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Lydie Raschka

Lydie Raschka

Lydie Raschka reviews schools and writes for the blog. She is a graduate of Bank Street College, a former public school teacher (grades 1-3) and a Montessori teacher-trainer during the summer. Her son attended public school in Manhattan.

Eight years ago, as a brand-new bilingual special education teacher, Ruby had some clear ideas about the kind of school that would match her skills—and her passion for her students.

"I wanted a small English-and-Spanish dual language school with a positive culture," she said.

Using Insideschools profiles and our parent comments on schools, she found the right fit: PS/IS 89 in Cypress Hills.

Now she spreads the word to new teachers and urges them to use Insideschools in their own job searches.

"It's very important that your personality match the culture of a school," she said. "Insideschools can help."

Insideschools is the go-to website for information about New York City public schools. Last year alone, more than 1.8 million visitors turned to Insideschools for help choosing the best schools -- and improving schools for all children. We rely on your support. Please consider a tax deductible gift today.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016 16:56

Parents of 3s and 4s, it’s pre-k time!

Did you know all children may attend a free, full-day pre-kindergarten the year they turn 4? The window of time to apply in 2016 is from Jan. 25 to March 4. That's six weeks! Plenty of time to scroll our site and then tour your favorite pre-kindergarten classrooms in person.

Programs are scattered throughout the city: in public schools, charter schools, religious schools, private nursery schools, Head Start programs, child care centers and community organizations. It's a lot to take in. Many are good, some are not-so-good, but most look like lively hubs where 4-years-old can learn through play with blocks, puzzles, sand tables, Legos and toy kitchens.

Where to start?

Take five minutes to watch our video, "What to look for in a pre-kindergarten." Read about one parent's experience applying: "One mom's trek through the pre-k application maze."

As a librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library, June understands what good research looks like.

As the mother of middle school twins with very different ideas about what they want from high school, she faced one of the most important research challenges of her life.

To guide their high school searches, she and her kids turned to Insideschools.

Her daughter's passion is dancing—so she and her mom clicked on our website's "arts focus" category.

For June's son, Insideschools' math and science icons were the "Open Sesame!" in his high school search.

June also wanted racially diverse schools: At a glance, she could easily see the ethnic breakdown of every high school on the Insideschools website.

June reads everything on our website: The informative articles; the blog posts; and the comments that parents, teachers and students post below school profiles.

"It's helpful in fleshing out a lot of the information about the school," she said.

Now while they're waiting to hear about high school acceptance, thanks to Insideschools they also know that they applied to the schools that are right for them.

Insideschools is the go-to website for information about New York City public schools. Last year alone, more than 1.8 million visitors turned to Insideschools for help choosing the best schools -- and improving schools for all children. We rely on your support. Please click here to make a tax deductible gift today.

As a social worker in East New York, Giselle worked with parents at risk of losing their children to foster care.

Her clients included families with teens chronically absent from school or children with special needs who couldn't get the in-school services they needed.

"For vulnerable families, it's that much harder," she said.

She used Insideschools to help such families take charge of their lives again.

"I really think it's an amazing resource for social workers," she said. "Very quickly, I started thinking how I could use it with my clients who were navigating this complex school system."

She recalls a 15-year-old who disliked school and was habitually absent. "We'd sit together and look at schools with dance," Giselle said. "She was able to find a school that interested her and she transferred."

Now, she works at Insideschools and leads our outreach efforts because she wants more low-income families to know about Insideschools.

"My favorite part of Insideschools is the free programs—academic programs, tutoring, dance, science," she said. "It suggests unimaginable possibilities for low-income families."

Help Giselle and social workers like her keep opening up new worlds of possibilities for the families they work with.

Insideschools is the go-to website for information about New York City public schools. Last year alone, more than 1.8 million visitors turned to Insideschools for help choosing the best schools -- and improving schools for all children. We rely on your support. Please click here to make a tax deductible gift today.

Tuesday, 01 December 2015 16:20

How Insideschools helped Hugo

Hugo was diagnosed with autism at a very young age.

By the end of 8th grade, he was ready to leave a small program for students on the autism spectrum, but he knew he'd still need counseling and other services in high school.

Insideschools helped him narrow his search.

"When you click on the special education tab on the Insideschools website it will tell you the four- and six-year graduation rates, and whether students with special needs are involved in activities," he said. "You can instantly tell if it's good for special education."

With his interest in animation, he liked the look of Academy for Careers in Television and Film. He said it was a "new kind of school that I hardly knew existed."

Hugo was admitted and now he's a freshman at a high school with one of the highest graduation rates for special education students in the city.

Insideschools is the go-to website for information about New York City public schools. Last year alone, more than 1.8 million visitors turned to Insideschools for help choosing the best schools -- and improving schools for all children. We rely on your support. Please click here to make a tax deductible gift today.

Students who are new to New York City public schools, or who are re-entering city schools after a time away, can enroll in school at temporary registration centers set up across the city beginning Sept. 1.

The centers are open Monday–Friday, 8 am–3 pm through Sept. 18, with the exception of Sept. 7, Labor Day, and Sept. 14-15 for Rosh Hashanah. Family Welcome Centers will be closed until Sept. 21.

All high school students as well as elementary and middle school students who do not have a zoned school must go to a registration center to enroll in school.

Elementary and middle schools students who have a zoned school, including special education students who have a current New York City–issued IEP (individualized education plan), should wait until the first day of school, Sept. 9, to register directly at their zoned school. Regardless of whether or not you have a zoned school, new students with IEPs from outside of New York City should go to a registration center.

Students with more restrictive or specialized needs may also visit a Committee on Special Education (CSE) location. For more information, including CSE locations, call 311 or visit nyc.gov/schools.

As September looms and school waitlists clear (or don't), many Brooklyn families with rising pre-kindergartners approach a time of reckoning. Maybe you’ve been holding out for a popular neighborhood program but the waitlist hasn’t budged, maybe you just moved to a new area, or maybe something about the program your child was assigned to doesn’t feel quite right.

Have hope, Brooklynites: Established programs have expanded in the borough, while many religious schools, child care centers and free-standing pre-k centers are offering pre-k for the first time and still have open seats. Information on some of these programs is scarce, but we’ve done our best to recommend available pre-k's for your 4-year-old based on insights from our school reviews, Department of Education data and interviews.

Below you’ll find our best bets of available programs organized by district to help you get started, but don’t be shy: It’s always a good idea to call a program and visit yourself. When it comes to your child, you’re the expert. Need more information about districts? Click on our district maps on the homepage.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015 12:09

Still looking for pre-k? Here are our picks

There are still pre-kindergarten seats available for the fall—not just in public schools but also in religious schools, child care centers and community organizations.

Some of the most popular programs are seriously oversubscribed, and there is a shortage of seats in some neighborhoods (such as the Upper West Side and Bayside, Queens.) Still, it doesn't hurt to put your name on a waitlist at a popular program while you check out others. Families who applied in the second round of pre-k admissions must decide by Aug. 21 whether to accept their offer.

The good news: Some well-established programs have expanded—and still have room. Many religious schools and child care agencies are offering public pre-k for the first time and haven't filled their seats.

Information is scarce on a lot of these programs, but we've done our best to identify a few we can recommend based on the data available. Be sure to visit: It's a bad sign if a program is unwilling to let you see the classrooms. Watch our video on "What to look for in a pre-kindergarten" and read our tips.

Still looking for a pre-k spot as the July 10 Round 2 deadline looms? Try our new mobile pre-kindergarten search on your phone or mobile device! Many public schools, pre-k centers and early education centers still have room for this year's crop of 4-year-olds. 

Visit Insideschools.org on your phone and you'll be prompted to visit the mobile site for pre-kindergarten. Type in your address and up pops your zoned school and whether it offers pre-k. You'll also see every pre-k option near your home or work, if you type in that address. Click through to read our reviews of public schools that offer pre-k. 

Even if you already received a pre-k offer, you can take advantage of Round 2 which is comprised mainly of new programs that were not listed in Round 1. Like the first round, you can apply online, over the phone by calling 311 or in person at a Family Welcome Center.

Friday, 06 February 2015 12:02

What to look for in a pre-kindergarten

Choosing a pre-kindergarten requires lots of research. We’ve produced a video as well as these tips to help you.

First, consider whether you prefer a pre-kindergarten in a public school—typically open from 8:30 am to 2:30 pm—or one housed in a community organization or childcare center. Some of these are open from 8 am to 6 pm.

We found that public schools that are solid overall tend to have good pre-k classes. But we also found that some schools have terrific pre-k classes, even if the rest of the school isn't great. Many have bathrooms right in the classroom, playgrounds just for the little kids and experienced teachers.

Some parents prefer pre-k in a community organization because the hours and focus are friendly for working parents. Whatever you decide, we suggest you visit.

When you visit, consider the following:

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