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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.
Parents should submit applications for kindergarten by March 1, particularly if they want to explore options outside their zoned neighborhood school. You may apply directly to as many schools as you like: be sure to bring your child's birth certificate and proof of address. You'll find out in April if your child has a seat.
In most cases, you are guaranteed a seat in your zoned neighborhood school--whether you apply now or later in the spring or summer. But if you want to consider all your options (or if your neighborhood school is so crowded that it has a waitlist) now is the time to get started.
We've researched some neighborhood schools that may have room for children outside the zone, dual language programs and unzoned schools that select via lottery in Brooklyn and Staten Island, the city's largest and smallest boroughs. The city's new elementary school directory is another useful source of information. We'll offer another post on charter school options next month.
District 13: Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, part of Park Slope & Brooklyn Heights
Arts and Letters in Fort Greene is a highly sought after school that holds a lottery for kindergarten admissions. PS 133, a small school in lower Park Slope which was displaced for several years, is moving into a new building in September. It is now unzoned and serves both districts 13 and 15. It offers dual language programs in French and Spanish. PS 11 and PS 20 in Clinton Hill usually have space for out of zone children, even though PS 20 may not let you know until suimmer. PS 9 in Prospect Heights has a dual language program that takes native Spanish speakers from out of zone. PS 307 offers the only Mandarin Chinese dual language program in the district. PS 282 in Park Slope is a traditional K-8 school that is a top pick for many out-of-zone parents.
State math and reading exams will be harder to pass this year, Chancellor Dennis Walcott warned parents, and more children will likely fail. For the first time the state-mandated tests will be aligned with the new Common Core standards and, Walcott says, "will be more difficult to pass." In a break from the past, however, failing -- scoring a level 1 out of 4 - will not mean automatic holdover for children in grades 3 to 8.
Instead, the chancellor said in a letter to parents, the DOE "will look at students' overall scores-how many questions each student got right. Students with the lowest scores will be recommended for summer school."
Since 2004 when Mayor Bloomberg ended so-called "social promotion," all students who scored a 1 on either the reading or math exam were sent to summer school. This year students who score in the bottom 10 percent will be required to go to summer school and retake the exams in August, NY1 reports. The city anticipates that the number of students requiring summer classes to be promoted to the next grade will be about the same as last year.
The yearly high-stakes tests also affect admission to selective middle and high schools. Cut-off scores for acceptance may be lower this year, but Walcott said, "students who earn the highest scores-even if those scores are lower than in past years-will still have access to screened middle and high schools."
Students this year will have to read and respond to longer and more challenging passages than in previous years. Third graders will be expected to read 500-600 word excerpts from books such as Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach or The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles. Eighth graders will read 900-1,000 word passages from classics such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or Richard Wright’s Native Son. Third and 4th graders will have less time to complete the math exams than on previous years' tests. Test guides for every grade's reading and math exams are posted on the state education department's website.
This year's ELA (English Language Arts) exams will be given on April 16-18; math tests will be the following week, April 24-26.
PS 234 and PS 276, two popular downtown elementary schools, will face kindergarten waitlists again this year, DNAinfo reports.
The due date for kindergarten applications is March 1 and already PS 234 has 166 kindergarten applicants, well over the 125 student limit, Magda Lenski, the school's parent coordinator, told DNAinfo. At PS 276, more than 130 kids have applied. The school was designed for 75 kindergartners.
When more children apply than there are slots available, a lottery is held and students who aren't chosen are placed on a waitlist. There is always movement on the waitlists as families move or choose to go to private schools or gifted and talented programs. Last year the waitlisted students at PS 234 and PS 276 all got seats by June, largely because both schools opened additional kindergarten classes. That can't continue to happen, the schools say. At PS 276, parents petitioned the Education Department to find additional schools for kindergartners. Principal Terri Ruyter suggested that the school may need to lose its two pre-kindergarten classrooms to make space, DNAinfo reports.
The good news for parents is that other downtown schools do have space. The new Peck Slip School, temporarily housed in Tweed, has only 13 kindergarten applications so far and plans to take in 50 students. The Spruce Street School has 50 applicants so far for 50 spots and PS 89 has 62 applicants for 75 spots, according to DNAinfo. Families may also apply to PS 150, an unzoned school in Tribeca which gives priority to students from downtown neighborhoods.
Hearings began around the city last night regarding the future of 22 schools the Education Department has deemed failing and wants to close. In the midst of protests by students and parents clamoring for their schools to remain open, the DOE held out a carrot to students: they will be allowed to transfer to higher-performing schools.
Saying he felt a "moral imperative" to offer options to students in low-performing schools, Marc Sternberg, a deputy chancellor at the DOE, told reporters about the new policy shortly before school closure hearings began last night. Information about the transfer plan will be distributed to all affected schools and at hearings, he said. The Panel on Educational Policy will vote on the school phaseouts at two meetings in March at Brooklyn Tech. If they are approved, as is likely, affected students will receive an application to transfer in the mail. Families will have about a month to reply and will hear the outcome in late June, at the end of the school year. There is no guarantee that all students will get a transfer; priority will be given to the lowest-performing students, including those with special needs, Sternberg said.
About 16,000 students, from 61 elementary, middle and high schools, will be eligible to transfer. This includes the 22 schools that may begin to phase out this year, and 39 others which have already begun the phaseout process.
For four weeks now yellow school buses have not been running and parents of special education students are fed up. They are asking Chancellor Dennis Walcott to intervene and work with Mayor Bloomberg to get the buses running again.
In a letter sent to the chancellor on Monday by the Citywide Council on Special Education -- a parent advisory board -- the CCSE said that what it finds most "appalling about this is that you and the Mayor believe that the DOE has no responsibility in the current bus strike negotiations."
For many students with special needs, transportation is a mandated service stipulated on a students IEP (Individualized Education Plan). Alternative modes of transportation, such as taxicabs and car services, are not working out for many families, the CCSE said.
One out of every four of the most severely disabled students in District 75 is missing school due to the lack of bus service, the letter says. That echoes testimony given at a City Council hearing last Friday by Maggie Moroff of Advocates for Children and the ARISE Coalition. In an editorial in today's Daily News, Moroff writes that some 2,500 District 75 students are missing school every day.
"The city offered no plan for students who needed accessible transportation, no plan for children who needed an adult to accompany them to school and did not have a parent available, no plan for families with more than one child in different schools and no plan for families who could not afford to put out carfare twice a day and wait for reimbursement," Moroff writes.
A heads-up to families of kids turning four this year: Applications for public school pre-kindergarten will be available March 4 online, at elementary schools and at Education Department enrollment centers. Families must submit applications by April 5 and will hear about acceptances in early June. Applications for programs located in community based organizations (CBOs), such as Y's, preschools and other childcare centers, are separate and are available at each agency that offers pre-kindergarten. (There is rolling admission for those programs and some fill up quickly).
Any child who was born in 2009 may apply, but seats are not guaranteed. Programs are housed in public schools or at local daycares and pre-schools, and are either half day (2.5 hours), or full day, (6 hours and 20 minutes.) The state mandates that each pre-k class may have a maximum of 18 students with two teachers.
How do you find out which schools offer programs? Early in March directories will be posted online, or you can get paper copies at schools, daycare and Head Start centers and DOE enrollment centers. Directories of which schools are offering pre-kindergarten this year are online at the DOE's website but be aware that programs change from year to year.
Kindergarten registration is underway at PS 118, a new District 15 school opening in September, designed to ease overcrowding at a few of the most popular Park Slope schools, including PS 321 and PS 107.
In fact incoming parents and Elizabeth Garroway, who is expected to be named principal, have already jointly decided to name the school after children's author Maurice Sendak, DNAInfo.com reports. It will be the Maurice Sendak Community School.
PS 118 will be moving into a former parochial school building, St. Thomas Aquinas, at 211 Eighth Street. That building has been occupied by PS 133, which will be moving back to its original location, with a newly constructed building, at 4th Avenue and Baltic. PS 118's zone was carved out of the western side of PS 321's zone, roughly comprising the area betweenThird and Fourth avenues and President and Sixth Street
Garroway, who has been an assistant principal at PS 321, is planning a multicultural approach for PS 118 "to prep students for college and the world," DNAInfo reports.
Parents have already started a Facebook page, PS 118 Founding Parents and are organizing to create a new playground and a garden. Families can meet with the principal and register for the school during her office hours at PS 133. Check the Facebook page for details. In addition to two kindergarten classes, PS 118 will get two much-needed pre-kindergarten classes, parents report.
Want to find out how to apply for college financial aid? Trying to decide whether a community college is a better option than a four year school? Is there a free college counseling program in your neighborhood or borough? NYC College Line, a website that officially launched Wednesday, tackles these questions and more.
Funded by the Gates Foundation, NYC College Line provides resources to help New York City students get into and stay in college. It's a collaborative project between CUNY's Graduate NYC!, the City University of New York, the NYC Department of Education, and the Options Center of Goddard Riverside.The goal of the Graduate NYC! College Readiness & Success initiative is to double the number” of CUNY graduates by 2020.
“We want students not just to get into college, but to be successful there," said schools chancellor Dennis Walcott in a press release. "NYC College Line will help us achieve both of those goals. It’s a win-win – for students, educators, and this city.”
Many public high schools have too few college counselors to meet the needs of seniors applying to college, and so NYC College Line may help breach the gap. It allows students to get quick answers to many typical questions. In addition to the resources listed online, users can log on and ask questions directly of experts and find out about upcoming events such as financial aid workshops or college fairs. There are also online training sessions for professionals.
Families with children turning five years old in 2013 may apply to kindergarten beginning today, Jan. 22, through March 1. You must apply even if you want your child to attend your zoned school. In most districts, parents fill out an application at each school to which they are interested in applying. In districts 1, 7 and 23, which no longer have zoned schools, parents may apply online, on the phone or at borough enrollment offices.
For the first time this year, the Education Department produced hefty directories now online - one for each borough - of all elementary schools in the city. There is a page for each school, listing the school's address, phone number. the principal's email address, website and nearest public transportation. It also lists state test score results, Progress Report grades for the past two years, Quality Review scores and highlights from school surveys.
You can see at the top of each page whether a zoned school accepted any students from outside its zone for this school year -- a feature that is sure to be of interest to parents who are applying to multiple schools outside of their neighborhood. Be aware that some schools listed as not accepting students from outside the zone may have actually taken some in later in the summer or fall, as spaces became available. When you visit a school, make sure you ask whether they anticipate having room and how you can get on a waiting list if you are not accepted in the spring. The directory also notes those schools which had a waitlist for zoned students in June or September 2012.
Enrollment priorities for zoned and unzoned schools are spelled out, and you can see whether a school offers a dual language, magnet or G&T program and whether it is accessible for physically handcapped students. Each has a listing of all schools and programs in the city. Charter schools are listed as well.
Directories are available online. You can print out the entire borough directory (more than 200 pages long in some cases) or just your district's pages. Or, you might want to pick one up instead at a local school or enrollment office.
For the first time ever families in three school districts that no longer have zoned elementary schools may apply to kindergarten online, over the phone or in person at an enrollment offices, the Department of Education said this week.
District 1 on the Lower East Side has long been a "choice" district, with no zoned schools. In November, Community Education Councils (CECs) in two other small districts, District 7 in the South Bronx and District 23 in Brownsville, voted to do away with zoned elementary schools, exercising one of the few real powers that CECs have.
The DOE just centralized the application process in the three districts, making it similar to pre-kindergarten admissions. There is only one application, with parents rankings schools in order of preference. In the city's other 28 districts, parents apply for kindergarten individually at each school, even their zoned school.
"The single application is more convenient for all families," said Gentian Falstrom, director of elementary school enrollment for the DOE. Many children in districts 7 and 23 already attend schools outside their zone. Unlike neighborhoods in the city where the schools are overcrowded, many schools in the South Bronx and Brownsville have extra room for students.