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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.

Looking for a summer activity for your middle school student? Sign up now—before June 30—for one of the city's free enrichment programs just announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio last week.

Eligible students are between the ages of 11–13. Programs begin the first week of July and go through Aug. 22 and are designed to support children of working families. Most run from 9 am to 6 pm, although hours vary. Daily activities include time for reading, writing and STEM (science, math and technology) as well as theater, music, creative arts and sports. Kids take trips around the city and explore different communities. There are programs in all five boroughs, housed at schools or community organizations. Find a list of programs and sites here (PDF).

Wednesday, 11 June 2014 14:11

Pre-k push is great but what about zero-3s?

by Kendra Hurley, senior editor at the Center for NYC  Affairs at The New School, home of Insideschools.org. This article appeared on SchoolBook on June 11, 2014

New York City recently approved over 10,000 new pre-k seats, closing in on its goal of providing about 53,000 4-year-olds with free, full-day, pre-kindergarten starting this fall. Having just completed a (soon-to-be-released) report on child care and early education, I understand what an enormous boon this is for the city's families and future.

But, as a working mom with two kids under 3, I fear what it means for my family right now.

In the two-plus years my son has been in daycare, not one of the teachers heading his former classrooms is still there. I suspect more of the best teachers will leave before he and his younger sister move from daycare to pre-k. With the city hiring 2,000 new pre-k teachers over the next two years, directors of child care programs say they are bracing for a mass exodus of talented staff, creating instability and inconsistency at a time when my kids' and their peers' development hinges on the quality of their relationships with adults...

Read more on SchoolBook.

A report, co-authored by Kendra Hurley, will be released next Tuesday, June 17, at an event entitled: "Big Dreams for New York's Youngest Children: The future of early care and education." RSVP here.

The city's push to fill public school pre-kindergerten classrooms with 4-year-olds next fall seems to be working. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced today that 97 percent of the half-day and full-day pre-k seats were filled after the first round of applications, as compared to 91 percent at this time last year. But there were still far more applicants than seats available for school-based programs, and many families were disappointed to learn in letters today that they did not get a spot.

Only 62 percent of the 41,178 families who applied got one of 26,411 slots, compared to 70 percent in 2013. Roughly 45 percent of famlies got their first choice, according to Department of Education data. There are 715 vacant seats, most of them clustered in low-income areas such as District 23 in East New York, District 16 in Bedford Stuyvesant and in districts where many new seats were added, such as District 14 in Williamsburg and District 5 in Harlem.

Seventh-graders and their families now have a new tool to use for the somewhat daunting high school search process. 

Insideschools just launched an updated high school search site, accessible only from mobile phones and devices. 

Here are a few ways to use it:

If you know the name of a school, type it in and click "go!" to read our review and check the stats. If you'd rather search by an area of interest—say dance, soccer or AP physics—type that instead. 

To narrow your search, add in the borough and subway line(s) most convenient to you.

Want to find out if you qualify for a specific program? Click the grade-point-average (GPA) feature that most closely matches your 7th-grade report card results. Keep in mind, though, that the selective specialized high schools such as Brooklyn Tech or Bronx Science don't look at your grades—they admit students based on the results of a single exam. 

To help you understand the admissions lingo, such as "ed opt" or "screened," we've added a glossary of terms.

The best feature? You can carry this search with you wherever you go, unlike the massive high school directory that your middle school guidance counselor will be giving to you this month.

Check it out at: beta.Insideschools.org:8080/sage. Remember, this won't work from a laptop or desktop computer—just from your smart phone or mobile device.

Let us know what you think!

 

Five elementary schools have waitlists of more than 50 zoned children after the first round of kindergarten admissions and a few schools have more than doubled their waitlists from this time last year, according to a list issued by the Department of Education today. Although the number of schools that cannot accommodate all their zoned students has shrunk nearly in half since 2012 -- from 125 in 2012 to 63 this year -- overcrowding persists in some neighborhoods.

Once again, Pioneer Academy, PS 307 in Corona, Queens has the longest waitlist in the city, with 126 waitlisted zoned five-year-olds, as compared to 167 last year and 109 in 2012. PS 307, where nearly one-third of the students are new immigrants, was opened in 2008 to alleviate overcrowding in District 24.

On Manhattan's Upper West Side PS 199 has about 100 zoned students on its waitlist, up from 39 last year. PS/IS 276, one of a bevy of new downtown Manhattan schools opened over the past 10 years, has a waitlist of 52 students.

In the Bronx, gigantic PS/IS 71 has 50 kindergartners waitlisted; high-performing PS 7 in Marble Hill has 59 students on the waitlist.

Monday, 21 April 2014 12:16

Kindergarten Connect: 71% get 1st choice

Some 71 percent of the families who applied to kindergarten this year via a new online application system were assigned to the school they ranked first on their application, the city announced today. Another 12 percent got either their second or third choice, the Department of Education said.

Nearly 11 percent -- 7,238 students -- did not get any of their choices and were assigned to schools they didn't apply to; in some cases their zoned school; in others another school in their district. Last year students who weren't accepted at any schools they applied to weren't given an alternate placement until June.

The DOE inaugurated its new "Kindergarten Connect" system in January and, for the first time, families applied to kindergarten online, on the phone or at a DOE enrollment office, rather than submitting separate applications to each school. Instead of being potentially matched to more than one school, this year applicants were given one match. Letters were sent home today to the 67,000 families who applied by the Feb. 20 deadline. Families who have not yet applied, or who have moved since they submitted their application, now may visit the schools in person to apply. All children who turn five years old in 2014 are guaranteed a spot in kindergarten.

63 schools have waitlists for zoned students

The new application allowed families to apply to 20 schools or programs. The DOE said the "streamlined application" helped reduced waitlists at crowded zoned neighborhood schools. Waitlists — a perennial problem at very popular and over-crowded schools — were decreased, by nearly half since 2012, according to DOE data. A still significant number of 63 schools have waitlists for zoned students, down from 125 schools two years ago and 105 schools last year.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014 16:23

Our pre-k picks for Brooklyn

Brooklyn is the city's largest borough and the one with most schools. Pre-kindergarten choices are as varied as the borough. In some areas of brownstone Brooklyn, pre-k programs don't meet the demand. Even parents who list 12 schools on their application will be disappointed. In other areas—such as Fort Greene or Bedford Stuyvesant—parents have more options.

Don't be afraid to look at historically low-performing schools: in some cases pre-kindergarten programs are excellent and expanding, even if the school as a whole has a long way to go. Further out in Brooklyn, half-day programs can be the norm, especially in Districts 21 and 22. We haven't found much to recommend in central Brooklyn, where school environment surveys reflect a discontent with the tone of the buildings. We advise you to take a look and let us know what you find.

Wednesday, 09 April 2014 14:14

City takes high stakes out of testing

The city has taken a big step to scale back on anxiety over state tests. A new promotion policy takes the high-stakes out of testing for grades 3-8, at least when it comes to determining who gets promoted to the next grade and who must attend summer school.

The Department of Education announced the new policy today, which, if approved by the Panel for Educational Policy in May, will mean that a student cannot be held back simply because of a low score (Level 1) on the state reading or math exam. Instead, "multiple measures" will be used to determine promotion, including report card grades and schoolwork as well as test scores.  

"We have listened and worked closely with families, teachers and principals to establish a new promotion policy that complies with State law and empowers educators, takes the temperature down around testing, and keeps rigorous standards in place," said schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña in a statement.

Nearly one-third of the 14,600 rising kindergartners who sat for Gifted & Talented assessments in January and February found out today that they qualified for one of the city's district or citywide G&T programs. That's  about six percent fewer than qualified in 2013, according to Department of Education data released Friday afternoon. The number of children who scored in the 99th percentile--the score usually necessary for a chance at entry into one of the five coveted citywide G&T--programs also fell, from more than 1,450 last year to about 950 this year.

Even with the lower number of qualifiers, there are still three times as many top-scoring tykes than there are seats in the five most selective citywide programs which have only about 300 seats for incoming kindergartners. Further decreasing the odds of entry, qualifying siblings of current students get first dibs at those seats.

The gap in student performance between richest and poorest districts remains wide but there were gains in Harlem and Washington Heights. In Districts 4 (East Harlem), 5 (Harlem) and 6 (Washington Heights and Inwood) nearly twice as many students scored in the top percentile than did last year.

Parents were notified of their child's score today along with an application listing their progam options. Families who do not get their results by Monday, April 7, should call the DOE at 718-935-2009. Families have until April 21 to apply one of the gifted programs, but since schools are closed for spring vacation from April 14-22, parents have only next week to visit schools.  A list of open houses is posted on the DOE's website here. Letters of acceptance for regular, non-gifted, kindergarten programs will be sent during the spring break. G&T applicants won't find out until May 26 if they have been offered a spot.

Wednesday, 02 April 2014 12:55

City creates 4,200 new full-day pre-k seats

Some highly sought-after schools that lacked pre-kindergarten programs will now have them. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced today the city will add more than 4,200 new full-day pre-k seats at 140 public schools in September, thanks to $300 million in funding from the state that was approved over the weekend.

There are three new programs in popular midtown Manhattan schools: Midtown West, PS 116 and PS 40. In Chinatown, PS 130 is offering a full day instead of a half-day program, and PS 124 will house three classes. In Brooklyn's District 15, the new Maurice Sendak Community School will have 66 seats, up from the 30 originally planned. PS 15 in Red Hook is offering 84 slots. PS 20 in Fort Greene will have two classes, instead of one.

In the Bronx, perennially popular Bronx New School will offer two full-day classes, not one and PS 23 in Fordham will have 48 seats. In Queens, new programs will open at PS 290 in Maspeth and PS 63 in Ozone Park and at two new schools that will open in the fall, PS 343 in Corona and PS 316 in South Ozone Park. PS 175 in Rego Park will also offer three classes. In Staten Island, 15 schools have either created new programs, added additional seats or are expanding half-day programs to full-day.