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By Judy Baum
My older son will be attending a private Manhattan high school in September, my middle son is 11 and my daughter 9. We are currently in a Nassau County school district but are considering making a move into Manhattan. What are the top ranked public schools in NYC ? Does moving into a specific school district guarantee that your child will be able to attend? Thanks for any input.
You will find many good schools in Manhattan and in the other four boroughs as well! Insideschools does not rank schools but you may use the Advanced Search feature in our Find a School section to see the schools we consider noteworthy. They are marked with a blue ribbon. If you want to see individual schools' test results and lots of other data, check out the accountability pages on the Department of Education's website.
As a rule, an elementary school child is guaranteed a seat in the school zoned to her residential address. In Manhattan, however, where in the last few years people have moved to a neighborhood specifically to be eligible for a good school and new construction has added even more families, this rule does not always hold. Right now, many kindergartens have waiting lists and if the schools become overcrowded, the district is responsible for finding a new seat for those who have been closed out.How this affects older children, such as your fourth grader, varies from school to school. If overcrowding did not hit until recently, the fourth grade is probably still open to registration for zoned students. When you have a potential address, call 311 to learn which school is assigned to it. Check with the school, and with the local enrollment office, to find out if the school enrollment has been capped. If so, ask if there is a specific alternative for zoned students.
Admission to middle school varies depending on the district. Many districts have no zoned schools. Instead they have a choice process that allows students to apply to an array of middle schools. In Manhattan's districts 1, 3, and 4, there are no “zoned” schools to fall back on. Competition can be fierce for the top schools. In District 2, you have zoned schools as well as schools of choice.
You can access middle school directories at the DOE's website, where you can also find statistics for individual schools. Take a look at New York City’s Best Public Middle Schools by Clara Hemphill and the Insideschools staff. Use Insideschools.org to call up a list of noteworthy middle and secondary (6-12) schools by district and neighborhood. Keep in mind that the application process takes place during the year before entrance, so if you are moving in September, you will have much less choice. In late August, to accommodate newcomers, the Department of Education sets up special enrollment centers. The dates have not yet been set for this summer.
My advice? Start your school real estate search now. By August you’ll be prepared and your kids will be settled in school by September.
Are there other readers out there who have recently moved to New York City and done a school search? Please share your advice in comments below!
We are unexpectedly spending the summer in the city. Without plans, we are wondering what we can do with the kids while school is out.
Hot and Bothered.
Dear Hot and Bothered,
No need to be flustered by the prospect of summer in the city. New York City is filled with free and fun summer activities, most of them located in institutions we take for granted like parks, libraries, and museums. You'll be surprised by the scope and variety of free and low cost activities you will find, even though, unfortunately some may be cut back because of budget cuts.
Start with the city parks. They offer day camps, sports instruction, swimming lessons, crafts, and don't forget the open fields and playgrounds. Some playgrounds are located in schoolyards so chances are there is a one in your neighborhood. Altogether here are more than 1700 parks, recreation centers, swimming pools, beaches, and other outdoor sites in all five boroughs. Your kids can indulge their passions, from tree planting to kayaking and as a family you can even camp out overnight! Another source of activities is the City Parks Foundation. It sponsors a host of environmental workshops and sports activities over the summer.
For free kayaking, call 212-627-2020 (Hudson River Park); to find out about free swimming lessons at a pool near you, call 718-760-6969. For free tennis lessons offered by NY Junior Tennis League, call 718-786-7110, extension 8126. For free golf and track and field lessons, call 718-760-6999. There will be free outdoor movies for kids at Pier 46 in Manhattan near Christopher Street -- call 212-627-2020.
Next, consider the libraries. Branch libraries all over the city hold story hours, arts and crafts sessions and other activities, and of course, summer reading programs. Get your kids library cards and let them check out an armful of books. There are three library systems in the city: New York Public Library with branches in Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island; Brooklyn Public Library and the Queens Library. Sign up for Ready, Set, Read! programs here.
Need more structured time? Y's and community centers run day camps at very low cost, many with scholarship opportunities. Most do not require you book for the whole summer, so although it is late for registration, there are probably openings for a week or two during the summer.
You can find links to community centers at the Department of Youth and Community Development which lists agencies that, in conjunction with the Department of Education, provide Out of School Time (OST) programs for school kids.
If you are free to roam the city with your kids, city museums are endlessly fascinating: Check out the Hall of Science in Queens, the American Museum of Natural History, the Brooklyn Children's Museum, the Children's Museum of Manhattan. Children's Museum of the Arts, Staten Island Children's Museum These and other museums are not free (some may offer free days) but as a once a week excursion, the admission is a drop in the bucket compared to fees you pay at private programs or day camps. Here's a list of free or pay as you wish museums.
City sightseeing high spots such as the Statue of Liberty, South Street Seaport, Bronx Zoo, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Bronx Botanical Garden, are also kid-friendly destinations. And check out NYCGO for a comprehensive list of things to do and see in NYC.
The Department of Education is calling on this year's high school graduates to subscribe to a website, launched today in partnership with its fund-raising arm, The Fund for Public Schools. In his weekly letter to principals, Chancellor Klein said the website is a way to "help us stay in touch with our students as they graduate from high school" .
An announcement on the DOE website bills it as an effort "... to build a community of NYC public school alumni who can help make our schools stronger for generations to come." It goes on to invite non-graduates to participate as well: "if you are not an NYC public school alum but are interested in getting involved with the city's schools, please sign up too!
Perks for graduating seniors who sign up, entering their contact information along with the schools they attended, include a discount coupon and a chance to win a $200 gift certificate to Modells sporting goods store. The first school that signs up 75 students, will win $1500 in Staples supplies.
DOE Spokesperson Matt Mittenthal said the website is an attempt to build a database to keep in touch with alumni. The DOE is asking schools to encourage their high school seniors to sign up before schools close for summer vacation at www.nycgrads.org.
Beyond soliciting support for city schools, it's unclear whether the database could be used as a way to track graduates progress post -high school, as a networking tool to organize alumni associations, or for other purposes.
Are you eagerly awaiting your child's standardized test scores? If so you'll have to wait a few more months. The New York State Board of Regents postponed the release of grades 3-8 math and reading scores until sometime in August. The delay in the release of the scores, which are generally included with students' year-end report cards, was recommended by State Education Commissioner David Steiner.
"The additional time spent in a thorough analysis of the assessments this year will provide more accurate information about student progress in July and in future test cycles," said Steiner in a statement last month.
Although parents will not see the results before the end of the term, New York City Department of Education spokesperson Danny Kanner said the city is working with the state to get "promotional cut scores," to principals in June so they can make crucial decisions about promotion and summer school. The State Education Department's announcement reports that scores will be released the week of July 24, but Kanner said the release of results has actually been postponed until August.
According to the state, the assessments "were revised this year to cover more content and to be less predictable." Results from these tests, taken in late April and early May, were originally scheduled to be returned to schools by June 24. See more about the decision and proposed study on the New York State Education Department website
My son was told by his principal that he cannot attend his middle school graduation. Now I know that he has had problems but he has enough credits to graduate and he has a placement in a high school. So why can't he go to the graduation?
Dear Distressed mother:
The Department of Education has a policy about excluding kids from graduation ceremonies. According to the DOE, a student has to "pose a real threat of violence or disruption to the event," or have a history of particularly bad conduct (they use the term "egregious") before he can be banned from the proceedings. A suspended student may be also be denied attendance at the ceremony. Likewise a student may be prohibited from attending the school prom for the same reasons. But before prohibiting a student from attending, the school must specify to you which events led to this decision.
The DOE policy states that parents must be given proper notification and the opportunity to discuss the reasons that the school is taking such a drastic measure. It is good that the principal let your son know in advance of this punishment, but you should ask for a letter stating the events that led up to it.
Keep in mind that the principal has some flexibility in this decision and that is where you come in. If your son has improved his conduct, or there is no reason to expect him to be a threat, you should get some teachers to stand up for him with personal testimonies or letters. But there is no absolute requirement for "due process," so don't threaten to sue - work with the principal to get your desired result.
By the way, the school should publish a clear policy about graduation requirements and possible denial of attendance based on behavior. Look for it in the student handbook.
Below is a message sent by the chancellor to school principals last month with guidelines about these prohibitions:
"You may prohibit a student from attending a prom or graduation ceremony when he or she poses a real threat of violence or disruption to the event. It may also be possible to bar a student from a prom or graduation when his or her conduct has been particularly egregious, and where the student has previously been advised in writing. For example, students who vandalized school buses have been excluded from their graduation ceremony where they previously had been put on notice that such misconduct could result in the exclusion. Students who are already on suspension at the time of the prom or graduation also may be prohibited from attending these events, but the exclusion must be proportionate to the infraction committed.
In considering whether to exclude students from such one-time events, you should consider whether the punishment would further your school's educational goals. As with all other disciplinary actions, adverse treatment may not be predicated upon generalizations or vague standards. For example, basing eligibility on "satisfactory attendance" or "good citizenship" is too vague. Instead, exclusion from events must arise from specific, identifiable incidents. "
Still have questions? You can call the Office of Family Engagement and Advocacy at 212-374-2323
I'm trying to understand what is different or special about the G&T curriculum. Is it a certain approach? A special methodology or philosophy? Or, is it the same old material taught to kids who tested higher? There doesn't seem to be any information on the DOE website about the substance of G&T programs- just how one applies and where they exist. How do we know if they are better than alternative/charter options, for example? Thanks!
It is hard to pin down exactly what to expect when your child enters a gifted and talented school or program. Basically, all the kids in a G&T class have achieved high scores on the identifying test. Since 2007, students are identified as eligible for G&T programs based upon their weighted, combined scores on the Otis-Lennon School abilities test (75%) and the Bracken School Readiness Test (25%)
Having met the qualifying score of 90% or above, your child is placed with a whole class of kids who tested similarly and whose readiness for school is considered more advanced than the average learner. Qualifying children are supposed to be offered a curriculum consistent with the New York State Education Department's definition of gifted and talented students, who are those showing high performance, capability, and exceptional potential. Please note that no provision for the talent part of the G&T label (visual or performance) is made until middle school, when auditions and portfolios are used for assessment.
To bolster specialized curriculum, the state education department has additional certification requirements for teachers of gifted programs, although some long-time teachers of G&T have been granted status based on experience alone.
Here is what the New York City Department of Education has to say about gifted curriculum: "Curriculum for gifted and talented students should provide a variety of learning experiences that challenge, engage, allow for choice, are self-directed, literature-based, problem-based and that are connected and integrated in meaningful ways."
To me that sounds like the definition of a good approach to education for any level of learner. The big difference between G&T and heterogeneous classes is in the pace of lessons and the level of skill individual kids bring to them. With a whole class of quick learners, more material can be covered and more dimensions of learning can be accommodated.
All parents can check out the DOE Great Expectations brochures and the state education department learning standards. How well has your child's class met and exceeded these "what I learned in school today" measures?
Meanwhile, good luck to your fast learner!
We're considering moving to get into a better school zone for my son to attend a public kindergarten program in Fall 2011. By when do we have to move to establish residency for the Department of Education?
Dear Mobile Mom:
It's best to live at the new address for at least two months before the application process begins (this year, it began in February). That way, you should have all the requisite paperwork to provide the necessary proofs of residence. You will want to use the new address on the kindergarten application since changes in address during the process can lead to foul-ups.
Theoretically, you can apply to any school, anywhere in the city - hence the application process. But if your choice is not in your zone and is also very popular, it is unlikely your child will be accepted. Children do have more than a theoretical chance -- even a right -- to attend their zoned school unless it too overcrowded to accept all zoned kids. Before moving to a specific school zone, check out the possibility of being "capped" out of the school and sent to another in the district. This spring there is an extensive waitlist at popular schools, with decisions about who will attend being decided by lottery in some cases.
Assuming the school you moved for has no such overcrowding problems, you still have to show that you live in the zone and that your residence gives you priority rights. Because many parents try to "game" the system by using false addresses to qualify for a popular school out of their zone, the DOE has mandated some rigorous proofs and may even investigate to ensure that a child does live where a parent claims he does.
You have to produce two proofs of residence at registration time, at least one of which must be dated within60 days of the registration. That means, you must be in residence long enough to have received a utility bill, or a letter from a government agency addressed to you. Another option is an original lease agreement, deed, or mortgage statement for the residence.
That said, if you do move at the last minute before registration, or you are a newcomer to the city, you can substitute a letter from the landlord or coop/condo manager attesting to your living there. In that case, an investigation might ensue, with the school officials questioning the doorman or janitor or other residents, to find out if you and your child are known to be living there.
Check out the Department of Education's admissions page for their detailed enrollment information, including other documents you must present and who gets priority in admissions.
I have a young teenager and I am trying to find something to keep her busy for this summer. She has her working papers but since it is hard to find a job, do you have suggestions on where to look for a job or for summer work as a volunteer?
Alas, it is difficult to find a paying job in the current economy, but kids as young as 14 are welcome to compete for jobs through the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development, (DYCD) which administers the Summer Youth Employment program, for 14-26 year olds. This year the deadline for applying for a summer youth employment job is May 21. Your daughter can apply online.
Participants work for $7.25 per hour in a variety of entry-level jobs at government agencies, hospitals, summer camps, nonprofits, small businesses, law firms, museums, sports enterprises, and retail organizations. Jobs are filled by lottery, since there are more applicants than positions available, however the agency also provides a helpful list of Summer Youth Alternatives . On that list are links to employment websites, possible internships, mentoring programs, and more. It's a good jumping-off place for your daughter's search!
Volunteer opportunities often provide the experience and contacts needed to land a job for the next summer. DYCD's program Youth Connect has lists and links to steer you to volunteering. You can find lists of agencies that run free summer camps for younger children which may welcome volunteer help. Your daughter can be an unpaid counselor's helper and have some fun too. Call 1-800 246-4646 to find out more. Youth Connect also lists Out of School Time programs, run by just the sort of agencies that welcome teen volunteers. Other good online sources for volunteering are Servnet.org and New York Cares.
Check out day care centers in your neighborhood. Often they need volunteers to help out and to fill in for staff on vacation. Contact New York City Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) Consortium at (888) 469-5999 for a list of centers in your area or call 212-941-0920 ext146. Other places that can use teen volunteers include the New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, Queens Borough Public Library, nursing homes, and hospitals.
If earning some money is crucial, your daughter can try visiting neighborhood stores that have "help wanted" signs posted in the window, although that is a long shot. But don't forget babysitting! That's the tried and true way that young teens have earned money through the years.
Finally, check out Insideschools listing of Free Programs. It may be too late to take advantage of programs this year, but you can plan ahead so you won't miss the deadline for next. Good luck!
Forums to meet the candidates for the new citywide council for English language learners (CCELL) and the newly reconstituted special education council (CCSE) are underway. Forums in Staten Island and Queens were held this week; still to come are those for Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx.
In Brooklyn you may meet the candidates at the Brooklyn Public Library, 10 Grand Army Plaza on April 19, In Manhattan, the forum is at Norman Thomas HS, 111 East 33 Street on April 21, and in The Bronx, the forum is at at Dewitt Clinton High School, 100 West Mosholu Parkway South, on April 22. All meetings begin at 5 pm for the ELL council candidates, and at 6:30 p.m. for the special ed council.
Since they were announced earlier this year, the new Citywide Education Councils have attracted little attention, either by potential candidates or parents. After the forums, there will be an advisory election by the city's parents meant to instruct Parents Association officers who do the actual selection.
With new eligibility requirements, the district community councils all have vacancies to fill as well. Click here to see more information on the DOE's website.
Did you attend a forum in Queens or Staten Island to learn about candidates for the new citywide councils? Do you plan to attend one in Brooklyn, Manhattan or the Bronx, next week?
Let us know if there was a good turnout, what issues were on the mind of candidates, or if the whole affair was an empty exercise.
The City and the United Federation of Teachers (UFT ) the union representing the New York City's more than 80.000 members, reached an agreement today to close the city's notorious Rubber Rooms, where teachers awaiting disposition of charges against them languish while the system stalls. Under the agreement, the teachers will now be assigned to clerical duty, either in central offices or schools.
The new agreement includes other key changes:
- More arbitrators hired to expedite the hearing process, which now can take years to play out.
- Formal charges of misconduct must be made within 60 days, or teachers will return to classrooms.
- Formal charges of incompetence must be made within 10 days.
The city has agreed to clear up backlogged cases by the end of the year.
Teachers in rubber rooms receive full salary while waiting for their case to come to a hearing. Assigning accused teachers to work in offices is a return to former practice where they were usually assigned to district offices to perform non-teaching assignments.
For details, see the Department of Education website.
And let us know what you think of the plan in comments below. Do you know any teachers who have been spending time in rubber rooms?