NEW YORK – A new phone app will make it easier for underserved low-income students to avoid failing New York City high schools.

The Wall Street Journal reports:

The NYC High School Application Guide seeks to nudge students toward better options. Students type in their address, interests and willingness to travel more than 45 minutes, and the app shows them matches with the best graduation rates, among other data.

The Heckscher Foundation for Children, which aims to help underserved youth, invested more than $2.5 million in developing the app with guidance from New York University researchers.

Peter Sloane, Heckscher Foundation chairman, said the app steers students toward schools with at least a 65 percent on-time graduation rate.

“If this tool improves the ability of some underserved youth to make choices that will give them a better chance of graduating high school, even if it is a small number, it will have been a success,” he said.

Sloane believes the app could be particularly useful to families that often lack the resources to tour public schools by helping them navigate a complex admissions process. The New York City school system has over 400 public high schools and finding the right ones to apply to can be daunting for some parents.

The app could also help to accelerate the demise of some of the city’s worst traditional public schools by funneling students to better options. A total of 19 of the city’s “Renewal” schools – those with chronic academic problems – do not meet the 65 percent graduation threshold used by the app, the WSJ reports.

City officials plan on spending more than a half-billion dollars to improve the city’s 78 Renewal schools, which include 28 high schools, through 2018. In the meantime, the city’s charter schools are becoming an increasingly attractive option for many parents.

“Last year, a study at the Center for Research on Education Outcomes at Stanford University also found New York City charter students outperform their district peers by significant margins: After controlling for student demographics and prior achievement, charter kids gain the equivalent of an average 104 days of learning growth in math and 21 days in reading each year,” according to a 2016 report in the New York Post.

“Notably, Latino and African- American charter kids boast a proficiency rate in math of 43 percent, compared to only 22 percent at the district schools. In the South Bronx, Upper Manhattan and Central Brooklyn — the city’s three lowest-income areas — charters outperform district schools in both math and ELA by significant margins.”

A spokesman for the NYC education department said that “while we welcome additional tools and resources for families,” department already has a mobile app – NYC School Finder – that considers several factors in helping students select schools.

“We are working to ensure that every high school is a quality option, and believe students and families should consider all NYC high schools and their unique offerings,” the spokesman said, adding that the city has also boosted advisory services and free test preparation for low-income families to select schools.

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