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Pamela Wheaton

Pamela Wheaton

Pamela Wheaton has been on staff at Insideschools since 2002, serving as deputy director, project director and managing editor. She edits the blog, reviews schools and leads workshops about school choice. She collaborated with Hemphill on a series of guides to New York City’s best public schools. 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.
Friday, 06 April 2012 15:10

125 schools have kindergarten waitlists

In a bumper year for public school kindergarten applications, more than 2,400 children are on waitlists at their zoned school. That is 200 fewer than last year at this time, according to data the Education Department released on Friday afternoon.

Three schools have more than 100 zoned families waiting for a slot. Topping the list again is gigantic PS 169 in Sunset Park, with 113 waitlisted zoned kindergartners at a school with 1450 students. Last year it had 95 children waitlisted in March after the first registration period. Nearby PS 94, another large school where more than half of the students are English language Learners, has 111 students on its waitlist.  PS 307 in Corona which opened in 2008, has 109 students on a waitlist.

More than 62,280 kindergarten applications were received in 2012 (as compared to 61,600 in 2011) and 125 schools have a waitlist for children living in their zone (the same number as last year.)  The DOE did not release the number of out-of-zone siblings of current students who have not been given seats. (Last year there were 553.) This year schools must get permission from the enrollment office before admitting students from outside the zone.

Thursday, 05 April 2012 11:38

Pre-k: Apply online or on paper by April 10

Parents of children who turn four in 2012 have a few more days to apply for public school pre-kindergarten programs for next September. The Education Department extended the application deadline from April 5 to April 10.

Online applications will be accepted until 11:59 p.m. on April 10. Parents who prefer to fill out a paper application must go to an enrollment office and apply there before 3 p.m. on April 10.  In previous years paper applications were included in the directory and could be mailed in. But the DOE is no longer accepting applications by mail.

Also for the first time in several years, this year there is only one centralized application round. After the DOE places students in June, schools with space available will enroll students directly. Parents will find out the week of June 11 whether their child has gotten a spot. Registration takes place June 12-22.

Best advice for families who don't get in anywhere is to get your child on a waitlist at the preferred schools. Schools will offer spots as they become available.

State-mandated standardized tests for students in grades 3-8 begin on the Tuesday right after spring break. There are three days of reading (ELA) tests: April 17, 18 and 19 and three days of math the next week: April 25, 26 and 27.

Have the teachers been spending lots of time preparing kids for the increasingy high-stakes exams? Your child's test results help determine the "grade" his teacher will get on her evaluation. the grade his school gets on its Progress Report and even whether the school could be closed down or "turned around".

For students in transition from elementary to middle school and from middle to high school, results on the 4th and 7th grade exams can be a determining factor in where they are accepted!

Given all the testing mania, are teachers being pressured to "teach to the test"? Are they weaving test prep into classroom lessons or has test prep become the lesson?

How has your school handled test prep this year. Too much? Too little? Just right? Take our poll!

Wednesday, 28 March 2012 16:28

24 charter schools opening, apply by April

Two dozen new charter schools will be opening next fall, adding to the 136 charters now operating in New York City. Applications for most schools are due by April 1, although several have later dates. Parents may apply online using a common application for some of them. Check the New York City Charter School Center website for details.

There's a mix of elementary, middle, high school and transfer schools, with the majority in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan. Admission is by lottery, giving priority to residents of the community school district where the school is located. A few have additional admission's priorities. Some locations have been hotly contested by community schools and not all new schools have an address yet, or even a confirmed district. Some, like the three new Success Academies and Icahn or Explore charters, are part of an existing network of schools; others are so-called "mom and pop" charters, without a big organization behind them.

Monday, 26 March 2012 13:10

Kindergarten waitlists at a few schools

Kindergarten registration begins today and the early word is that some Manhattan and Brooklyn schools have waitlists for kindergarten, although they are somewhat shorter than last year.

The waitlist phenomenon occurs every spring after the first round of applications. Long lists tend to shrink or disappear after families move, choose a private, charter or a gifted and talented program. Still it causes some anxious moments for parents waiting to learn where their child will attend elementary school and there are always some schools that don't have space for all zoned students.

Some parents are still waiting to hear where their children have been placed. Because of a glitch with the Department of Education computer system, some letters announcing the placements weren't sent out until Friday.

Rezoning on the Upper East Side meant the zone for popular PS 290 shrunk and school officials worried they might not even fill all the seats. Instead there is a waitlist of about three dozen zoned students, said Parent Coordinator Sally Mason. PS 59, also on the Upper East Side, will be moving into a brand new building in September,  but already has a wait list, the principal said. DNAInfo reports a waitlist of 28 students at PS 116 in the east 40s.

In downtown Manhattan, where several new schools have opened and zoning lines have been redrawn, popular PS 234 still has a waitlist of 38 zoned students. Last year there had a similar number but the school managed to place all of the students, said Parent Coordinator Magda Lenski. She said it was too early to predict what would happen this year.  PS 41 in Greenwich Village, also has zoned children waitlisted. PS 3, which shares a zone with PS 41, last year added an additional kindergarten to acommodate the overflow from 41.

Friday, 23 March 2012 13:27

Poll: How many schools did you apply to?

Kindergarten registration begins March 26 after families learn this week where their children got accepted. Schools sent out notification letters via email and regular mail by March 23.

While the majority of public school children attend their zoned elementary schools, other families apply to schools the way 18-year-olds apply to college. They visit many, work out the odds of admission and may even have a list of "safetys," and "reaches".

The Education Department's system of choice allows parents to apply virtually anywhere, even though priority in admissions goes to students in the school's zone and district. The odds of getting accepted at a school outside of your neighborhood or district can be slim.

Because of overcrowding some zoned schools can't accommodate all their students, so parents in the know begin early to look and apply elsewhere. (The Education Department will assign students to another district school if there is no space at the zoned school.)

In addition to zoned schools, families may apply to magnet or dual language programs, unzoned schools and charter schools, which are public but independent of the DOE.  Since there is no central application, parents go from school to school to apply. In mid-April, children who qualify for gifted and talented programs will apply to another school, or several schools.

We're wondering, how many schools did you apply to for your 5-year-old? And, although it's not in the poll, we're curious to know how many acceptances you get! Take our poll and comment below!

Tuesday, 20 March 2012 15:00

Apply now for new middle schools

Nearly a dozen new middle schools will open in the Bronx and Brooklyn next fall. New school applications are available now from elementary school guidance counselors in districts 7, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 16, 17, 19, 23 and 32. Students who apply to a new school may get an offer from two schools -- one they applied to in the main round and a new school. They'll get both offers in the same letter and then will be able to choose, enrollment officials said. That letter will come out some time in May.

A list and description of the new middle schools is on the Department of Education's website. A few, like PS/IS 5 in the Bronx, PS/IS 8 in Brooklyn Heights and Community Roots Charter School in Fort Greene, are successful elementary schools which are expanding to include middle school grades. Those will be good options, which will give priority to continuing students. The Urban Assembly Unison School in Clinton Hill and Young Women's Leadership in the Bronx, are created by organizations that have effectively run other schools and are good bets as well.

Other schools are virtually "replacement schools," moving into buildings where previous middle schools have failed and are being closed by the DOE.

Applications for new middle schools are due March 26.

Monday, 05 March 2012 11:43

No high school match? Here's what to do

If you're an 8th grader who hasn't received an offer at any of your high school choices, take a deep breath. It will be a busy two weeks before the second round applications are due on March 15.

Try to visit schools that interest you and that still have seats. Many are offering open houses and auditions this week and next. Don't bother applying to schools if you clearly don't meet their admissions standards. But some of the selective or screened schools may have a little wiggle room in admissions in the second round. If you were rejected at a school and it DOESN'T appear on the list of schools that have openings, you are probably out of luck. But if it does appear on the list, you just may have a better chance the second time around--especially if you can show that your 8th grade report card is better than your 7th grade one.

To add to the confusion, some of the schools on the list told us they don't actually have space. Our advice: list them on your application anyway. (We'll let you know if we ever figure out what's really going on with the Department of Education computers that make these decisions.)

Nearly half of the 77,137 8th-graders who applied to high school last fall were matched with their first choice school, but 10 percent got no match at all, the Department of Education announced today. The results are nearly identical to last year's main admissions round when 90 percent of applicants got offers. Eighty-four percent of 8th-graders were accepted to one of their top five choices this year, as compared to 83 percent last year.

Similarly to last year, nearly 6,000 students received an offer to attend one of the highly selective specialized high schools. Of those, 5,360 received an offer to one of eight schools that accept students based only on their score on the specialized high school admissions test. The ninth specialized high school, LaGuardia, accepted 965 students based on their auditions and a review of their transcript. Of those 965 students, 328 also got an offer from one of the exam schools.

In a change this year, all high school applicants were notified at the same time of their results. In previous years, students who applied to one of the specialized high schools found out up to a month earlier than those who did not.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012 12:08

HS: Admissions results & new school fair

This week all 8th-graders in the city, and 9th-graders who want to change schools, will find out where they have been accepted to high school. The Education Department is sending results to schools today, Feb. 29.and schools will distribute letters to students by tomorrow, March 1.

In a change this year, all applicants will find out at the same time whether they have been accepted. In previous years, students who applied to one of the nine specialized high schools found out up to a month earlier than those who did not.

Those with more than one acceptance must decide by March 15 which offer to accept. Every year thousands of students are not accepted anywhere during the first round. Those students must apply again, choosing from a list of high schools that have available spaces or from one of a couple of dozen new schools which will open in September.

They will be introduced to the new schools at a  "Round 2" fair this weekend at the Martin Luther King, Jr. complex on the Upper West Side.  Any student applying for 9th grade may choose to apply to one of the new schools, even those who received a match in the first round.