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Wednesday, 16 April 2014 16:23

Our pre-k picks for Brooklyn

Brooklyn is the city's largest borough and the one with most schools. Pre-kindergarten choices are as varied as the borough. In some areas of brownstone Brooklyn, pre-k programs don't meet the demand. Even parents who list 12 schools on their application will be disappointed. In other areas—such as Fort Greene or Bedford Stuyvesant—parents have more options.

Don't be afraid to look at historically low-performing schools: in some cases pre-kindergarten programs are excellent and expanding, even if the school as a whole has a long way to go. Further out in Brooklyn, half-day programs can be the norm, especially in Districts 21 and 22. We haven't found much to recommend in central Brooklyn, where school environment surveys reflect a discontent with the tone of the buildings. We advise you to take a look and let us know what you find.

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Tuesday, 08 April 2014 15:17

Manhattan schools join anti-test protests

(This story first appeared on DNAInfo.com

More than 30 public elementary schools — including TriBeCa's top-ranked P.S. 234 and the Upper East Side's P.S. 59 — are set to participate in protests Friday to blast the state's standardized English exams.

The planned protests by schools in Manhattan's District 2 — which also includes Greenwich Village and Chelsea — are part of a growing anti-testing movement in some of the city's most esteemed public schools. Last week, a protest at Park Slope's P.S. 321 drew hundreds of teachers, parents and students who complained about age-inappropriate content and poorly explained multiple-choice questions that seemed to have no one right answer.

Now, the 31 Manhattan elementary schools are planning an even bigger demonstration at each of their schools Friday morning, to demand that the exams be released to the public as soon as they have been graded.

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Nearly one-third of the 14,600 rising kindergartners who sat for Gifted & Talented assessments in January and February found out today that they qualified for one of the city's district or citywide G&T programs. That's  about six percent fewer than qualified in 2013, according to Department of Education data released Friday afternoon. The number of children who scored in the 99th percentile--the score usually necessary for a chance at entry into one of the five coveted citywide G&T--programs also fell, from more than 1,450 last year to about 950 this year.

Even with the lower number of qualifiers, there are still three times as many top-scoring tykes than there are seats in the five most selective citywide programs which have only about 300 seats for incoming kindergartners. Further decreasing the odds of entry, qualifying siblings of current students get first dibs at those seats.

The gap in student performance between richest and poorest districts remains wide but there were gains in Harlem and Washington Heights. In Districts 4 (East Harlem), 5 (Harlem) and 6 (Washington Heights and Inwood) nearly twice as many students scored in the top percentile than did last year.

Parents were notified of their child's score today along with an application listing their progam options. Families who do not get their results by Monday, April 7, should call the DOE at 718-935-2009. Families have until April 21 to apply one of the gifted programs, but since schools are closed for spring vacation from April 14-22, parents have only next week to visit schools.  A list of open houses is posted on the DOE's website here. Letters of acceptance for regular, non-gifted, kindergarten programs will be sent during the spring break. G&T applicants won't find out until May 26 if they have been offered a spot.

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Wednesday, 02 April 2014 12:55

City creates 4,200 new full-day pre-k seats

Some highly sought-after schools that lacked pre-kindergarten programs will now have them. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced today the city will add more than 4,200 new full-day pre-k seats at 140 public schools in September, thanks to $300 million in funding from the state that was approved over the weekend.

There are three new programs in popular midtown Manhattan schools: Midtown West, PS 116 and PS 40. In Chinatown, PS 130 is offering a full day instead of a half-day program, and PS 124 will house three classes. In Brooklyn's District 15, the new Maurice Sendak Community School will have 66 seats, up from the 30 originally planned. PS 15 in Red Hook is offering 84 slots. PS 20 in Fort Greene will have two classes, instead of one.

In the Bronx, perennially popular Bronx New School will offer two full-day classes, not one and PS 23 in Fordham will have 48 seats. In Queens, new programs will open at PS 290 in Maspeth and PS 63 in Ozone Park and at two new schools that will open in the fall, PS 343 in Corona and PS 316 in South Ozone Park. PS 175 in Rego Park will also offer three classes. In Staten Island, 15 schools have either created new programs, added additional seats or are expanding half-day programs to full-day.

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Amid the debate surrounding charter schools in the city, 15 new charter schools will be opening in the fall, adding to the 183 already operating in New York City. The majority of the new schools are part of established charter networks, including Success Academy, Achievement First and Ascend Schools. A few of the new schools are independent “mom and pop” charters that aren’t part of a larger network.

Applications for most charter schools are due by April 1 with admissions lotteries held in early April. Parents may submit applications to multiple schools at once using the online Common Charter School Application on the New York City Charter School Center website. Parents should also contact the schools that they wish to apply to directly to make sure that they understand all the application requirements. Admissions to charter schools is determined by lottery, giving priority to residents of the district where the school is located. Some charters have additional admissions priorities.

In a charter's first year, there is frequently space for out-of-district students, as some families are reluctant to take a chance on a school until it has a track record. All charter schools keep waitlists so even if you miss the application deadline, if you are interested in a school it's worth asking to be put on the waitlist.

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Friday, 21 February 2014 16:17

68,000 families apply to kindergarten

Some 68,000 parents of children born in 2009 used the new Kindergarten Connect system between Jan. 13 and Feb. 20 to apply to kindergarten for fall 2014, the Department of Education announced on Friday afternoon. This year approximately 74,000 five-year-olds are enrolled in kindergarten.

Of those applicants, 70 percent submitted online applications, 17 percent applied over the phone and 13 percent went in person to an enrollment office.

Nearly one-fourth of the phone applicants used a translation service for 10 different languages. That was the only way for non-English-speakers to apply because online applications were only in English. Earlier this month, DNAInfo reported that some non-English-speaking parents -- and those without emails or computers -- were finding it difficult to access the system. The DOE pushed back the application deadline by nearly a week to allow more time for families to apply.

Families who missed applying online may still apply in person at an enrollment center or by calling 718-935-2009. They will get their offers in May, a month later than earlier applicants.

Charter schools have a different application and timeline. You can apply online using a common application or each's charter school's application. Those are not due until April 1.

Read the DOE's press release here.

 

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Wednesday, 12 February 2014 15:15

DOE extends Kindergarten Connect deadline

With the Friday, Feb. 14 deadline looming for parents of kids born in 2009 to apply online to kindergarten, the Department of Education extended the Kindergarten Connect deadline to the following Thursday, Feb. 20.

The decision to give parents additional time to register was announced Feb. 12 by schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. 

In a press release, the DOE said that the new Kindergarten Connect application process has been "hugely successful: 85 percent of parents responding to our application survey have described the process as easy or very easy." 

But the new application system has its detractors -- particularly for families who don't speak English or don't have computers or email addresses. In a report earlier this week, DNAInfo.com wrote about problems some parents are having accessing and understanding Kindergarten Connect. ""The DOE has tried to make [the process] more equitable, but actually it's isolated the families who can't keep up with all of this," Upper West Side parent Jennifer Friedman, told DNAInfo.

While parents have almost a whole week more to consider their options and fill out an application, what they won't have is more time to tour schools. All schools will be on break next week for President's Week.

How can you find out about schools? Read the profiles on Insideschools and check out our new InsideStats data on every elementary school page. Be sure to read the school comments. Our Q&A about applying is here. The DOE has directories for each borough, listing every school. Check it out online or pick one up at an enrollment office.

Enrollment offices will be open to receive kinderggarten applications from 8 am to 3 pm, Monday through Friday. Or call 718-935-2400. (Make sure you know the list of schools you wish to apply to before you call.) Apply online here.

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Friday, Feb. 14 is the last day for parents of incoming kindergartners to apply to schools online via Kindergarten Connect. But parents who don't speak English, or don't have an email address, are finding it hard to connect, DNAInfo found.

(This story first appeared on DNAInfo.com; by Amy Zimmer and Gustavo Solis)

Maribel Vega doesn't own a computer, has no email address and speaks only Spanish — all of which made it extremely difficult to sign up her 5-year-old daughter, Ashley, for kindergarten this year.

That's because in order to use the city's Kindergarten Connect system, which went live in January and has open enrollment through Feb. 14, Vega needed to be digitally savvy, and be able to read and fill out an English-only application. Thankfully for her, she found workers at the Upper West Side's Bloomingdale Family Head Start Program to help walk her through every step of the process.

"They helped with everything," said Vega, 25, who moved to the Bronx from Mexico six years ago. "I don't know where we would have found another computer to use.

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Thursday, 06 February 2014 09:30

InsideStats give lowdown on K-5 schools

If you're looking for an elementary school for your child, you want to know: Do most parents and teachers recommend the school? Is it welcoming? How many students are in a kindergarten class? Is the atmosphere calm or rowdy? How do children do on standardized tests?

Now, just in time for the Feb.14 deadline to apply to kindergarten, we've got the answers to those questions for 735 public elementary schools, including charters. Our new feature, called Insidestats, presents easy-to-read data on elementary schools on each school's profile page. For example, you can see that at popular PS 321 in Park Slope, 97 percent of the teachers think the principal is a good manager.
 
Data is drawn from the Department of Education's parent and teacher surveys as well as the results of standardized tests and other DOE statistics. (We'll have stats for schools with grades K-8 posted soon!) The new feature is similar to Insidestats for high schools and middle schools, but for elementary schools, we include information about what parents think of the school. 

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Monday, 03 February 2014 11:50

Applying to kindergarten? Here's how!

Two weeks into the city's new online application system for children entering kindergarten in September, there is some confusion about how it works. We don't have all the answers to parents' questions, but here's what we know so far. 

Q: My child is turning five years old in 2014. How do I sign him up for school? 

This year the city began a new kindergarten application system called Kindergarten Connect. Between Jan. 13 and Feb. 14 you may apply online, by telephone at 718-935-2400 from 8 am to 6 pm Monday-Friday or in person at a Department of Education enrollment office. There is one application and you may list up to 20 schools.

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