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For nearly two decades, parents have looked to Clara Hemphill to help them find a good public school for their child. This Fourth Edition of "New York City's Best Public Pre-K and Elementary Schools A Parents' Guide" features all-new reviews of more than 150 of the city's best public elementary schools, based on visits and in-depth interviews by Hemphill and the InsideSchools staff.

This essential guide uncovers the "inside scoop" on schools (the condition of the building, special programs, teacher quality, and more), includes a checklist of things to look for on a school tour, and incorporates new listings of charter schools and stand-alone pre-kindergarten programs. It also provides the hard facts on:

  • Total school enrollment
  • Test scores for reading and math
  • Ethnic makeup
  • Who gets in?
  • Admissions requirements
  • Teaching methods and styles
  • Special education services
  • How to apply

The book will be available on Dec. 13,  just in time for kindergarten and pre-kindergarten application season! You can look for it at your local bookstore or order online here.

New report: Five steps to integrate schools

Written by Insideschools staff Wednesday, 30 November 2016 11:00

The City can do much more to foster economic integration of elementary schools than the small scale efforts it has made to date. That's the conclusion of our new report, Five Steps to Integrated Schools, based on our visits to 150 schools across the city over the past two years.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has suggested that school segregation is intractable because it is largely a result of housing patterns, that is, that schools are segregated because housing is. And Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña has said she favors "organic" or voluntary school integration efforts.

There's no question that that persistent housing segregation makes school integration difficult in many neighborhoods; however, as our earlier report shows, the city has segregated, high-poverty schools even in many integrated, mixed-income neighborhoods.

To give you help we need help ourselves!

Written by Insideschools staff Tuesday, 29 November 2016 11:53

Middle school and high school applications are due on Dec. 1!

Have we helped you in your search?

It's a tough task – and a rewarding one.
You trust us; you turn to us for help.
This #GivingTuesday we're turning to you!

InsideSchools is a tiny non-profit group.
We can't provide the free services that you count on without your help.
Please consider giving us a vote of your confidence with a tax-deductible contribution this year.

Donate now!

Q: This is a pretty sticky situation. I dropped out of high school to homeschool myself without credit some time ago, using online high school and college-level courses and books, and I've had nobody to help me with college applications or getting into programs. I'm very interested in physics and want to go to a major state university. Is going to community college for a year or two and working really hard there actually a good strategy, or will my lack of credit for high school forever prevent my success?

A: You are correct; this is indeed a sticky situation, but not a hopeless one. At the outset, what do you mean by "some time ago"? Did you drop out three years ago, or twenty? It could make a difference. You need to check on several things: Do you need to pass a high school equivalency assessment known as the Test Assessing Secondary Completion or "TASC" (which replaced the GED) to be admitted into a community college? Can you do a credit-by-examination at a local community college to prove your academic skills?

The Center for New York City Affairs and InsideSchools present a Nov. 30 panel discussion based on an upcoming report: "How to Make Our Schools More Integrated."

We will present our findings and recommendations for better socio-economic integration of the city's public elementary schools, with a particular focus on neighborhoods where integration is possible without busing—that is, economically integrated neighborhoods where the schools are segregated.

Q: I didn’t apply to any school by the November 1, early action deadline. Guess I’ve blown it, right?

A: No. True, many students apply to college under Early Action or Early Decision. But MOST students apply to MOST schools later. On the one hand, you have missed the advantages of Early Action—where you get an early admissions decision without the obligation to enroll—but on the other you have also avoided the frenzy Early Decision where you have to apply and commit to a school early in your senior year.

Take comfort in the fact that if you have not applied to college yet, it’s because you really didn’t want to. Many students who apply under the “early” programs are sorry later. They really needed extra time to make up their minds. If there were indeed a college that you truly, desperately wanted to enter, you would have applied.

Have you finalized your your list for the high school application yet? The Dec. 1 deadline is almost here.

If you still are undecided about where to apply, or how to rank your 12 choices, we've got last minute tips for you. 

First, read our latest high school admissions guide, which includes tips for completing the application and advice for 8th-graders.

Then, make sure to read our school profiles and InsideStats for every high school you’re still considering. Click on the comments and browse what current and former students have to say about the school.

Some schools are still holding open houses. Check the Department of Education’s (DOE) high school admissions calendar for dates and times. If you don’t see any dates listed for a school you’re interested in, then check that school’s own website or call them directly.

A word of caution about limited unscreened schools, which admit students by lottery, but give priority to those who sign in at an open house or high school fair. Chalkbeat reported that some limited unscreened schools may be inappropriately looking at more than a student’s attendance at an open house or fair when deciding who gets priority. Bottom line: If you visited some limited unscreened schools or met with their staff at a school fair, we recommend that you reach out to each of them to confirm that your 8th-grader has priority in the lottery.

How city leaders can back a brave school zoning plan

Written by Clara Hemphill Wednesday, 02 November 2016 12:36

After two years of contentious public meetings, the Community Education Council, an elected panel of parents, has come up with a courageous and long overdue plan to ease overcrowding and foster racial and economic integration of three elementary schools in District 3 on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. It is a bold attempt to balance competing interests and to resolve one of the city’s most intractable social problems. City Hall and the City Department of Education (DOE) should back the plan, which the CEC devised only after it found every zoning plan the DOE offered to be unacceptable. City leaders should also take immediate, aggressive steps to address legitimate concerns raised by local residents.

After weighing multiple perspectives from often angry members of the public, the CEC, responsible for approving attendance zone lines, has taken the unusual step of coming up with its own plan.  This plan could end waitlists at the most popular schools and give hundreds of children better school facilities than they currently have.

If successful, the plan will also break up the high concentrations of poverty that have made it so difficult for one school, PS 191, to gain traction. In the past, most of the children from Amsterdam Houses, a public housing development, have been assigned to PS 191; under the CEC plan they would be assigned to three different schools, all a short walk from one another.

Applying to elementary school in NYC has been compared to having a second job, but things may just have gotten a bit easier for families. For the first time, the Department of Education is staging “It’s Elementary!” admissions events in all 32 city school districts beginning on Tuesday, Nov. 1. Enrollment officials will cover the major elementary admissions entry points in one evening—pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and gifted and talented programs. How the DOE manages this more complicated format remains to be seen, but it’s quite a boost from the handful of borough-wide admissions events offered last year. 

Families may begin applying to kindergarten on Nov. 30.

“We’re committed to making it easier for families to find and enroll in the school that’s right for them,” Deputy Chancellor for Strategy and Policy Josh Wallack said in a DOE press release. “We are confident the It’s Elementary! events are a real step forward—they’ll bring all the information families need for Pre-K, Kindergarten, and Gifted & Talented under one roof, and into every neighborhood—and we look forward to building on this progress.”

New York City is one of the most segregated school systems in the country, but some schools buck the trend and enroll a mix of children of different races and income levels. How do they do it? And how can their success be replicated?

The staff of InsideSchools, a project of the Center for New York City Affairs, visited 80 elementary schools to find out how some formerly high-poverty schools have succeeding in attracting children from a range of races, ethnicities and income levels. We published our findings in a new report: "Integrated Schools in a Segregated City."