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Q: I just read your comments about the the National Student Leadership Conference (NSLC) programs. My daughter and son have received so many different "opportunities" and it is indeed difficult to discern the value of these programs. So what is your opinion about Model United Nations (MUN) programs that provide intensive "opportunities" throughout the country? My daughter is involved in MUN at her high school and wants to develop her skills in this area. Will participating in a program such as this add value to her resume?

A: Participation in Model UN could add value especially if she has had a leadership role in the organization or has participated actively (that is, other than just going to meetings). The National Student Leadership Conference (NSLC) and other "honor" programs, such as the National Youth Leadership Forum (NYLF), offer worthwhile experiences—but at a steep price. One of the organizers of the NYLF, in fact, is the Envision company which, as a dot-com, is interested mostly in making profits for itself. The experiences offered by these programs might be enjoyable, but they will NOT help anyone get into college.

Model United Nations (MUN), on the other hand, is a legitimate activity that originated around the time the UN did. In 1927, a model League of Nations was founded, followed by the Model UN in the late 1940s. Many high schools and colleges offer their students MUN as one of their extra-curricular activities. Here, students experience simulated UN sessions and learn about world affairs, decision-making processes, negotiation and diplomacy. Being involved in MUN during high school is considered an excellent activity, equal to being involved in the orchestra, an athletic team, the debating society, a theatrical production or any other group demanding a commitment of time and brainpower.

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.

by Rachel Howard, Lori Podvesker, Albert Martinez and Todd Dorman of INCLUDEnyc

All 8th-graders have a rough time applying to high schools in New York City, but for the 15,000 8th-graders with disabilities—out of 270,000 total students with disabilities—the application process is even harder. Information in the high school directory can be misleading, and parents of children with disabilities don't get much help at fairs or open houses. Families hear the same mantra: “This school will provide students with disabilities the supports and services indicated on their IEPs.” Too often, it’s just not true.

Students with disabilities, especially those from high-need neighborhoods, are at the highest risk for placement at the city’s lowest performing high schools—or at schools that are unprepared to support them. Through our work at INCLUDEnyc, we’ve seen kids choose underperforming schools over better ones because they were close by; we’ve seen others apply to schools that they weren’t qualified to attend, or that were geographically inaccessible to them. Too many students with disabilities make uninformed choices about high school—and it shows. The graduation rate for students with disabilities is 36.6 percent (about half of the city average), and the dropout rate is especially high during 9th grade.

Students who meet the criteria for one of 13 federally defined education disabilities are legally entitled to an Individualized Education Program, known as an IEP. An IEP outlines the services, supports, and educational strategies that must be provided so the student can learn and graduate ready for a job or college. The IEP is both a legal contract and a working educational map. But the capacity of any school to fulfill a student’s program—which is different for every student—is all but ignored in the NYC high school application process.

How Insideschools helped Hugo

Written by Lydie Raschka Tuesday, 01 December 2015 16:20

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.

If your child was born in 2011, it's time to be thinking about kindergarten for 2016. You may apply online, on the phone or in person at a Department of Education Family Welcome Center between Dec. 7-Jan. 15. 

If you're wondering where to start, Insideschools can help. We're offering a workshop for parents of rising kindergartners.

Join Clara Hemphill and the staff of Insideschools as we help you navigate the kindergarten admissions process.

We'll tackle these questions and more:

  • What should I look for in a school?
  • What's the difference between progressive vs. traditional?
  • How do I know if the school is right for my child?
  • What if my local school doesn't offer tours and open houses?
  • What about gifted programs, charters and other options?
  • My child has special needs. What do I need to know?

We'll offer a short presentation and then open it up for a Q&A session to answer all your questions.

Register here! The workshop will be held at The New School in Manhattan.

Se habla español. Spanish translation will be available.

A multiracial group of parents in Harlem is working to reinvent their neighborhood school — with none of the rancor that has pitted newcomers and longtime residents against one another in other parts of the city. If you want to see the school for yourself, go to an open house Wednesday, Nov. 25, at 9 am, at 425 W. 123rd Street.

The work by Black, Latino, Asian and White parents at PS 125 shows that integration is possible — and that parents working together can improve a school, even in a district with few good options. Insideschools spoke to three parents about the changes at their school.

“For a long time, it was all Black children here — nothing else,” said Kim Clinton, whose grandson is in the 2nd grade and whose children attended the school. “Then all of a sudden, the whole neighborhood is changing. We have White neighbors, we have Chinese, Japanese. I like it! It’s good to know about other people, other cultures.”

PS 125 has long had a popular pre-kindergarten program, but many parents chose other schools for kindergarten. That’s partly because the upper grades had a traditional approach to education, not the play-based or child-centered approach that many parents said they wanted. “There were so many parents looking for a progressive choice, but one didn’t exist in the district,” said Daiyu Suzuki the father of a 1st- and 3rd-grader.

“I remember parents would get together in the park and talk about ‘Where do we go?’’’ said Tomoi Zeimer, mother of a kindergartner. “Either it’s a super-expensive private school or a really low-rated public school. We thought, ‘Is there a way that we can go into a school and make it better?’”  

Over the past two years, parents lobbied the principal and superintendent to adopt a more progressive approach to teaching. The principal, Reginald Higgins, agreed, and enlisted Julie Zuckerman, the principal of Castle Bridge School in Washington Heights, to serve as a mentor. Higgins worked with Borough of Manhattan Community College to help revise curriculum and coach teachers. The new approaches seem to be working, and this year more pre-k parents opted to stay for kindergarten. Enrollment is inching up, from 193 in 2013–14 to 230 this fall.

The parents have succeeded in getting kids more access to the gym, and have reclaimed a community garden near the school. They are working to raise money to build a new library.  

“We haven’t seen a final product yet,” said Suzuki. “We’re a community in the making.”

“We have so many different people from different backgrounds. It’s nice to hear from the other side and try something different for a change,” said Clinton.

“You know, when we work on something together it becomes a really nice community,” said Zeimer.

Turning 5: Learn about special ed kindergarten admissions

Written by Aimee Sabo Wednesday, 18 November 2015 11:52

Kindergarten application season will soon be in full swing—just around the time you’ve digested the last of your leftover stuffing. All families with a child born in 2011 should apply between Dec. 7-Jan. 15, 2016. For most families, this means scheduling tours, pouring through Insideschools reviews and playing with elementary rankings like a fantasy football fanatic.

For families of kids with special needs, there are often more subtle, challenging considerations: What supports can my zoned school offer my child? Does the school welcome children with learning differences? Is the school accessible? Does my child need an aide, an integrated classroom or something more?

Children already receiving special services will be making the transition from pre-school special education services to the Committee on Special Education, and it’s not always as simple as it sounds. Many of the supports a child might have received in preschool shift as she enters kindergarten, and academic demands are often higher. Others may be entering the world of special education in New York City schools for the very first time.

To help make sense of the transition and answer any questions parents may have, the Department of Education has begun hosting information sessions specifically targeted to families of children with special needs who will be applying to kindergarten this year. Workshops in the Bronx were held earlier this month, but more workshops are coming up in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island. The same information will be covered at every one.

Brooklyn

Date Time Location Contact
Wednesday, Nov. 18 6–8 pm

PS 264 Bay Ridge Elem. School for the Arts 371 89th Street Brooklyn, NY 11209

CSE #7, Brooklyn (718) 759-4900

Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015

9:30–11:30 am

P.S. 190 Sheffield 590 Sheffield Avenue Brooklyn, NY 11207

CSE #5, (718) 240-3557

Manhattan

Date Time Location Contact

Friday, Nov. 20

9:30– 11:30 am

CUNY Graduate Center 365 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10016

(212) 374-6085

Queens

Date Time Location Contact

Monday, Dec. 7

9:30–11:30 am

P.S. 69 Jackson Heights 77-02 37th Avenue Queens, NY 11372

CSE #4 (718) 391-8405

Monday, Dec. 7

6 – 8 pm

Committee on Special Education (CSE) #3, 90-27 Sutphin Blvd. Jamaica, NY 11435

CSE #3 Sutphin Office (718) 557-2553

Staten Island

Date Time Location Contact

Thursday, Dec. 10

9:30–11:30 am

The Michael J. Petrides School 715 Ocean Terrace, Building B Staten Island, NY 10301

CSE #7, Staten Island (718) 420-5790

Thursday, Dec. 10

6–8 pm

The Michael J. Petrides School 715 Ocean Terrace, Building B Staten Island, NY 10301

CSE #7, Staten Island (718) 420-5790

*All sites listed here are wheelchair accessible. Please call using the numbers listed if you are hearing impaired or need language interpretation services.

The DOE is also offering kindergarten info sessions for families in December. See the dates here.

And watch our video "Touring Schools for your Special Needs Child" below.

Tips for how to rank your high school application

Written by Pamela Wheaton Wednesday, 11 November 2015 18:15

High school applications are due on Tuesday, Dec. 1. Have you made your list yet?

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

Read our school profiles for every high school in the city, including the InsideStats section that gives you answers to such questions as: Are graduates successful in college? Does the school have metal detectors? Click the Comments link to see what current and former students have to say about the school.

If you're looking for a school with a specific theme, or one that's on a certain subway line, check out our high school search on your desktop or mobile device. You can search by borough, subway line, middle school grades or keyword, sifting through hundreds of high schools to find the best matches.

Applying to high school? Last chance workshop!

Written by Pamela Wheaton Wednesday, 11 November 2015 17:06

If you have an 8th-grader, you're in the final throes of applying to high school. You've attended the fairs, visited schools, watched our videos, read our school profiles and marked key pages of the big school directory. What comes next? You've got to make final decisions and fill out an application.

Insideschools can help. We're offering a last-chance workshop for parents and students!

Join Clara Hemphill and the staff of Insideschools as we help you determine how to rank your high school choices before the Dec. 1 application deadline.

We'll tackle these last-minute questions and more:

  • What can you do if you and your child disagree?
  • My dream school is far away. Is the commute worth it?
  • What are good choices for the "B" student?
  • Is it worth applying to a screened school if I don't have tip-top grades?
  • How many schools do I really have to list to better my chances of getting accepted somewhere?
  • My kid has special needs. How do I know whether a school will actually provide the supports and services he needs?

Got other questions? We've got answers. Join us on Nov. 23. Sign up on Eventbrite here.

Se habla español. Spanish translation will be available.

Busting the myths about high school admissions

Written by Insideschools staff Wednesday, 11 November 2015 12:23

Applying to high school in New York City is a confusing process and there is a lot of misinformation out there. In a wide-ranging discussion last year at the New School, our panel of experts took a look at some of the most common myths—and busted them. We decided to rerun them for this year's 8th-graders facing down the Dec. 1 high school application deadline.