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Ask Judy

Acceptance letters for high school went out today, and 90 percent of students got one of their choices. But if you are one of the 7,225 8th graders who didn’t get matched to a high school (or if you’re unhappy with your match) it’s time to consider one of the 16 new schools opening in the fall of 2013—or one of the established schools that still has space.

You can meet representatives from these schools at the second-round high school fair from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 6th and Aprll 7th at the Martin Luther King Educational Campus at 65th and Amsterdam in Manhattan.

Some of the schools will also have their own open houses. We've also compiled some recommendations for high schools that still have room.

Published in News and views
Friday, 08 March 2013 12:57

Ask Judy: Are state exams mandatory?

Dear Judy,

I have daughters in the 4th grade who are supposed to take the state exams this year. I'm told future middle schools will look at these exam results to determine acceptance. The stress my daughters are under during "test prep" is crazy. Is this exam really mandatory?

Fourth grade mother

Dear Fourth Grade Mother,

Yes, the standardized tests are required. Chancellor's Regulation A-501 makes that clear.

Whether or not you think that this system is right, I would advise you to have your daughters take the test.

Fourth grade tests are important because middle schools look at them to decide on admissions. Kids apply to middle school in the fall of 5th grade--before the results of the tests given in the spring of 5th grade are available.

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Q: My son just received an impressive-looking envelope inviting him to participate in the National Student Leadership Conference in Washington, DC. They make it sound like going will be a great thing for him to put on college applications, but will it really count that much? Will it open doors for him? If this is truly a great opportunity, I don't want him to miss out – but it's really expensive! What do you suggest?

A: Would participating in this program be exciting for your son? Probably so. Will participating add a line to his resume that will make a real impact on his college applications? The company organizing the program would like you to think so, but the real answer is: no.

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Parents whose children turn four this year may start applying for pre-kindergarten this week. Applications are available online now and the Education Department will host pre-K info sessions in all five boroughs this week, beginning in Queens tonight. Applications are due April 5.

Pre-K programs are housed in public schools or at local child care centers and community organizations, and are either half day (2.5 hours), or full day, (6 hours and 20 minutes.) The state mandates that each pre-k class may have a maximum of 18 students with two teachers. 

Applying for pre-K gives parents a first taste of New York City's competitive public school admissions process. Any child who was born in 2009 may apply, but admission is not guaranteed: Last year, 30 percent of the kids who applied for pre-K didn't land seats in DOE programs. 

Published in News and views
Monday, 04 March 2013 16:00

Apply now to new middle schools

Unhappy with your middle school choices? The Education Department plans to open 16 new middle schools next September. While choosing a new school over an established one is risky, at least two of these new schools look like promising options: School of the Future in Manhattan will open a sister school in East New York and the Eagle Academy for Young Men is opening another school in Harlem, in District 5.

Many of these new schools have yet to be approved by the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) which will meet to vote on school closings and openings at its March 11 meeting. A few are screened programs but most are unscreened, giving preference to students who attend an open house or info session. Students who are eligible to attend the new middle schools will receive application information from their elementary schools, according to the DOE. Or you can contact the new schools to find out when their info sessions are being held.

Applications are due on March 6, a week before the PEP meeting. Kids who apply and are accepted to one of the new schools may choose between the new school and the middle school they originally applied to, according to the DOE.

Published in News and views
Tuesday, 26 February 2013 12:56

Our Queens picks

Most children in Queens attend their neighborhood elementary schools, and there isn’t a lot of room for shopping around. However, if you are dissatisfied with your zoned school, here are some possibilities.

District 24

The most crowded district in the city, District 24 has had three new non-zoned elementary schools open up since 2010 to ease the overcrowding, including PS 290, PS 330, and PS 110, which opened in the fall of 2012.

District 25

District 25, serving Bayside and Flushing, has three well-regarded early childhood schools for grades K-3 which are open to children across the district: PS 130, PS 242 Leonard P. Stavisky Early Childhood School, and the Active Learning Elementary School. The Queens College School for Math, Science and Technology, a K-8 school hosted on the Queens College campus, accepts students by lottery from all over Queens.

PS 201 The Discovery School for Inquiry and Research, has a magnet grant, so children may apply from outside the zone.

District 26

PS/IS 266 in Bellerose accepts children from across District 26 through a lottery and shares a campus with PS/IS 208 and the Queens High School of Teaching, Liberal Arts and the Sciences.

Some neighborhood schools in the district also sometimes accept students from outside the zone. PS 031 Bayside and PS 046 Alley Pond have had some room for a few students from outside the zone in recent years.

District 27

Goldie Maple Academy is open to students throughout District 27.

District 28

The Academy for Excellence through the Arts is a small, arts-focused early childhood school open to applicants from throughout the district. PS 80 Thurgood Marshall offers a gifted and talented program that is not part of the city's gifted program, and while most general education students are from the zone, the school does maintain a waiting list for a small number of out-of-zone children.

District 29

Four schools in District 29 accept students by lottery, three of them are K-8 schools and a fourth is an early childhood school. All are housed in attractive well-equipped buildings and are open district-wide: PS/IS 208, PS 251, PS/IS 268, and the Gordon Parks School.

District 30

While District 30 does not have any non-zoned schools, some neighborhood schools have accepted out-of-zone students over the past few years. Some strong schools with dual language programs accept a few students from outside the zone each year, including PS 166 Henry Gradstein, PS Q222 Fire Fighter Christopher A. Santora School, and PS 228 Early Childhood Magnet School of the Arts.

Published in News and views
Tuesday, 26 February 2013 10:13

Ask Judy: Opting out of kindergarten

Dear Judy,

I am very concerned about the the direction that kindergarten is going. When will people realize these are babies, who deserve to play and learn at their own pace, mostly out and about in the world? Five year olds should not be taught material that's intended for 6-year-old brains, developmentally. Five year olds should not be asked to sit doing worksheets for hours a day, but that's what most teachers are doing now. Must I send my child to kindergarten? I would prefer to keep her away from all formal schooling until she is 6 or 7 (like the kids in Finland) but I am afraid I would be breaking the law.
Kg concerned

Dear Kg concerned,

The last time I explored this with DOE staffers, I was assured that the object of the law was not to "go after" the parents who do not send their child to kindergarten. Their concern is for the kids who were not let into crowded schools because kindergarten was not required. You may keep her out of kindergarten but you must enroll her for 1st grade (unless you decide to homeschool -- more on how to do that below.)

Published in News and views

As my eldest son prepares to enter kindergarten this fall, I can think of little else. I’ve entered charter school lotteries, toured our zoned school and the just-out-of-zone schools that we could get bumped to if ours fills up. Anyone I talk to who has a child or even knows a child is sure to hear about my worries: Is Noodle ready for the chaos of our local progressive elementary school? Would team-teaching or gen ed be the better choice? Would the structure of a Success Academy be helpful or would Eva Moskowitz beat all the creativity out of him with her much-vaunted four-inch heels? So the other day when my husband off-handedly asked, “You signed up for kindergarten, right?” I had to shuffle my feet like a nervous preschooler. “Um, no. Not yet.”

I have four days until the DOE application deadline. Considering that I’m the kind of person who has been known to RSVP to parties after they’re over, four days feels like an eternity. Still, I know I’m playing with matches. If something goes wrong and I can't register, Noodle becomes a pawn of the DOE, placed wherever there’s an empty seat. I’ve come close to applying. I really have. But things keep getting in the way. Doctor appointments, school tours and writing are just a few of my excuses.

Just scrambling to find all the paperwork to prove that I live where I say I live has been surprisingly difficult. Who gets Con Ed bills in the mail anymore? Pay stubs on paper? Please. After weeks of killing trees and commiserating with other moms, I finally have my packet ready: birth certificate, a copy of our lease, my husband’s W2, and a not-so-nice letter from the IRS that, though embarrassing, has our address on it. So what’s holding me back?

Quite simply, I’m just not excited. What should be a wondrous rite of passage for my son has become a subject of anxiety and compromised ideals. At the very mention of the word “kindergarten” I let out a large sigh, feel my blood pressure rise and launch into an increasingly well-rehearsed rant. In my quest to ensure that Noodle’s kindergarten experience is perfect, I’ve already made it unbearable.

Published in News and views
Tuesday, 26 February 2013 13:49

Apply now for K: Our Brooklyn & SI picks

Parents should submit applications for kindergarten by March 1, particularly if they want to explore options outside their zoned neighborhood school. You may apply directly to as many schools as you like: be sure to bring your child's birth certificate and proof of address. You'll find out in April if your child has a seat.

In most cases, you are guaranteed a seat in your zoned neighborhood school--whether you apply now or later in the spring or summer. But if you want to consider all your options (or if your neighborhood school is so crowded that it has a waitlist) now is the time to get started.

We've researched some neighborhood schools that may have room for children outside the zone, dual language programs and unzoned schools that select via lottery in Brooklyn and Staten Island, the city's largest and smallest boroughs. The city's new elementary school directory is another useful source of information. We'll offer another post on charter school options next month.

District 13: Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, part of Park Slope & Brooklyn Heights

Arts and Letters in Fort Greene is a highly sought after school that holds a lottery for kindergarten admissions. PS 133, a small school in lower Park Slope which was displaced for several years, is moving into a new building in September. It is now unzoned and serves both districts 13 and 15. It offers dual language programs in French and Spanish. PS 11 and PS 20 in Clinton Hill usually have space for out of zone children, even though PS 20 may not let you know until suimmer.  PS 9 in Prospect Heights has a dual language program that takes native Spanish speakers from out of zone. PS 307 offers the only Mandarin Chinese dual language program in the district. PS 282 in Park Slope is a traditional K-8 school that is a top pick for many out-of-zone parents.

Published in News and views
Thursday, 21 February 2013 11:40

College Counselor: Figuring out financial aid

Q: We live in a rental apartment in NYC, and own a home in another state. We had to move to New York for work. We rent the house that's out of state and the income helps to pay for our rent here. We fear that colleges will see the house we own as an investment property or vacation home rather than as a primary residence, which is usually exempt from financial aid calculations. Should we sell the home or take other measures to improve our financial aid standing?

A: College admission does not mean simply being admitted – it also means significant financial commitment. Yours is a complicated question, and actually one that is outside my area of expertise, as I am concerned with the academic aspects of admission. Still, I can point you in the right direction, as well as address the general issue of where to go for college-related financial advice.

But first -- and this is for everyone planning to apply for financial aid – file your FAFSA now, if you have not already done so. The acronym stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It costs nothing to file this form. If you get anything in the mail or see anything on the Internet that charges you for financial aid information, toss or delete! This information is free. An important thing for all parents to remember is this: if a website ends in .gov or .org or .edu the information is free; if a website ends in .com there is cost involved. For FAFSA information, go to the government website: www.fafsa.ed.gov.  Another good source: Insideschools and the Center for NYC Affairs published a FAFSA guide. Here's the link.

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