Every year, lots of 5th graders apply to a handful of super-popular middle schools. Naturally not everyone gets in. This year, we decided to highlight some good schools that haven’t suffered from over-exposure. Some require applicants to have good grades, but others accept kids of all abilities.
And remember: middle school applications are due on Dec. 21. There's still time to visit schools to help make up your list. Don't know what to look for? Check out our video: What to look for on a school tour and read our middle school picks after the jump.
Bronx Latin (District 12) is an orderly, happy place with small classes, teachers who have high expectations and students who seem to love their teachers. Alas, it no longer offers Latin. But it offers a safe haven in a poor, sometimes violent, neighborhood.
Hostos-Lincoln Academy of Science (District 7) has long been a refuge for high-achievers from the South Bronx who are aiming for college. Just about everyone graduates with some college credit and some even graduate with an associate (two-year) degree from Hostos Community College.
Theater Arts Production Company (TAPCO) (District 10) offers a supportive, family-like environment for aspiring artists, musicians, singers, dancers and actors.
Urban Assembly School for Applied Math and Science (District 9) teachers have high expectations but they also offer an unusual level of support—such as sending an early-morning text message to a child who struggles with attendance. Almost all students graduate on time, and a few have been admitted to highly selective colleges like Cornell and Brown.
Battery Park City School (District 2) has strong arts and an emphasis on the environment. Alas it is no longer a well-kept secret and is becoming overcrowded!
Lower Manhattan Community School (District 2) has a music studio, a dance studio, an art room and a science lab in its new downtown location.
East Side Community High School (District 1) is a vibrant and nurturing school with strong leadership, small classes and supportive programs including a well-funded college office. Applicants should have standardized test scores of at least Level 3 and grades of at least 80.
Quest to Learn (District 2) hopes to encourage students to persevere when they stumble and to motivate them with the pleasure of completing a task rather than traditional grades.
Community Action School (District 3) has a winning mix of structure and free expression
Democracy Prep Charter School (District 5) is a highly structured school where children learn Korean.
Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science and Engineering (District 5/Upper Manhattan) is an academically challenging, racially mixed school founded with the backing of Columbia University. The arrival of new principal, Miriam Nightengale, in 2011 has reinvigorated the school.
At PS/IS 278 (District 6) Students may take part in a musical or build a statue of the Eiffel Tower out of clay.
City College Academy of the Arts offers students a chance to get college credit while they are still in high school
Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School (WHEELS) offers lots of class trips and hands-on projects.
The Equity Project Charter School has solid academic, including Latin, and teachers who are committed to the children in their care.
A lot of the good schools in Brooklyn are already very well-known and have far more applicants than seats available. Here are a few that may fly under your radar. Some are new and others are improved!
The STAR, Science, Technology and Research Early College High School at Erasmus (District 17) has strong leadership, high academic standards and a good record of getting kids into college.
Brooklyn Prospect Charter School, (District 15) a 6-12 school, offers a close-knit community and a demanding International Baccalaureate (IB) program.
All City Leadership Secondary School (District 32)is a tiny 6-12 school in Bushwick where courtesy and respect are prized and civility is a way of life. All students become cadets and nearly all of them graduate within four years.
Kingsborough Early College Academy (District 21) in Bensonhurst offers students the chance to take college courses at Kingsborough Community College. It offers small classes, some of which are taught by college professors.
Medgar Evers College Preparatory School (District 17):A rigorous ride on a fast track to academic achievement awaits students at Brooklyn&'s Medgar Evers College Preparatory School.
Brooklyn School of Collaborative Studies (District 15): A racially diverse 6-12 school, BCS fully integrates the kids with special needs and offers a curriculum that's rich with hands-on projects and activities.
MS 88 (District 15): has been around for a long time but it has taken a back seat to its uber-popular neighbor, MS 51. Parents and students say it's time to consider MS 88 now -- a large school with something for everybody.
New and worth watching: In District 13 two new middle schools opened in 2012 that may be good bets. MS 8 is the continuation of PS 8, a popular Brooklyn Heights elementary school. It has the same principal although it is located a few blocks away. Urban Assembly Unison School in Clinton Hill has strong leadership and welcomes parent involvement. Kids go on lots of trips, including an overnight.
Many neighborhoods of Queens, especially districts 25 and 26, have good zoned schools and there's less shopping around than in other boroughs. But here are some interestiong options.
East-School School of International Studies (District 25), a small school, offers up to four years Chinese, Japanese and Korean as well as Asian-inspired arts and sports such as anime (Japanese cartoons), Korean drumming, Chinese calligraphy and judo.
Renaissance Charter School (District 30): A progressive school serving children in grades K-12, Renaissance Charter offers a family-like environment with plenty of projects and class trips.
Village Academy (District 27): This promising new small school in Far Rockaway is bursting with energy and ambition. Test scores, while still low, are improving. Satisfaction is high and attendance is above average.
Queens Collegiate (District 28) in the Jamaica Educational Campus has a challenging college-prep curriculum. It has begun to attract students who might once have chosen private schools or better-known public schools.
Marsh Avenue School for Expeditionary Learning: One of a very few unzoned middle schools on Staten Island, Marsh Avenue draws students from every neighborhood. Families are attracted by the creative curriculum, welcoming environment and gleaming new building.
Who did we forget? Tell us in comments below!