relatively cheap fees. In 2008, US News and World Report ranked American Studies as the 29th best public high school in the country and second in New York State. And in 2009, the school rose to be the 19th best public high school in the country.

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Queens High School for the Sciences at York College

The was formed in 2002 and continued to grow each year as a new class entered, reaching its present size in 2006, when the fifth class was admitted. There are now more than 400 students.

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Staten Island Technical High School

Staten Island Tech began in 1982 as an annex of Ralph R. McKee Vocational-Technical High School and was made an independent high school in May 1988. HSAS, HSMSE, and QHSSYC were opened in 2002. Brooklyn Latin was established in 2006. All of these schools are required by state law to admit students based on the uniform Specialized High Schools Admissions Test, and positions are assigned on a ranked system, depending on numbers of seats available and how many applicants requested a given school.

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Stuyvesant High School

Stuyvesant High School is named after Peter Stuyvesant, the last Dutch governor of New Netherland before the colony was transferred to England in 1664. It is the most coveted of the nine Specialized schools. The school was established in 1904 as a manual training school for boys, hosting 155 students and 12 teachers. In 1907, it moved from its original location at 225 East 23rd Street to a building designed by C. B. J. Snyder at 345 East 15th Street, where it remained for 85 years. Its reputation for excellence in math and science continued to grow, and enrollment was restricted based on scholastic achievement starting in 1998.

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Specialized High Schools not requiring the SHSAT

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Fiorello LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts

Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School (LaGuardia Arts) is the only Specialized high school in New York City that does not require that an applicant take the SHSAT. Rather, students are accepted through auditions in the fields of vocal music, instrumental music, visual arts, dance, drama, and technical theatre. La Guardia does not require the SHSAT. Admission is by audition or portfolio rather than test.

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Hunter College High School

Hunter College High School is a New York City secondary school for intellectually gifted students located on Manhattan's Upper East Side. It is administered by Hunter College, a senior college of the City University of New York. Although it is not operated by the New York City Department of Education, there is no tuition fee and it is publicly funded. The school's curriculum strives for a balance of achievement in the humanities and the sciences, and is widely revered as excelling in both fields. Hunter is noted for sending a very large percentage of students to the Ivy League and other top-ranked colleges and universities. It has been ranked as the top public high school in America by The Wall Street Journal several years running. Worth magazine also ranked Hunter as the nation's top public school. Newsweek stated that Hunter is one of the top public schools in the nation. Admissions for the high school begins in 7th grade. Hunter has its own test and is not an SHSAT school. Admission for Hunter High School is for entering 7th graders only. Despite the name "high school" it is a school for grades 7-12 and only accepts students as first-years. Fifth grade test scores in the highest percentiles (usually around 95% or higher) are required in order to apply to take the 6th grade exam for a possible 7th grade entry. (Note: the exam required is taken in 6th grade, but grades from 5th grade exams qualify you to take this exam, so you must prepare for a 5th grade exam if you want to apply to Hunter High School.)

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Other "Specialized" Schools

Of the other 550+ public schools, there are some which "specialize" either in arts or sciences etc. but aren't called THE SPECIALIZED SCHOOLS. There are lots of schools. There is a HS of Violin and Dance! There is a HS of Aviation from which you can graduate licensed to repair jetliner airplanes! They even have a lab at JFK!! There are lots of other performing arts schools, large, good ones that aren't on the specialized list but are super specialized anyway! Frank Sinatra School of the Arts in Queens is a state-of-the-art, arts school and rigorous academically too, they say. And some rigorous academic schools like Eleanor Roosevelt HS and The Millenium High School, which have "screened" entrance requirements and are probably just as rigorous academically as some of the Specialized Schools but probably have a more academically diverse population. "Screened" is one of the admissions terms. All of the terms are defined for you in the big fat book called the High School Directory. You can pick it up for free at the DOE or any public high school, or consult it online in many languages. Some schools require transcripts, specific GPAs , test scores etc. Some require only for the student to show interest in attending their program and you must show test scores or the equivalent in homeschool/private school test/portfolio. You show interest by attending a high school fair and putting your name on their list, going to an open house, visiting or writing to the school/principal etc and expressing interest. There are literally hundreds of schools from which to choose.

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Note to 10th grade applicants and a warning about Ed Opt

You can also take SHSAT in 9th grade for a 10th grade admission. Be careful, because the program screening methods may change for 10th grade applicants. For instance one school offers the Ed Opt and a screened program for 9th grade applicants, but only Ed Opt for 10th graders. That means that a 9th grade schooled applicant can list both programs and have two chances at the school, but it also means that a homeschooled applicant will not gain 10th grade entry. Ed Opt, an abbreviation for Education Option, is a screening method that accepts 68% of students from the "middle" 16 % from the top test takers and 16% from the "bottom." It is important for homeschoolers to know that Ed Opt is based on in-school assessments only. No matter what scores a homeschooler provides in a portfolio, where Ed Opt Programs are concerned, you have no chance.

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Comments from parents:

Meticulous record keeping of the 7th grade is essential as this is the year high school administrators will look at. Because of the paperwork required by the DoE, we have the advantage of being able to "prove" our academics when putting together an application. Understand that as a home schooling parent, YOU may have to educate school administrators regarding what homeschoolers do, a process which will demand more face-to-face time than for a regular public school student. This in itself may prove to be a blessing because it offers the opportunity to present your child as an intelligent, creative, wonderful student, instead of sticking to just a single page of a computer generated application. You may use any standardized test, and not just the NYS ELA and Math testing.

Ximena, homeschooling parent

Don't underestimate how difficult the test for placing in specialized high schools is: many kids don't get placed; the competition is great; many use tutors to help prepare kids, raising their scores on the various tests, including the SHSAT. The kids we know at LaGuardia, Beacon, Millennium, and Lab all seem very happy; many of the kids at the larger Brooklyn schools (Murrow and Midwood) are also happy, but these schools can be overwhelming; there are many other strong schools, of course -- these are just the ones I hear most about; as for the specialized high schools (yes, LaGuardia is one but uses auditions instead of the test for placement), I have worked with homeschoolers who went on to Stuyvesant and to Bronx Science. They enjoyed both places. Stuyvesant has more consistently strong facilities and teachers. But it's also a fairly high-pressured place. And again, don't underestimate how well students have to do on the test to place into these schools. I have been hearing mixed things about Brooklyn Tech (basically it sounds like the first year's overwhelming but older kids seem happy; I have doubts because there is heavy security in and around the school).

– Justine Henning, math and writing tutor and creator of

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Note: Many other high schools will accept students with varying abilities, so if you see a school that interests you but your test scores are low, you should apply anyway.

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If you have a comment to share, send an email.
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Achievement Exams

Sources for achievement exams that you can administer at home (prices may vary):

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Alternative for gifted test takers:

Through the Duke University Talent Search program, 7th graders may pay and sit for the SAT and ACT test (in every state, at an established testing site) if they have scored 95th percentile or above on a standardized exam such as the CAT or IOWA. This would be above-level testing, and could give the student an advantage if applying to a specialized high school. A homeschooling parent whose child has not been given a standardized test may be able to nominate the child for this exam by signing a testing waiver. See 7th Grade Talent Search for Homeschooled Students.

Alternatives for assessments:

North Atlantic Regional High School in Maine and Clonlara School in Michigan are both umbrella schools. For a fee they will provide transcript and assessment services. You can use their courses or yours, and the student can earn an accredited high school diploma with an official transcript. (Note: unless the student plans on attending SUNY, an accredited diploma is usually not necessary for college entry, and homemade transcripts are widely accepted.)

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