Middle School Information

Schooling options for students from grades 5 or 6 to grade 8. Click the links below to learn more about:

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Public Schools

New York City is home to the largest public school system in the country. Public schools are tuition-free and are funded at the local, state, and federal levels.  There are 32 school districts in NYC and most districts are divided into smaller “zones.”  

Any child who is a NYC resident is entitled to receive a free K-12 education, and a variety of options exist (see below).  Only those with NYC residency may apply for or enroll in NYC public schools.  If you plan to move to NYC, note that registration cannot take place until residency has been established and NYC public schools will not hold spots.  

The New York City Department of Education operates public schools in the city with leadership from the Mayor and a schools Chancellor. 

  • Ages/grade-level served.  Most middle schools serve children in Grades 6 to 8, but a few start in Grade 5 or 7
  • Availability of before- or after-school programming
  • Educational philosophy and curriculum
  • Location
  • School building facilities and resources that support academics and extra-curricular activities
  • Size (individual class size and school as a whole) and teacher-to-student ratio
  • Determine your district according to your home address and whether your child is assigned to a zoned middle school or must apply to schools within the district using the DOE school search page. Students who attend elementary school in a different district from where they live can choose to attend middle school in either district. Ultimately, students are guaranteed a place at a middle school in their district, but not necessarily in the school of their choice.
  • There are many middle school options; some schools accept children from outside the immediate neighborhood and some accept children from all 5 boroughs. There is also a wide array of types of schools that specialize in a particular area or activity.
  • The Admissions process for public schools is described on the Department of Education website.
  • Applications must be submitted in December of the academic year prior to a student beginning middle school, and parents are notified of the schools’ decisions in late spring.  
  • There are middle schools that use admissions methods in which your child’s academic information is not seen and other middle schools that use admissions methods in which your child’s academic information is seen.  It is important to read the NYC DOE’s Middle School Directory in detail to determine what the application procedures are and what factors are considered in admission for each of the middle schools that interest you.  

Citywide Selective Schools are devoted to high achievers with a variety of admissions requirements depending on the school. Possible application requirements for these schools may include: entrance exams, standardized test scores, written application and interview, specific artistic or musical talent, or a combination of academic achievement and an artistic talent.

The following two schools, both tuition-free, have their own distinct admissions process  

  • Hunter College High School, admissions for 7th grade entry only. Whereas Hunter College Elementary School is only open to Manhattan residents, all NYC residents may apply to Hunter College High School.
  • Special Music School on the Upper West Side, open to musically gifted children citywide.

These schools are sought-after and have highly competitive admissions processes. Please see the school websites for specific application and admissions procedures.  

  • Special Progress (SP) classes are offered in many zoned neighborhood schools. These classes are for  honors students and selection is based on standardized test scores.

    Recommended Book:  New York City's Best Public Middle Schools: A Parents' Guide. Clara Hemphill.

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    Independent Schools

    The term independent school is most frequently used to refer to a private school that is tuition-based and not dependent on government funding. New York City is home to a wide variety of independent school options.  Every independent school has its own unique mission and selects students through its own self-defined admissions process.  Residential address is not a factor in independent school admissions.  

    • Ages/grade-level served
    • Availability of before- or after-school programming
    • Co-educational or single sex (“all girls” or “all boys”)
    • Cost and availability of financial aid
    • Educational philosophy and curriculum
    • Location
    • School building facilities and resources that support academics and extra-curricular activities
    • Size (individual class size and school as a whole) and teacher-to-student ratio

    Independent schools will communicate their admissions deadlines on their own websites and applicant families are expected to adhere to these deadlines.  

    Start early!   

    • You can begin to explore independent school options a year or more prior to the date of planned enrollment.  Starting your exploration during the spring or summer before the application year is advisable.  
    • Schools hold tours and open houses in the spring and early fall.
    • Expect to set aside time for touring and—for any schools to which you decide to apply—the interview process.  

    Some Resources:

    • Completed application (typically found on each school’s website)
    • Standardized testing (examples include ISEESSAT)
    • Teacher recommendations
    • Official school transcript
    • Student visit

    Many schools also require:

    • Student writing sample(s)
    • Student art work portfolio or audition (if applicable)
    • Parent statement
    • Parent tour/interview
    • Assessment testing by school

    Always check specific school website for admissions requirements.

    Financial aid is available at most independent schools.  Awards are based on the determined need of the family and repayment is not required.  Independent Schools make aid available in order to attract socioeconomic diversity in the interest of building a community that includes a wide range of views and life experiences.  

    Families who intend to seek financial aid should note the following:

    • To apply, you must request and complete a financial aid application and submit it by the deadline.
    • While aid is available, there is an expectation that families will finance their children's education to the extent that they are able.
    • Because financial aid is limited, it is suggested that families planning to apply for aid should generally apply for admission to 8-10 independent schools.  
    • Tuition is the amount of money the school asks families to pay. When comparing schools find out whether there are any additional fees for things such as lunch, books, before- or after-school care, trips or activities.  
    • Many schools use outside financial aid services such as School and Student Services (SSS)Financial Aid for School Tuition (FAST), or TADS to determine financial aid need.
    • While most schools only offer need-based aid, some schools also offer scholarships based on criteria other than economic circumstances.  Additionally, some schools offer sibling discounts.
    • Many schools offer tuition payment plans which allow families to pay tuition in monthly installments.
    • Primary Tuition Scholarship (PTS):  For eligible full-time regular salaried Officers, the PTS program pays between 10% and 35% of your dependent child’s tuition in Grades K-8 at a private school within the five boroughs of New York City, based on eligible family income.

    Additional Financial Aid Information

    • A Better Chance selects academically talented students through a unique assessment model to enter Grades 6 through 11 in independent and public schools.
    • Breakthrough New York selects Grade 6 students with high academic potential who are from families with low-incomes to be part of a program that guides and supports them through high school and college.  
    • De La Salle Academy is an independent, non-sectarian middle school located in Manhattan that enrolls academically talented, economically less-advantaged boys and girls from all five boroughs of NYC to attend Grades 6 -8.  
    • George Jackson Academy is a selective independent all-boys school in Manhattan that enrolls students from low-income families in Grades 4-8.
    • The Oliver Program selects highly motivated Grade 7 students of African American and Latino descent in NYC and offers them the support and guidance they need to gain admission to independent schools.
    • Prep for Prep identifies New York City's promising students of color in Grades 5 and 6 and prepares them for placement in independent schools in the city and boarding schools throughout the Northeast.
    • The TEAK Fellowship identifies New York City students from low income families in Grades 7 and above and helps them gain admission to and succeed at top high schools.
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    Junior Boarding Schools

    Boarding schools are independent schools where the majority of students reside at the school during the semester and are immersed in campus life, though it is often possible for students to enroll in these institutions as non-residential day-school students.  

    • Potential boarding school applicants should begin by narrowing their search to a few schools to which they wish to apply.
    • The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS) offers information regarding the many kinds of schools as well as providing a central Admissions Application.
    • Contact individual schools to learn specific application requirements and deadlines.  

    Testing: Requirements depend upon the grade level, but most boarding schools require the ISEE or the SSAT.  Most require the Test of English as a Foreign Language Junior (TOEFL Junior) for international students.

    Always check specific school website for admissions requirements.

    Families should contact the financial aid offices of the specific schools to which they wish to apply to understand the full range of options available at each school.

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    Faith-Based Schools

    Faith-based schools are private schools maintained and supported by a religious body (e.g., Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Islamic). These schools are separate from the public school system and religious instruction is included in the curriculum.

    • The Admissions Process varies from school to school – check websites for specific details on timelines and requirements
    • Residential address is not a factor in faith-based school admissions 
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    Charter Schools

    Charter schools are free public schools that are independent of the Department of Education and operate under a contract or “charter” of up to five years.  Many charter schools have unique educational approaches that might include longer days and/or a longer school year, or thematic programs. Any student eligible for admission to a New York City public school is eligible for admission to a public charter school.

    • Each charter admits students by lottery in April.
    • Applications are available on the New York City Charter School Center website or at the individual schools (Some schools will accept a common application).
    • Anyone may apply, but preference goes to children living in the school district in which the charter is located.
    • Most charters maintain a waitlist, and it is sometimes possible to get a seat in a charter during the school year.