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Stay focused, parents of kids born in 2013—the pre-kindergarten application season will be in full swing around the time of the U.S. presidential inauguration. For most families, this means scheduling tours, pouring through InsideSchools reviews and playing with up to 12 rankings like a fantasy football fanatic.

The application window is between January 17−February 24. All applications are considered equally no matter when they are submitted, so there's no benefit in rushing it.

For in-person help, join us at our free event on Wednesday, January 11th, at 9:30 am. Sign up here. For $20 you will receive our new book at the event, New York City's Best Public Pre-K and Elementary Schools.

Who may attend pre-k

Any child who turns 4 by Dec. 31, 2017 is entitled to attend pre-k in 2017 (a child with a fall birthday may start school in September when he is still 3). Most children attend pre-kindergarten 6 hours and 20 minutes a day, 180 days a year—the same schedule as older children.

What programs are available?

The city doesn't have room in its neighborhood schools for all the city's 4-year-olds. To create more seats, it contracts with child-care centers, private nursery schools, religious schools and community centers. In addition, the city has established freestanding "pre-k centers," which children attend for just one year. While some ordinary neighborhood schools have pre-kindergarten, the bulk of seats are in these other locations. Your child is guaranteed a seat somewhere but there is no guarantee you will get your first choice, or that your assignment will be close to home. No transportation is provided (except for children with special needs and those in temporary housing).

The city offers free directories of all the pre-k programs, updated annually. You may also find a school near your home by searching our website.  The Department of Education is offering pre-k info sessions in January, one night in each borough. See the schedule here: http://schools.nyc.gov/ChoicesEnrollment/PreK/events/default.htm.

How to apply to pre-k

You may apply online through the Department of Education website starting on Jan. 17; in person at a Family Welcome Center; or by telephone: (718) 935-2067. All families who submit by February 24 will get an offer letter in late April 2017 and must accept by early May.

There are many options out there all over the city. Check our profiles, which tell more. We've liked much of what we've seen, especially the new pre-k centers run by the DOE.

Good luck!

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Q: I have gotten accepted into two universities that I like: one is a prestigious private university, the other a prestigious state university. Both are highly ranked but the private university has the advantage in rankings. On the flip side, it is much more expensive and I can't gauge which one has a better science program. I'm torn as to which university I should choose. A college visit is off the table so I don't know what my options are to figure out which is better for me.

A: Choosing where to enroll is a very challenging proposition. You are to be congratulated on having such great options. I will ask you one question and then will give you my take.

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Happy 2017 parents of 4 and 5 year-olds! It's time to apply to school.

Kindergarten applications for children turning 5-years-old this year are due on Friday, Jan. 13. Pre-kindergarten applications for fall 2017 are due by Feb. 24. Let us help you get informed and ready. Sign up for our free Jan. 11 workshop here.

Join Clara Hemphill and the staff of InsideSchools as we release our new book, New York City's Best Public Pre-K and Elementary Schools. We'll highlight some undiscovered gems and walk you through the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten application process.

Published in News and views
Thursday, 08 December 2016 12:21

Child born in 2012? Apply to kindergarten now!

If you have a child who will turn five in 2017, now is the time to apply to kindergarten for the school year starting in September. Your child is guaranteed a seat regardless of when you enroll, but you'll have the best chance of getting into a school of your choice if you apply by Jan. 13.

If you want to learn more about your options, come to our kindergarten workshop Jan. 11, or buy our new book, New York City's Best Public Pre-K and Elementary Schools.

The city has kindergarten directories available online. Hard copies are available at local elementary schools and Family Welcome Centers.

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For nearly two decades, parents have looked to Clara Hemphill to help them find a good public school for their child. This Fourth Edition of "New York City's Best Public Pre-K and Elementary Schools A Parents' Guide" features all-new reviews of more than 150 of the city's best public elementary schools, based on visits and in-depth interviews by Hemphill and the InsideSchools staff.

This essential guide uncovers the "inside scoop" on schools (the condition of the building, special programs, teacher quality, and more), includes a checklist of things to look for on a school tour, and incorporates new listings of charter schools and stand-alone pre-kindergarten programs. It also provides the hard facts on:

  • Total school enrollment
  • Test scores for reading and math
  • Ethnic makeup
  • Who gets in?
  • Admissions requirements
  • Teaching methods and styles
  • Special education services
  • How to apply

The book is available now,  just in time for kindergarten and pre-kindergarten application season! You can look for it at your local bookstore or order online here. You'll get 20 percent off list price if you use the discount code TCP2017.

Published in News and views
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.

Published in News and views
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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