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Ask the college counselor

The Bed-Stuy Parents Committee is a group of about 250 neighborhood parents who are choosing to work together to help improve the district's schools where they hope to enroll their children. Shaila Dewan, one of the parent organizers, shared advice for those looking to do the same in other parts of the city.

Join parent listservs
We connected primarily on the parent Yahoo listservs in our neighborhood. We put up fliers before meetings—we would send out a link so people could print the fliers themselves and post them. We printed little business cards with our web address to hand out at playgrounds. We built a mailing list using MailChimp. We asked DNAinfo to do an article. Eventually, we found a surprising amount of traffic was driven by word of mouth.

Survey members to gather ideas
We came together without a specific agenda and we explored various options. We listened to what people wanted. One of our members conducted a large member survey and we browbeat people into filling it out until we had almost 90 completed—it's still invaluable to us.

Listen & learn from success stories
Our first few meetings were devoted to listening and learning. Speakers talked to us about subjects of interest, like progressive education. We identified PS 11 in Clinton Hill as a successful model for what we wanted to do in a similar gentrifying neighborhood and we had a panel discussion where PS 11 parents and administrators spoke. We invited the District 16 Community Education Council president and the district superintendent do a Q&A. We closely followed debates over rezoning in Dumbo and the Upper West Side.

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Huge neighborhood schools in Queens topped the list of the 20 most sought-after high schools in 2016, according to data released by the Department of Education today. That's not surprising in a borough where most popular high schools are over-crowded and operating with staggered start times.

With 9,468 applications, Francis Lewis received the most applications. Second was Forest Hills High School with 8,375 applicants. Both schools have sizeable zoned programs, giving preference to students who live in the neighborhood, as well as offering themed programs open to anyone.

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High school acceptance letters arrived Friday for the more than 75,000 8th-graders who submitted applications in December. Ninety-three percent of them went home knowing they were accepted by a high school; the remaining 7 percent came up empty-handed and must apply again, choosing from a list of schools that still have room. (See our picks here.)

The number of Black and Hispanic students accepted at the highly competitive specialized exam high schools dropped, prompting Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña to once again call for "strategies to foster diversity at these schools."

The city touted gains made by students with disabilities who were accepted in higher numbers than ever before by some of the most selective schools, not including the specialized high schools. 

Here's a rundown of the results.

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If you're a rising 9th- or 10-grader who wasn’t matched with a high school this week, here's what to do: You need to apply to schools with open seats during Round 2 of admissions. Applications are due March 18.

Get to the Round 2 fairs scheduled for next weekend, March 12 and 13, 11 am–2 pm at the Martin Luther King Jr. Educational Campus. Try to arrive early so you have plenty of time to meet with representatives from each school on your list.

Eighth-graders who are unhappy with their high school match may reapply during Round 2, but be aware that if you are accepted to another school you give up your first round match. Current 9th-graders who are offered a 10th-grade seat during Round 2 will have the option of remaining at their current school.

Where to start? Hundreds of schools have openings, but not all are worth considering. As you go through the Round 2 list, focus on the same factors that mattered to you when you applied last fall: How long is the commute? Do I prefer big or small? Are there any special programs or activities that I may enjoy? Will I be challenged?

Still not sure which schools you should consider? Let us help. We've combed through the list to identify our picks—schools that are proven best bets or seem promising. 

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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?

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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.

“I cannot sleep, eat, or think,” wrote one anxious student who is hoping to get into Bard High School Manhattan or Queens.

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.

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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.

Watch our video on "What to look for in a pre-kindergarten" and read our tips.

Families can apply to up to 12 programs online at, over the phone at 718-935-2067, or in person at a Family Welcome Center.

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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.

Families can apply to up to 12 programs online at, over the phone at 718-935-2067, or in person at a Family Welcome Center.


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Wednesday, 17 February 2016 13:32

Apply now for new middle school programs

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.

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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.

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