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Pamela Wheaton

Pamela Wheaton

Pamela Wheaton is one of the founding members of Insideschools. Since 2002 she has served as deputy director, project director and managing editor. She edits the blog, reviews schools, leads workshops about school choice and oversees editorial content. She collaborated with Clara Hemphill on a series of guides to New York City’s best public schools. Previously Wheaton was a producer of PBS television programs and a reporter and editor at the Buenos Aires Herald. Her two daughters graduated from New York City public schools.

Now is the time for parents of children born in 2011 to start looking for pre-kindergarten programs for next fall. Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña promises there will be seats for every four-year-old--although the city won't announce where the new seats will be until the end of the month.

Families may apply between March 16 and April 24. They'll find out in June where their child is matched. Parents may rank up to 12 choices on the application and submit it online at www.nyc.gov/prek, on the telephone by calling 311, or in person at a Department of Education's Family Welcome Centers

About 60 percent of the pre-kindergarten programs are housed in community organizations and child care centers; the rest are housed in public schools. In a departure from previous years, families will use one form to apply to both public school programs and those offered at community organizations, called "community-based early education centers" (CBEECs) They will be matched to one program. Acceptance letters will go out on May 29 and registration is from June 1-19.

The city will publish the new pre-kindergarten directories at the end of February. In the meantime, you can get started with your search by checking out last year's directory. Insideschools also has an interactive map showing the number of seats available in each public school program in 2014-2015 and the number of applicants that school received in 2013.

Some areas of the city—such as the Upper West and Upper East sides of Manhattan, and Park Slope in Brooklyn—have historically had a shortage of seats and it's unclear how that will change now. School officials have said they are looking at "creative solutions" that may include leasing space in parochial schools, libraries, child care centers and housing projects. In past years, parents sometimes had to travel a great distance for an available seat. 

Priority in admissions to school-based programs will be the same as last year, according to the Department of Education. For zoned schools, students living in the zone and those with siblings already enrolled in the school get first priority, followed by families living in the district. For unzoned schools, siblings of enrolled students in the district get first dibs. Those priorities are spelled out on pages 5 and 6 of last year's directory.  For the early childhood centers, first priority goes to current students, then to siblings of current students, followed by low-income families and to English language learners, the DOE said.

As in past years, if you are not placed in a program, or in your preferred program, you can ask to be placed on a waitlist. Schools and early education centers will handle their own waitlists.

One of the main differences between public school pre-k and what's offered at early education centers is the availability of childcare after school hours. Traditionally, some public school programs are half-day (2.5 hours) and some are full-day (6 hours). All of the early education centers offer full day programs and they provide childcare after the school day ends; fee-based for families who don't meet income guidelines.  For many working parents, the option of 10 hours of combined school and childcare is preferable to the shorter day at a public school. Most schools do not offer after school programs for 4-year-olds.

But many parents may find themselves without a viable choice anyway, especially in neighborhoods with over-crowded public schools, says Brooklyn blogger and school advisor Joyce Szuflita.

"The majority of fours [four-year-olds] seats in CBECCs will be taken by students already attending at the school and moving up to fours. This is wonderful for the families currently attending those schools," she writes on her NYCschoolhelp blog  "It could also mean that a child zoned for a popular school with few public seats who is not currently attending a private program with UPK funding is still likely to be left out in the cold. And yet, families will be filling out the application with the anticipation that there are seats available in all these programs."

Szuflita also expressed concern "about the school's and the DoE's ability to maintain clear and accurate information about availability and wait-lists within this murky hybrid system."

To explain the new process to parents, the DOE is holding information sessions in all five boroughs. More details as we get them.

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, 26 January 2015 16:22

What's new with dual language?

Are you interested in your child learning a new language or solidifying his French or Spanish, or maybe Japanese? The city just added 40 new or expanded programs to its roster of more than 100 dual language programs and changed how incoming kindergartners apply. Here's what you need to know.

Because the majority of the city's dual language programs begin in kindergarten, if you've got a child born in 2010, you need to apply now. Applications for September 2015 are due on Feb. 13 and are submitted online, in person at a Department of Education office or over the phone.

It's important to understand that while dual language programs help English speakers become literate in a second language, they were designed as one of several options for children who are English language learners (ELLs). In dual language classrooms, half of the instruction is in English and the other half is in the target language such as Spanish, French, Chinese, Haitian Creole and a handful of other languages.

If you have a child born in 2010, now is the time to be thinking about kindergarten: Applications are due between Jan. 7 and Feb. 13. You may apply online, on the telephone or in person at a Department of Education Family Welcome Center (formerly known as an enrollment office). You'll find out in April where your child has been assigned.

Unlike pre-kindergarten for 4-year-olds, full-day kindergarten is guaranteed—and required—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. The Kindergarten Connect application, in its second year, allows parents to apply to up to 12 schools and submit the form online. Welcome news for parents who don't speak English: This year applications are available in nine languages and translators are on-hand for those who apply in person, or by calling 718-935-2009 between 8 am and 6 pm.

This year's elementary school directories are also better organized than previous years', neatly broken down by districts, zoned schools and unzoned schools. (Charter schools are listed in the back. They require a separate application and have a different due date: April 1, 2015).

Here are answers to some common questions.

High school applications are due on Tuesday, Dec. 2. 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. 

We have been visiting high schools all fall, updating our reviews and adding new slideshows. Read our school profiles and check the comments section too. Wondering what other students and parents, and even teachers, think of the school? Our InsideStats section tells you that.

If you're looking for a school with a specific theme, or one that's close to home, check out our new 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.

Here are our suggestions of what to consider as you apply.

If you haven't gotten your ticket for this weekend's specialized high school exam, don't panic. You'll be able to sit for the test without it, according to the Department of Education. The DOE posted a notice on its website saying that all scheduled students will be "welcomed and tested" even without a ticket. It also posted a list of test locations and times (pdf) for every middle school.

This week, some schools reported they had trouble printing tickets and others said they didn't get the tickets at all.

At Mark Twain middle school, it took the staff a day and a half to print out 350 tickets for its 8th-graders because of a glitch in the system, said Parent Coordinator Delgermaa Ganbaatar. "It has been very stressful. The system couldn't handle all the requests at once." The school finished printing at noon Friday, she said, and got them into the hands of students before they went home. Mark Twain sends more students annually to Stuyvesant High School than any other middle school.

Middle school admissions season kicks into high gear this week for parents of 5th-graders. You can meet school representatives at evening district fairs beginning Tuesday, Sept. 30. Middle school directories for 2014-2015 are online and hard copies are available at elementary schools.

Now is the time to sign up for school tours and open houses! The Department of Education website lists some open house dates here. If you don't see the school you want to visit listed, check its website or call the school to find out. In some popular schools, especially in Manhattan where there is active school choice, many tours are already fully booked. If you're shut out, try contacting the parent coordinator to see if additional tours will be added. Be sure to ask about admissions requirements when you visit schools. The directory listings are not always specific.

In addition to fairs, some districts hold informational nights where principals talk about their schools. Check with your district's family advocate to see if one is scheduled. (You can find their names and contact information on our district pages.) So far we've heard about forums in District 15 on Oct. 16District 3 on Oct. 16 and District 1 on Oct. 29. District 21 is offering a middle school admissions workshop on Oct. 22

This weekend, Sept. 20 and 21, is the Department of Education's gigantic citywide high school fair from 10 am to 3 pm at Brooklyn Technical High School. Prepare for a hectic day, where you will meet teachers, students and administrators and find out about their schools.

You can attend information sessions several times during the day, led by staff from the Education Department's enrollment office. This will be helpful especially if you're a newbie to the process (and it will give you a place to sit down and take a breather.)

Here's the schedule provided by the DOE:

High school admissions basics at 10:30 am and 12:30 pm 
Auditioning for arts schools and programs at 2 pm 

Students who are new to New York City public schools or who are re-entering city schools after a time away, may register at special temporary enrollment centers beginning on Aug. 27 in all boroughs. The centers are open Monday-Friday, 8 am to 3 pm through Sept. 12, with the exception of Sept. 1, Labor Day. Regular enrollment centers will be closed from Aug. 22 to Sept. 15.

All high school students should go to the enrollment centers, along with any elementary and middle school students who do not have a zoned school. Elementary and middle school students who have a zoned school should wait until the first day of school, Sept. 4, to register at the school, the Education Department said.

All special education students who have a current IEP (Individualized Education Plan) may enroll directly at their zoned schools on Sept. 4. Students without a current New York City IEP, need to go to an enrollment center or to a special education site, for those with more restrictive needs.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014 12:55

Pre-k sign-up & info sessions happening now

If you're still uncertain what to do with your 4-year-old in September, you're in luck. There's still space available in many of the city's pre-kindergartens in schools and community organizations. To be eligible, your child must turn 4 by Dec. 31, 2014.

On Tuesdays in August, beginning today in Brooklyn, parents can meet with officials from the Department of Education's enrollment office at Brooklyn Borough Hall to find out how to enroll their 4-year-old in a pre-kindergarten for September. Enrollment officials have the list of schools and early childhood centers such as libraries, YMCAs or Head Starts that may still have openings. Community organizations enroll students on a rolling basis so enrollment numbers are changing throughout the summer. 

The Brooklyn sessions are on Aug. 12, 19 and 26 from 4 to 7 pm in the lobby of Brooklyn Borough Hall at 209 Joralemon Street. We've asked the DOE whether there will be information and sign-up sessions in other boroughs but there is no centralized list. Many sessions are organized by legislators as part of the city's push to enroll children in 53,000 pre-kindergarten slots by September so contact your borough president's office or local council members or go to a DOE enrollment office for help.

Newcomers to New York City, who are entering 9th or 10th grade in September, must register by Tuesday, August 19, if they want to take the summer exam for admission to one of the selective specialized high schools, or to audition for the arts school, LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and the Performing Arts. Families may register and pick up an admissions ticket for the test and audition at any Department of Education Enrollment Office.

Eligible students are those who are entering 9th or 10th grade for the first time, moved to New York City after Nov. 1, 2013 and did not take the specialized high school exam (SHSAT) or audition for LaGuardia last fall.

You'll need these documents to register: proof of residence, proof of birth, immunization records and a final 2014 report card.

The exam will be given on Aug. 26; the auditions for LaGuardia will be held on Aug. 28. But you must be registered and have an admissions ticket to be admitted to the test or audition. You should find out whether you are accepted before school starts on Sept. 4.

Entrance to the specialized high schools is highly competitive. Most successful applicants spend a good deal of time preparing. See the 2014-2015 Specialized High School Handbook for a sample test and audition guidelines.

For more information, see the Department of Education's website, read our reviews and see our video below about specialized high schools.