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Stay focused, parents of kids born in 2013—the pre-kindergarten application season will be in full swing around the time of the U.S. presidential inauguration. For most families, this means scheduling tours, pouring through InsideSchools reviews and playing with up to 12 rankings like a fantasy football fanatic.

The application window is between January 17−February 24. All applications are considered equally no matter when they are submitted, so there's no benefit in rushing it.

For in-person help, join us at our free event on Wednesday, January 11th, at 9:30 am. Sign up here. For $20 you will receive our new book at the event, New York City's Best Public Pre-K and Elementary Schools.

Who may attend pre-k

Any child who turns 4 by Dec. 31, 2017 is entitled to attend pre-k in 2017 (a child with a fall birthday may start school in September when he is still 3). Most children attend pre-kindergarten 6 hours and 20 minutes a day, 180 days a year—the same schedule as older children.

What programs are available?

The city doesn't have room in its neighborhood schools for all the city's 4-year-olds. To create more seats, it contracts with child-care centers, private nursery schools, religious schools and community centers. In addition, the city has established freestanding "pre-k centers," which children attend for just one year. While some ordinary neighborhood schools have pre-kindergarten, the bulk of seats are in these other locations. Your child is guaranteed a seat somewhere but there is no guarantee you will get your first choice, or that your assignment will be close to home. No transportation is provided (except for children with special needs and those in temporary housing).

The city offers free directories of all the pre-k programs, updated annually. You may also find a school near your home by searching our website.  The Department of Education is offering pre-k info sessions in January, one night in each borough. See the schedule here: http://schools.nyc.gov/ChoicesEnrollment/PreK/events/default.htm.

How to apply to pre-k

You may apply online through the Department of Education website starting on Jan. 17; in person at a Family Welcome Center; or by telephone: (718) 935-2067. All families who submit by February 24 will get an offer letter in late April 2017 and must accept by early May.

There are many options out there all over the city. Check our profiles, which tell more. We've liked much of what we've seen, especially the new pre-k centers run by the DOE.

Good luck!

Happy 2017 parents of 4 and 5 year-olds! It's time to apply to school.

Kindergarten applications for children turning 5-years-old this year are due on Friday, Jan. 13. Pre-kindergarten applications for fall 2017 are due by Feb. 24. Let us help you get informed and ready. Sign up for our free Jan. 11 workshop here.

Join Clara Hemphill and the staff of InsideSchools as we release our new book, New York City's Best Public Pre-K and Elementary Schools. We'll highlight some undiscovered gems and walk you through the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten application process.

Q: I have gotten accepted into two universities that I like: one is a prestigious private university, the other a prestigious state university. Both are highly ranked but the private university has the advantage in rankings. On the flip side, it is much more expensive and I can't gauge which one has a better science program. I'm torn as to which university I should choose. A college visit is off the table so I don't know what my options are to figure out which is better for me.

A: Choosing where to enroll is a very challenging proposition. You are to be congratulated on having such great options. I will ask you one question and then will give you my take.

Child born in 2012? Apply to kindergarten now!

Written by Clara Hemphill Thursday, 08 December 2016 12:21

If you have a child who will turn five in 2017, now is the time to apply to kindergarten for the school year starting in September. Your child is guaranteed a seat regardless of when you enroll, but you'll have the best chance of getting into a school of your choice if you apply by Jan. 13.

If you want to learn more about your options, come to our kindergarten workshop Jan. 11, or buy our new book, New York City's Best Public Pre-K and Elementary Schools.

The city has kindergarten directories available online. Hard copies are available at local elementary schools and Family Welcome Centers.

Top ten reasons to love InsideSchools

Written by Insideschools staff Wednesday, 07 December 2016 12:28

Here’s why you should support InsideSchools with an online gift today:

1. We visit schools in the snow and rain.

2. We’re independent.

3. We’re parents (we get it).

4. We don’t sugarcoat.

5. We know test scores don’t tell the whole story. 

6. We avoid jargon.

7. We call 'em like we see 'em.

8. We do our best to be fair.

9. Our advice is free—24/7.

10. You rely on us.


Want us to keep on keeping on?
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With gratitude,


The InsideSchools team

For nearly two decades, parents have looked to Clara Hemphill to help them find a good public school for their child. This Fourth Edition of "New York City's Best Public Pre-K and Elementary Schools A Parents' Guide" features all-new reviews of more than 150 of the city's best public elementary schools, based on visits and in-depth interviews by Hemphill and the InsideSchools staff.

This essential guide uncovers the "inside scoop" on schools (the condition of the building, special programs, teacher quality, and more), includes a checklist of things to look for on a school tour, and incorporates new listings of charter schools and stand-alone pre-kindergarten programs. It also provides the hard facts on:

  • Total school enrollment
  • Test scores for reading and math
  • Ethnic makeup
  • Who gets in?
  • Admissions requirements
  • Teaching methods and styles
  • Special education services
  • How to apply

The book is available now,  just in time for kindergarten and pre-kindergarten application season! You can look for it at your local bookstore or order online here. You'll get 20 percent off list price if you use the discount code TCP2017.

New report: Five steps to integrate schools

Written by Insideschools staff Wednesday, 30 November 2016 11:00

The City can do much more to foster economic integration of elementary schools than the small scale efforts it has made to date. That's the conclusion of our new report, Five Steps to Integrated Schools, based on our visits to 150 schools across the city over the past two years.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has suggested that school segregation is intractable because it is largely a result of housing patterns, that is, that schools are segregated because housing is. And Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña has said she favors "organic" or voluntary school integration efforts.

There's no question that that persistent housing segregation makes school integration difficult in many neighborhoods; however, as our earlier report shows, the city has segregated, high-poverty schools even in many integrated, mixed-income neighborhoods.

To give you help we need help ourselves!

Written by Insideschools staff Tuesday, 29 November 2016 11:53

Middle school and high school applications are due on Dec. 1!

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We can't provide the free services that you count on without your help.
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Q: This is a pretty sticky situation. I dropped out of high school to homeschool myself without credit some time ago, using online high school and college-level courses and books, and I've had nobody to help me with college applications or getting into programs. I'm very interested in physics and want to go to a major state university. Is going to community college for a year or two and working really hard there actually a good strategy, or will my lack of credit for high school forever prevent my success?

A: You are correct; this is indeed a sticky situation, but not a hopeless one. At the outset, what do you mean by "some time ago"? Did you drop out three years ago, or twenty? It could make a difference. You need to check on several things: Do you need to pass a high school equivalency assessment known as the Test Assessing Secondary Completion or "TASC" (which replaced the GED) to be admitted into a community college? Can you do a credit-by-examination at a local community college to prove your academic skills?

The Center for New York City Affairs and InsideSchools present a Nov. 30 panel discussion based on an upcoming report: "How to Make Our Schools More Integrated."

We will present our findings and recommendations for better socio-economic integration of the city's public elementary schools, with a particular focus on neighborhoods where integration is possible without busing—that is, economically integrated neighborhoods where the schools are segregated.