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Learn about your public school options from Clara Hemphill, InsideSchools founder. She is offering two free workshops in Manhattan next week and presenting her new book, NYC's Best Public Pre-K and Elementary Schools.

Come to the Upper West Side on Monday, Feb. 6, at 6 pm for the workshop at Rutgers Community Programs at 236 W. 73rd Street. Sign up here.

Or, come to the Word Up Community Bookshop/Libreria Comunitaria, 2113 Amsterdam Ave. in Washington Heights, Thursday, Feb. 9 at 7 pm.  

Hemphill will talk about the changes in public schools over the past 20 years and offer tips for finding a good school for your child. The book is based on more than 150 visits to public pre-k & elementary schools in all five boroughs by the InsideSchools staff.

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Pre-Kindergarten applications for children turning 4-years-old this year are due on Friday, Feb. 24. Let us help you get informed and ready. Sign up for our free workshop at Rutgers Community Programs at 236 W. 73rd Street on Feb. 6 at 6 pm.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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One day last school year, a girl in Fanny Roman's kindergarten class at PS 244 in Flushing, Queens arrived bubbling with excitement about her new shoes. With Roman's encouragement, she began tracing classmates' feet on paper and constructing "shoes," using pipe cleaners for laces. Her enthusiasm proved contagious; in response, Roman read poetry and picture books about shoes and students set up a play shoe store of their own, with different-size shoes in boxes, labeled "Jellies" or "Sneakers," as they categorized by size and even priced their wares. In their writing, they started using words such as "Velcro," buckles" and "shoelaces."

Welcome to "choice time." In a number of New York City elementary school kindergarten classes, it revives, in modified fashion, the once-common play-as-learning "free time" that's been driven almost to extinction in favor of whole-class instruction, textbooks, worksheets, and other elements of more rigorous education in the Common Core era.

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All 31 city school districts will offer gifted and talented (G&T) elementary school programs next fall—although in districts 7, 12, 16 and 23, G&T will begin in 3rd grade, not kindergarten. In response to the clamor around the city for more programs in poor and primarily Black and Latino neighborhoods, the Department of Education (DOE) announced today that it will open the 3rd grade G&T classes in the South Bronx and Central Brooklyn, areas which have not had G&T programs in recent years because too few students earned qualifying scores on citywide tests.

Current 2nd-graders in these districts who apply will be evaluated for G&T based on "multiple measures" such as academic performance, attendance, curiousity, motivation and being a fast learner. 

All 2nd-graders may apply, said DOE spokesperson Harry Hartfield, but "specific outreach will be done to families of students who are above grade level to encourage them to apply." 

"It's a fantastic idea," said Robin Aronow, a social worker and schools consultant in Manhattan. "The advantage of it, in particular in those districts, is that you have teacher recommendations rather than being dependent on a kid doing well on a test ... you're able to take into account what kids are demonstrating in school."

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There's been a lot of talk on the Upper West Side about "controlled choice" as a way to ease racial and economic segregation in the elementary schools. The idea, proposed by a group called District 3 Task Force for Education Equity, is to get rid of school attendance zones and assign children to schools according to a formula that takes into account parent preferences as well as family income.

The benefit is this: everyone, regardless of their address or income, would get a shot at some of the most popular elementary schools in the district that runs from 59th Street to 122nd Street. Controlled choice puts a thumb on the scale for low-income children who want to attend a middle class school (or middle class children who want to attend a high-poverty school).

But there is a crippling drawback: Controlled choice is, in essence, a form of rationing. By itself, it does nothing to improve the quality of schools—or to increase the number of schools to which parents willingly send their children.

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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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