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Wednesday, 30 November 2016 11:00

New report: Five steps to integrate schools

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.

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Tuesday, 29 November 2016 11:53

To give you help we need help ourselves!

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

Have we helped you in your search?

It's a tough task – and a rewarding one.
You trust us; you turn to us for help.
This #GivingTuesday we're turning to you!

InsideSchools is a tiny non-profit group.
We can't provide the free services that you count on without your help.
Please consider giving us a vote of your confidence with a tax-deductible contribution this year.

Donate now!

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Q: I didn’t apply to any school by the November 1, early action deadline. Guess I’ve blown it, right?

A: No. True, many students apply to college under Early Action or Early Decision. But MOST students apply to MOST schools later. On the one hand, you have missed the advantages of Early Action—where you get an early admissions decision without the obligation to enroll—but on the other you have also avoided the frenzy Early Decision where you have to apply and commit to a school early in your senior year.

Take comfort in the fact that if you have not applied to college yet, it’s because you really didn’t want to. Many students who apply under the “early” programs are sorry later. They really needed extra time to make up their minds. If there were indeed a college that you truly, desperately wanted to enter, you would have applied.

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After two years of contentious public meetings, the Community Education Council, an elected panel of parents, has come up with a courageous and long overdue plan to ease overcrowding and foster racial and economic integration of three elementary schools in District 3 on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. It is a bold attempt to balance competing interests and to resolve one of the city’s most intractable social problems. City Hall and the City Department of Education (DOE) should back the plan, which the CEC devised only after it found every zoning plan the DOE offered to be unacceptable. City leaders should also take immediate, aggressive steps to address legitimate concerns raised by local residents.

After weighing multiple perspectives from often angry members of the public, the CEC, responsible for approving attendance zone lines, has taken the unusual step of coming up with its own plan.  This plan could end waitlists at the most popular schools and give hundreds of children better school facilities than they currently have.

If successful, the plan will also break up the high concentrations of poverty that have made it so difficult for one school, PS 191, to gain traction. In the past, most of the children from Amsterdam Houses, a public housing development, have been assigned to PS 191; under the CEC plan they would be assigned to three different schools, all a short walk from one another.

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Applying to elementary school in NYC has been compared to having a second job, but things may just have gotten a bit easier for families. For the first time, the Department of Education is staging “It’s Elementary!” admissions events in all 32 city school districts beginning on Tuesday, Nov. 1. Enrollment officials will cover the major elementary admissions entry points in one evening—pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and gifted and talented programs. How the DOE manages this more complicated format remains to be seen, but it’s quite a boost from the handful of borough-wide admissions events offered last year. 

Families may begin applying to kindergarten on Nov. 30.

“We’re committed to making it easier for families to find and enroll in the school that’s right for them,” Deputy Chancellor for Strategy and Policy Josh Wallack said in a DOE press release. “We are confident the It’s Elementary! events are a real step forward—they’ll bring all the information families need for Pre-K, Kindergarten, and Gifted & Talented under one roof, and into every neighborhood—and we look forward to building on this progress.”

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New York City is one of the most segregated school systems in the country, but some schools buck the trend and enroll a mix of children of different races and income levels. How do they do it? And how can their success be replicated?

The staff of InsideSchools, a project of the Center for New York City Affairs, visited 80 elementary schools to find out how some formerly high-poverty schools have succeeding in attracting children from a range of races, ethnicities and income levels. We published our findings in a new report: "Integrated Schools in a Segregated City."

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Thursday, 13 October 2016 00:02

HS admissions: Best bets for the "B" student

We all hear about the highly selective schools that only take ace testers and "A" students. But what happens to solid students who don’t make the cut?

The InsideSchools staff compiled a list of our picks for the “B” student. These schools offer solid instruction as well as accelerated, college level and elective classes—many are great picks for the "A" student too. Included are programs in large neighborhood schools, arts and Career and Technical Education (CTE) schools and even a few highly selective ones such as s NEST +M and NYC iSchool.

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New York City has been called one of the most segregated school systems in the country, but some schools buck the trend and enroll a mix of children of different races and income levels.

InsideSchools visited more than 80 racially and economically integrated elementary schools in the past year. On October 26, we will present our findings about what makes these schools successful, the challenges they face, and the lessons they offer for the rest of the city. A panel of school leaders will discuss their experiences with successful integration.

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Q: This is my senior year. I moved to the US from Vietnam in the second semester of my sophomore year. I attend a large, pretty crowded public high school and my parents knew nothing about schooling in the U.S. So my classes are not the strongest in the school and I haven't done ANY activities yet. That's because I spent time learning English and helping my family. We didn't have clubs in Vietnam, and I didn't get information about them here, because I was working after school.

But now that I have to apply to college, will this hurt me? Can I explain why I wasn't on any teams or in clubs? And I only earned about AP classes when I was researching colleges online, by myself. When I arrived here from Vietnam, the school just looked at my records and assigned me to random classes. Last year I had one honors course, in math; I aced it, so my teacher recommended me for AP Calculus, which I am taking this year.

I am worried that it will look like I have avoided challenging courses and activities. I'm just stuck hopelessly! Should I explain about my special circumstances?

A: Yes, absolutely! First of all, you cannot be blamed for not taking what was not available. It's not your fault that you didn't take the most challenging courses. You arrived not knowing English, coming from a different educational system, and having to spend your extra time helping your family. And what your high school did at the time was probably what they thought best. However, college admissions staff cannot expect your application to look like that of someone who has grown up in the U.S. and has been strategizing for years how to get into U.S. colleges. Don't worry: all applicants are looked at in the context of what was available to them.

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One thing I noticed during my ten-month long career as a 5th-grader is that parents often get confused with the definition of a “good school.”

Parents, there is no such thing as a “good school.” There may be a good school for your child, but there is no all-around exemplary school. Even the most elite gifted and talented schools have downsides. When choosing a school for your child, you need to make sure that your child will be getting both the services they need and that they’ll be happy at that school. For example, a school may boast that they have the highest test scores, but they don’t have after-school clubs.

If your child receives special services, such as counseling or speech therapy, you have to make sure the school offers those services. Schools are supposed to do that, but that doesn’t always happen.

Tours really help you get a sense of how a school works. Tours usually run from early October to late November and middle school applications are due Dec. 1. You can usually sign up for a tour by looking on a school’s website or calling the school. District CEC pages sometimes list tours too. You can find contact information for schools through the InsideSchools search tool, and for a list of middle school fairs, visit the DOE Middle School events page

Tours at popular schools fill up quickly so be proactive! October becomes a very busy month.

In November, you receive your application. Now, the application is one of the most complicated documents you will ever see in your lifetime. I’ll be doing a whole post about how to navigate the application.

By the way, just know, this can be a very stressful time. It's hard to take off time from work to do tours and not really knowing if a school is going to be a good fit for your child. One time, when we were touring the school, it was raining, the school was a bit hard to get to, my mom’s coffee spilled everywhere and her umbrella broke. But, we learned from that tour that it was simply not the right school for me.

Please share information on each school’s profile page. I know the NYC school system very well, so if you need some personalized advice, comment below.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned for my next installment!

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