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It seems like every day I read another account of persistent segregation in public schools. They point to one conclusion: No political system or bureaucrat is going to integrate our schools for us. In the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, the Bed-Stuy Parents Committee did not necessarily start out to solve that particular problem. Rather, beginning last year, a group of new parents simply got together to talk about what we perceived as a lack of acceptable public school options in our neighborhood. We started off angry about the state of our neighborhood schools, and we came to realize that we are just as responsible for them as anyone.
Our district—District 16—had the reputation of being one of the city's worst by several measures, and it lacked options such as gifted and talented or dual language programs. For decades, parents had been "trading up" to public and private alternatives in other neighborhoods, or to charter schools. Many of us were prepared to do the same—but, we wondered, was there another way?
Deep breath, the wait is almost over. High school decision letters will be distributed in middle schools starting this Friday, March 4 according to the Department of Education.
Details about this year’s main round decisions have yet to be released, but if last year’s results prove to be a trend, then the majority of students will be admitted to one of their top three choices and at least 90 percent of students will be matched with a school during this round. Students who took the SHSAT (Specialized High School Admissions Test) or auditioned for LaGuardia will also find out if they got into a specialized school.
Applications for pre-kindergarten for all children born in 2012 are due March 9. The city says it will guarantee a seat for all 4-year-olds but it doesn't guarantee where! Many of the most popular zoned schools in Brooklyn have room only for children who live in the zone. We've compiled a district by district list of our best bets for schools and programs that may have seats, based on last year's acceptances.
Remember: It’s always a good idea to visit yourself. When it comes to your child, you’re the expert.
Need more information about districts? Click on our district maps on the homepage.
Applications for pre-kindergarten for all children born in 2012 are due next Wednesday, March 9 (The Department of Education extended the deadline to apply from March 4.) For those still looking, we can recommend some pre-k programs. [Brooklyn picks are in a separate post.] While some of the most popular programs have many more applicants than seats, these had some space last year and may not be oversubscribed this year. It doesn't hurt to apply, because even if you're not matched in this first application round, your name will be put on a waitlist. Spaces frequently open up, even into the fall.
We've done our best to identify programs we can recommend based on the data available and our school visits. Parents should be sure to visit too: It's a bad sign if a program is unwilling to let you see the classrooms. Watch our video on "What to look for in a pre-kindergarten" and read our tips.
Fifth-graders unhappy with their middle school choices now have a few more options. The Department of Education announced several new middle school programs slated to open in September 2016.
Most of the options are not new schools, but rather new dual language programs opening in established middle schools. The one exception is the new Dock Street School for S.T.E.A.M. Studies in DUMBO, Brooklyn.
Applying to a new school will not override students' choices entered on the middle school applications they submitted last December. According to the DOE’s website, “students who receive a match from their new schools application will be able to choose between their new schools and main round matches in the spring.”
Students eligible to attend a new middle school program can request an application from their elementary school guidance counselor. Non-public school students can pick up an application at a Family Welcome Center. Applications are due by March 1.
Applying to pre-kindergarten for fall 2016?
If your child turns 4 this year, he or she is eligible for free pre-kindergarten, either in a public school or at a site run by a community organization. But what is the quality of these programs and how can you choose the one that works best for your family?
Join Clara Hemphill and the staff of Insideschools for a pre-k workshop on Feb. 11 at The New School. Register here.
Did you know all children may attend a free, full-day pre-kindergarten the year they turn 4? The window of time to apply in 2016 is from Jan. 25 to March 4. That's six weeks! Plenty of time to scroll our site and then tour your favorite pre-kindergarten classrooms in person.
Programs are scattered throughout the city: in public schools, charter schools, religious schools, private nursery schools, Head Start programs, child care centers and community organizations. It's a lot to take in. Many are good, some are not-so-good, but most look like lively hubs where 4-years-old can learn through play with blocks, puzzles, sand tables, Legos and toy kitchens.
Where to start?
Take five minutes to watch our video, "What to look for in a pre-kindergarten." Read about one parent's experience applying: "One mom's trek through the pre-k application maze."
Got a child born in 2011? Get your kindergarten application in by Wednesday, Jan. 20. The original due date of Jan. 15 was extended to give more parents a chance to get their applications in.
Full-day kindergarten is guaranteed—and required—in New York City for all children who turn 5 during the calendar year. Children have the right to attend their zoned school (space permitting) and most do, but you may apply to other schools as well. You may apply to up to 12 schools online, on the telephone or in person at a Department of Education Family Welcome Center. You'll find out in March where your child is accepted.
If you haven't already, pick up an elementary school directory for your borough, neatly broken down by districts, zoned schools and unzoned schools.
Here are answers to some common questions and misconceptions!
What should I do before I apply?
Visit the school! You want to see the school to see if it's a good fit. Watch our short video: "What to look for on a school tour." Check a school's website or call the parent coordinator to see when tours and open houses are scheduled. The DOE lists some tour dates here. Read the school's profile on Insideschools and check out InsideStats. Do teachers recommend the school to parents? What's the average class size? Is bullying a problem? If you're still uncertain of whether it's a good fit, talk to parents on the playground and read the comments on our profile pages.
How many schools should I apply to?
Apply to as many schools as you are interested in. There's no strategic advantage in listing just one school. The key is to rank the schools in the order that you like them. Do not list any schools you are wary about. If you want your child to attend your zoned school, list that first—or only list the zoned school. If you are concerned about overcrowding and being sent to another school, list your next favorite school to ensure that you are not assigned to a school you did not select. Keep in mind that all schools first accommodate their zoned kids before accepting others. (The eight admissions priorities for zoned schools are spelled out in the directories and in the Chancellor's Regulation 101.)
Most schools are able to accept all zoned students and if you are not accepted in the first round, you are automatically placed on a waitlist. In fact, if you list other schools, and do not get an offer from any of them, you will remain on a waitlist of schools you ranked higher than the school where you were placed. Last year some waitlisted families got offers from out-of-zone and out-of-district schools starting in June and continuing into October. If you do your research, remain persistent and are willing to wait, you may end up with several choices.
What if I don't like my zoned school?
Consider unzoned and charter schools as well as other zoned schools in your district. (Three districts have no zoned schools: District 1 on the Lower East Side, District 7 in the South Bronx and District 23 in Brownsville.)
You don't have to apply to your zoned school but keep in mind that if you are not accepted by any other school, you will most likely be assigned to your zoned school. However, you will be waitlisted at the other schools and there is usually lots of movement in the spring as families accept offers to gifted programs, private schools or move. Keep in touch with schools you are interested in to make sure they know you still want a spot.
You can see in the kindergarten directory which schools had space for students outside of the zone last year and which had a waitlist after the first round of admissions; it's not likely to be too different this year unless there has been rezoning.
This admissions season, the DOE is promoting a new pilot program intended to increase diversity in city schools. Seven schools participating in the program will give increased admissions priority to students who qualify for free or reduced lunch, are English language learners or are in the child welfare system. “Students learn from the diverse experiences and cultures of their fellow students, and it’s important that our schools match the diversity of our City," Chancellor Carmen Farina said in a DOE press release.
How do I apply to a dual language program?
More than 100 schools offer dual language programs and the list of schools offering programs is growing. In dual language, students receive instruction in both English and another language. Spanish, Mandarin and French are among the most common languages offered but others include Korean, Japanese, Polish, Arabic and Russian. Next fall there will be a German program starting at PS 17 in Williamsburg! You apply directly to the dual language program on your application. The goal for dual language is to have a 50-50 split of native English speakers and native speakers of the other language offered. Zoned students receive preference in admission, but out of zone students who are native speakers of another language may have a chance of admittance, space permitting.
What about gifted and talented programs?
The admissions timeline, and the application, for gifted and talented programs is different than general kindergarten admissions. Families signed up in November for G&T testing in January and February. The results of the tests will not be sent to families until early April. Qualifying students then apply to programs and will find out in late May if they have got a spot.
Even if you are applying to a G&T program for your child, you must still apply to kindergarten by Jan. 15. If your child is later accepted to a G&T program you'll have a choice of the school you were matched with on the application and the G&T program.
What if my child has special education needs?
Children with special needs also go through the general application process; every school is supposed to offer needed special education services, although in practice this doesn't always happen. Watch our video: "Touring schools for your special needs child." If your child needs a wheelchair accessible site, you can note that on the application.
What if I move after the application due date or I miss the deadline?
If you move after you submit your application but before kindergarten offers are made, you may call the Department of Education, or visit a welcome center, to give them your new address. You will not be able to submit a new application at that time but the DOE will most likely assign you to your new zoned school. If you don't like that placement, you can reach out to other schools in the late spring to ask to be placed on a waiting list.
If you miss the deadline for applying, late applications will still be accepted online, in person and over the phone after Jan. 15, almost until letters are sent in mid-March, according to the Enrollment Office, but you will receive your offer later in the spring. Those who wait until later in the spring or summer to apply, will go directly to their zoned school, or school of interest, to register.
How do I apply to a charter school?
You apply to charter schools separately from district schools and most applications are due by April 1, 2016. You can apply to multiple charter schools on a single application. Find the link to the common application on the New York City Charter School Center's website. Applications are also available on school websites or may be handed out in person when you visit the school.
The information in the directory is pretty comprehensive and straightforward but if you still have questions, or want to talk to a DOE official in person, call the DOE's Enrollment Office at 718-935-2009 and see the DOE's kindergarten page for more information.
Q: I failed my geometry class for one grading period, but I am a straight A student for everything else. Is there any way for me to get accepted by a pretty good college?
A: Short answer: Yes.
Longer answer: Sounds like you had a tough time with your math class, but you are a hard-working student and this failure came as a real shock; failing is not what you ordinarily do. And someone is telling you, "Now, you'll never get into a good college!" Take a deep breath. Everyone messes up on something. But if this one grading period's failure is uncharacteristic, and everything else is fine, you will have no problem getting into a ton of colleges. You may run into a problem, however, if this is part of a pattern of weak grades. (As a side note, remember that you still have time to improve your grade before the end of the semester. Ask your teacher for help!)
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.