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Wednesday, 20 January 2016 16:56

Parents of 3s and 4s, it’s pre-k time!

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."

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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. 

More questions?

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.


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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!)

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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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Tuesday, 01 December 2015 16:20

How Insideschools helped Hugo

Hugo was diagnosed with autism at a very young age.

By the end of 8th grade, he was ready to leave a small program for students on the autism spectrum, but he knew he'd still need counseling and other services in high school.

Insideschools helped him narrow his search.

"When you click on the special education tab on the Insideschools website it will tell you the four- and six-year graduation rates, and whether students with special needs are involved in activities," he said. "You can instantly tell if it's good for special education."

With his interest in animation, he liked the look of Academy for Careers in Television and Film. He said it was a "new kind of school that I hardly knew existed."

Hugo was admitted and now he's a freshman at a high school with one of the highest graduation rates for special education students in the city.

Insideschools is the go-to website for information about New York City public schools. Last year alone, more than 1.8 million visitors turned to Insideschools for help choosing the best schools -- and improving schools for all children. We rely on your support. Please click here to make a tax deductible gift today.

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by Rachel Howard, Lori Podvesker, Albert Martinez and Todd Dorman of INCLUDEnyc

All 8th-graders have a rough time applying to high schools in New York City, but for the 15,000 8th-graders with disabilities—out of 270,000 total students with disabilities—the application process is even harder. Information in the high school directory can be misleading, and parents of children with disabilities don't get much help at fairs or open houses. Families hear the same mantra: “This school will provide students with disabilities the supports and services indicated on their IEPs.” Too often, it’s just not true.

Students with disabilities, especially those from high-need neighborhoods, are at the highest risk for placement at the city’s lowest performing high schools—or at schools that are unprepared to support them. Through our work at INCLUDEnyc, we’ve seen kids choose underperforming schools over better ones because they were close by; we’ve seen others apply to schools that they weren’t qualified to attend, or that were geographically inaccessible to them. Too many students with disabilities make uninformed choices about high school—and it shows. The graduation rate for students with disabilities is 36.6 percent (about half of the city average), and the dropout rate is especially high during 9th grade.

Students who meet the criteria for one of 13 federally defined education disabilities are legally entitled to an Individualized Education Program, known as an IEP. An IEP outlines the services, supports, and educational strategies that must be provided so the student can learn and graduate ready for a job or college. The IEP is both a legal contract and a working educational map. But the capacity of any school to fulfill a student’s program—which is different for every student—is all but ignored in the NYC high school application process.

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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.


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


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


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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Wednesday, 11 November 2015 18:15

Tips for how to rank your high school application

High school applications are due on Tuesday, Dec. 1. Have you made your list yet?

If you are still undecided where to apply, or how to rank your 12 choices, we've got last minute tips for you. 

Read our school profiles for every high school in the city, including the InsideStats section that gives you answers to such questions as: Are graduates successful in college? Does the school have metal detectors? Click the Comments link to see what current and former students have to say about the school.

If you're looking for a school with a specific theme, or one that's on a certain subway line, check out our high school search on your desktop or mobile device. You can search by borough, subway line, middle school grades or keyword, sifting through hundreds of high schools to find the best matches.

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Wednesday, 11 November 2015 17:06

Applying to high school? Last chance workshop!

If you have an 8th-grader, you're in the final throes of applying to high school. You've attended the fairs, visited schools, watched our videos, read our school profiles and marked key pages of the big school directory. What comes next? You've got to make final decisions and fill out an application.

Insideschools can help. We're offering a last-chance workshop for parents and students!

Join Clara Hemphill and the staff of Insideschools as we help you determine how to rank your high school choices before the Dec. 1 application deadline.

We'll tackle these last-minute questions and more:

  • What can you do if you and your child disagree?
  • My dream school is far away. Is the commute worth it?
  • What are good choices for the "B" student?
  • Is it worth applying to a screened school if I don't have tip-top grades?
  • How many schools do I really have to list to better my chances of getting accepted somewhere?
  • My kid has special needs. How do I know whether a school will actually provide the supports and services he needs?

Got other questions? We've got answers. Join us on Nov. 23. Sign up on Eventbrite here.

Se habla español. Spanish translation will be available.

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In this week's column, I would like to ask readers who are considering which colleges to apply to, to also consider another issue in the world of higher education: the persistent abuse of academic labor.

As I write this, in New York City, members of CUNY (City University of New York) faculty and staff are staging a Nov. 4 protest against their low wages and lack of contract. Right now, there are 7,600 full-time CUNY faculty members earning salaries significantly lower than those at comparable area universities, according to the Professional Staff Conference/CUNY, the union which represents CUNY faculty and staff. Working without a contract for six years, these teachers are prone to "poaching" by other schools, and that would be a big loss to our students. This is not only a New York City problem. 

More than half of CUNY's courses are taught by 13,000 low-wage, part-time adjunct faculty. The use—and over-use—of part-time teachers occurs not just at CUNY, but at many schools. Each year, thousands of promising teachers are driven by practical consideration—as well as heartbreak and anger—from academia. These are the adjunct, or part-time, or "contingent" faculty at colleges and universities. They cannot afford to teach under the abusive conditions imposed by their institutions.

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