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by Clara Hemphill and Nicole Mader

In multi-ethnic New York City, why are so many elementary schools segregated by race and class? For years, school officials and researchers have assumed that school segregation merely reflects segregated housing patterns—because most children attend their zoned neighborhood schools.

However, new research by The New School's Center for New York City Affairs demonstrates that school segregation is not always the result of housing patterns. In fact, as these interactive maps show, there are dozens of high-poverty elementary schools that serve mostly black and Latino children that are located in far more racially and economically mixed neighborhoods.

In Harlem, for example, the estimated household income of children enrolled at PS 125 is barely half that of all the households in the school zone, based on median household income estimates from the most recent American Community Survey by the U.S. Census. PS 125's pupils are 84 percent black and Latino; the proportion of black and Latino people living in the school's attendance zone is just 37 percent.

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If your child was born in 2011, it's time to be thinking about kindergarten for 2016. You may apply online, on the phone or in person at a Department of Education Family Welcome Center between Dec. 7-Jan. 15. 

If you're wondering where to start, Insideschools can help. We're offering a workshop for parents of rising kindergartners.

Join Clara Hemphill and the staff of Insideschools as we help you navigate the kindergarten admissions process.

We'll tackle these questions and more:

  • What should I look for in a school?
  • What's the difference between progressive vs. traditional?
  • How do I know if the school is right for my child?
  • What if my local school doesn't offer tours and open houses?
  • What about gifted programs, charters and other options?
  • My child has special needs. What do I need to know?

We'll offer a short presentation and then open it up for a Q&A session to answer all your questions.

Register here! The workshop will be held at The New School in Manhattan.

Se habla español. Spanish translation will be available.

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A multiracial group of parents in Harlem is working to reinvent their neighborhood school — with none of the rancor that has pitted newcomers and longtime residents against one another in other parts of the city. If you want to see the school for yourself, go to an open house Wednesday, Nov. 25, at 9 am, at 425 W. 123rd Street.

The work by Black, Latino, Asian and White parents at PS 125 shows that integration is possible — and that parents working together can improve a school, even in a district with few good options. Insideschools spoke to three parents about the changes at their school.

“For a long time, it was all Black children here — nothing else,” said Kim Clinton, whose grandson is in the 2nd grade and whose children attended the school. “Then all of a sudden, the whole neighborhood is changing. We have White neighbors, we have Chinese, Japanese. I like it! It’s good to know about other people, other cultures.”

PS 125 has long had a popular pre-kindergarten program, but many parents chose other schools for kindergarten. That’s partly because the upper grades had a traditional approach to education, not the play-based or child-centered approach that many parents said they wanted. “There were so many parents looking for a progressive choice, but one didn’t exist in the district,” said Daiyu Suzuki the father of a 1st- and 3rd-grader.

“I remember parents would get together in the park and talk about ‘Where do we go?’’’ said Tomoi Zeimer, mother of a kindergartner. “Either it’s a super-expensive private school or a really low-rated public school. We thought, ‘Is there a way that we can go into a school and make it better?’”  

Over the past two years, parents lobbied the principal and superintendent to adopt a more progressive approach to teaching. The principal, Reginald Higgins, agreed, and enlisted Julie Zuckerman, the principal of Castle Bridge School in Washington Heights, to serve as a mentor. Higgins worked with Borough of Manhattan Community College to help revise curriculum and coach teachers. The new approaches seem to be working, and this year more pre-k parents opted to stay for kindergarten. Enrollment is inching up, from 193 in 2013–14 to 230 this fall.

The parents have succeeded in getting kids more access to the gym, and have reclaimed a community garden near the school. They are working to raise money to build a new library.  

“We haven’t seen a final product yet,” said Suzuki. “We’re a community in the making.”

“We have so many different people from different backgrounds. It’s nice to hear from the other side and try something different for a change,” said Clinton.

“You know, when we work on something together it becomes a really nice community,” said Zeimer.

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Kindergarten application season will soon be in full swing—just around the time you’ve digested the last of your leftover stuffing. All families with a child born in 2011 should apply between Dec. 7-Jan. 15, 2016. For most families, this means scheduling tours, pouring through Insideschools reviews and playing with elementary rankings like a fantasy football fanatic.

For families of kids with special needs, there are often more subtle, challenging considerations: What supports can my zoned school offer my child? Does the school welcome children with learning differences? Is the school accessible? Does my child need an aide, an integrated classroom or something more?

Children already receiving special services will be making the transition from pre-school special education services to the Committee on Special Education, and it’s not always as simple as it sounds. Many of the supports a child might have received in preschool shift as she enters kindergarten, and academic demands are often higher. Others may be entering the world of special education in New York City schools for the very first time.

To help make sense of the transition and answer any questions parents may have, the Department of Education has begun hosting information sessions specifically targeted to families of children with special needs who will be applying to kindergarten this year. Workshops in the Bronx were held earlier this month, but more workshops are coming up in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island. The same information will be covered at every one.

Brooklyn

Date Time Location Contact
Wednesday, Nov. 18 6–8 pm

PS 264 Bay Ridge Elem. School for the Arts 371 89th Street Brooklyn, NY 11209

CSE #7, Brooklyn (718) 759-4900

Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015

9:30–11:30 am

P.S. 190 Sheffield 590 Sheffield Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11207

CSE #5, (718) 240-3557

Manhattan

Date Time Location Contact

Friday, Nov. 20

9:30– 11:30 am

CUNY Graduate Center 365 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10016

(212) 374-6085

Queens

Date Time Location Contact

Monday, Dec. 7

9:30–11:30 am

P.S. 69 Jackson Heights 77-02 37th Avenue Queens, NY 11372

CSE #4 (718) 391-8405

Monday, Dec. 7

6 – 8 pm

Committee on Special Education (CSE) #3, 90-27 Sutphin Blvd. Jamaica, NY 11435

CSE #3 Sutphin Office (718) 557-2553

Staten Island

Date Time Location Contact

Thursday, Dec. 10

9:30–11:30 am

The Michael J. Petrides School 715 Ocean Terrace, Building B Staten Island, NY 10301

CSE #7, Staten Island (718) 420-5790

Thursday, Dec. 10

6–8 pm

The Michael J. Petrides School 715 Ocean Terrace, Building B Staten Island, NY 10301

CSE #7, Staten Island (718) 420-5790

*All sites listed here are wheelchair accessible. Please call using the numbers listed if you are hearing impaired or need language interpretation services.

The DOE is also offering kindergarten info sessions for families in December. See the dates here.

And watch our video "Touring Schools for your Special Needs Child" below.

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The Department of Education is certainly keeping parents—and schools—on their toes this year: Families of children born in 2011 will apply to kindergarten between Dec. 7 and Jan. 15, with notifications set to come out in mid-March, a month earlier than last year.

The takeaway for parents is simple: Start your research now, and if you happen to be in the midst of middle school or high school applications season too … well, we don’t envy you. Earlier kindergarten applications means parents will have less time to read up on schools and visit them before ranking and submitting their options. (Note that this year’s week-and-a-half-long public school winter break comes in the midst of this.)

Otherwise, the Kindergarten Connect process will remain the same as the past few years. Families may apply online, over the phone, or in person at a Family Welcome Center with a single application. Parents can apply to up to 12 schools, ranking them in order of preference.

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If you’re thinking of applying to a gifted and talented program in New York City for your child currently in pre-k to 2nd grade, the time is now: The G&T application season is open and the sooner you sign up, the better your chances are of getting your preferred test date. 

The first step is submitting your RFT (request for testing) form either online or in person at your child’s current NYC public school or at a Family Welcome Center (if your child is a non-public school or charter student). All RFTs must be submitted by November 12. (The original deadline of November 9 was extended, the Department of Education announced on Nov. 5)

Here's an overview of gifted and talented programming, testing procedures and—as always—advice to help your family navigate the process.

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When I describe my personality as a parent, I like to say I'm half hippie, half Type-A. The way I approach summer is a prime example. I want my kids at one with nature, bare feet in the dirt and a Hudson River breeze in their hair, while organic popsicles melt on their faces. But, school is never far from my mind. I want my boys to have fun, but I don't want two months of unabashed play to undo all the hard work they accomplished this past year. During the course of 1st grade, Noodle jumped nine reading levels. Studies show that many kids regress over the summer if they don't read. My Type-A side cannot bear the thought. 

In June, when Noodle's teacher mentioned the New York Public Library's superhero-themed Summer Reading Challenge, I thought it sounded too good to be true, better suited for a docile child who likes to sit and color all day. "He'll never do it," I thought of my strong-willed, soccer-obsessed kid. Still, I decided to give it a shot. Turns out it was the best decision I ever made (in June, at least).

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By Amy Zimmer, DNAInfo.com 

The number of schools with kindergarten waitlists dropped by nearly 25 percent this year — but the overall number of students stuck on those lists at their zoned schools remained nearly the same, according to Department of Education figures released Tuesday.

There were 1,239 students placed on waitlists at 51 schools they were zoned for compared to 1,242 students placed on waitlists for 63 schools last year, DOE figures show.

It's a significant drop from two years ago, when there were more than 2,300 students on waitlists at 100 schools, according to school officials, who attributed the decline to increased outreach to pre-K families, raising awareness about available kindergarten options.

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The Department of Education is churning out the offers. Last Monday, families began receiving their G&T results, and a week later, kindergarten acceptances are in. This year, 67,907 students applied to kindergarten before the Feb. 13 deadline and more than 72 percent received their first choice, compared to 71 percent last year, according to the DOE. Another 12 percent received one of their top three choices. Families applied to up to 20 schools using an online application.

About 10 percent of applicants— 6,838 families—didn’t receive offers to any of the schools listed on their application. Some received offers to their zoned school, the DOE said, even though they didn't list it. In the three districts where there are no zoned schools, and in overcrowded areas where applicants were edged out of their zoned schools, students were offered slots in another district school.

Families must contact the school directly to make an appointment to pre-register by May 6. Pre-registering does not prevent families from receiving an offer at a school where they are waitlisted, applied for a gifted and talented program or entered a charter school lottery. Families will automatically remain on a waitlist for schools they listed higher on their application than the school to which they were matched.

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There were few surprises in today's release of the numbers of children who qualified for the city's elementary gifted and talented programs. Hundreds of kids qualified from Manhattan's districts 2 and 3, compared to only a dozen from District 7 in the South Bronx, according to statistics released Monday afternoon by the Department of Education. 

In total, 25 percent of the 36,413 test-takers entering kindergarten through 3rd grade were eligible for a district or citywide gifted program, just slightly below the 26 percent who were eligible last year. 

The number of incoming kindergartners who scored in the 99th percentile—the score usually necessary for a chance at entry into one of the five coveted citywide G&T schools—fell from 985 in 2014 to 689 in 2015. Children who score at or above the 90th percentile are eligible for a district G&T program; those who score between the 97 and 99th percentile are eligible for a citywide gifted school. But since there are only about 300 seats in the citywide programs, students who don't score in the top percentile have little chance of getting in.

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