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Our pre-k picks for Brooklyn

Written by Pamela Wheaton Wednesday, 16 April 2014 16:23

Brooklyn is the city's largest borough and the one with most schools. Pre-kindergarten choices are as varied as the borough. In some areas of brownstone Brooklyn, pre-k programs don't meet the demand. Even parents who list 12 schools on their application will be disappointed. In other areas—such as Fort Greene or Bedford Stuyvesant—parents have more options.

Don't be afraid to look at historically low-performing schools: in some cases pre-kindergarten programs are excellent and expanding, even if the school as a whole has a long way to go. Further out in Brooklyn, half-day programs can be the norm, especially in Districts 21 and 22. We haven't found much to recommend in central Brooklyn, where school environment surveys reflect a discontent with the tone of the buildings. We advise you to take a look and let us know what you find.

Child born in 2010? Apply to pre-k by April 23

Written by Anna Schneider Wednesday, 16 April 2014 12:13

If your child turns four this year, it's time to apply to pre-kindergarten.

If you're interested in a program that's part of a regular public school, you should should submit your application, either online or in person at a borough enrollment office, by April 23 for your best chance of a getting a good seat. (If you are interested in applying to a pre-kindergarten program that's housed at a community based organization, you should apply directly to that organization. The city will be adding more seats later this spring, and we'll post a new list when we have it.) 

Unfortunately, you are not guaranteed a seat in pre-kindergarten--there simply aren't enough spaces for all the city's 4-year-olds. In neighborhoods where the zoned schools are very popular, there are hardly any pre-k seats. However, if you are willing to travel a bit, you may find a seat for your child in a neighborhood where the schools aren't so crowded, especially since the city created 4,200 new full-day seats.

Here are some pre-k basics:

Any child born in 2010 who lives in New York City may apply to a free pre-k program.

Pre-k programs in public schools or local child care centers and community organizations, 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.

About 40 percent of the city's pre-k seats are in public schools. The application process for public school pre-k is centralized and parents apply online or in person at a borough enrollment office. The deadline is April 23, 2014.

The remaining 60 percent of the city's pre-k seats are provided by Community-based organizations (CBOs) such as Y's, preschools and other childcare centers. These seats are also free and available to all New York City families with four-year-olds. Admissions to these programs continues as long as slots are available. An updated list of CBOs offering programs will be available in June.

How to find a public school pre-K program:

Pick up a pre-k directory and the expanded directory at an elementary school or borough enrollment office. You may also download the guide here. [PDF]

New York City has 32 public schools districts and each district has two pages in the directory, with a map listing the district schools and admissions information.

To find your public school district, enter your address in the DOE's school search tool or call 311.

When you have identified some schools, look at the school profiles on Insideschools.

Once you have narrowed down a list of schools, be sure to arrange a visit.

Before you tour schools, check out our video "What to Look for in an Elementary School." On your visit, you want to see well-arranged rooms with plenty of places to play. A good pre-k shouldn't be too heavy on academics; kids should be engaged, busy and happy. Scan the wall for a daily schedule that should include snacks and naptime. 

Ranking schools and submitting your public school pre-k application:

Families may apply to up to 12 schools for pre-K but are not required to choose that many.  Only list schools on your application that you want your child to attend. 

Public school admissions are not first-come, first-served. Anyone who applies by April 23 has the same chance.

After the application process closes, seats will be randomly assigned according to a list of 10 priorities, with first dibs going to families who live in the zone and have a sibling enrolled in the school. Next up is kids who live in the zone without siblings enrolled, then kids in the district, and so on.

List the programs in order of preference. If your zoned school is not your top choice, there is no disadvantage to placing it lower on your list. If you don't get your top choices, your child still has priority at your zoned school.

While there are more seats available this year, consider the 2013 numbers when choosing schools. If your top pick had a waiting list last year, you may want to consider other options.

If you live in a crowded district where pre-k seats are few and far between, like District 2's Upper East Side or District 15 in Park Slope, you'll probably need to consider CBOs and other districts where there were empty seats in 2013.

District 1 on the Lower East Side, District 7 in the South Bronx and District 23 in East New York are unzoned. Families in these districts have top priority at all district schools.

Families who submit their public school pre-k applications by April 23 will find out in June whether they got a spot and will register at the school that month. 

Most CBOs admit children on a rolling, first-come, first-served basis, so it's best to apply early. Some CBOs also have income-eligibility requirements. Contact each program for specifics.

The DOE does not provide pre-K transportation, so parents should consider travel time to all the schools they rank.

Also, the DOE does not guarantee that all special needs will be met in every pre-kindergarten program. Parents of children with special needs may apply to pre-K through the centralized public school process and to CBO programs but should also contact their local Committee on Special Education or the Committee on Pre-School Special Education to identify the school that best meets your child's needs. See this page on the DOE's website or call 311 for more information.

For the most up-to-date information and news about new seats, Nicholas Farrell from the DOE's Office of Enrollment suggested parents should sign up for pre-k admissions email updates. Farrell also said that district offices will keep lists of open seats.

(Post updated with new information on March 4 and on April 16.)

City takes high stakes out of testing

Written by Pamela Wheaton Wednesday, 09 April 2014 14:14

The city has taken a big step to scale back on anxiety over state tests. A new promotion policy takes the high-stakes out of testing for grades 3-8, at least when it comes to determining who gets promoted to the next grade and who must attend summer school.

The Department of Education announced the new policy today, which, if approved by the Panel for Educational Policy in May, will mean that a student cannot be held back simply because of a low score (Level 1) on the state reading or math exam. Instead, "multiple measures" will be used to determine promotion, including report card grades and schoolwork as well as test scores.  

"We have listened and worked closely with families, teachers and principals to establish a new promotion policy that complies with State law and empowers educators, takes the temperature down around testing, and keeps rigorous standards in place," said schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña in a statement.

Manhattan schools join anti-test protests

Written by DNAinfo Tuesday, 08 April 2014 15:17

(This story first appeared on DNAInfo.com

More than 30 public elementary schools — including TriBeCa's top-ranked P.S. 234 and the Upper East Side's P.S. 59 — are set to participate in protests Friday to blast the state's standardized English exams.

The planned protests by schools in Manhattan's District 2 — which also includes Greenwich Village and Chelsea — are part of a growing anti-testing movement in some of the city's most esteemed public schools. Last week, a protest at Park Slope's P.S. 321 drew hundreds of teachers, parents and students who complained about age-inappropriate content and poorly explained multiple-choice questions that seemed to have no one right answer.

Now, the 31 Manhattan elementary schools are planning an even bigger demonstration at each of their schools Friday morning, to demand that the exams be released to the public as soon as they have been graded.

G&T: Fewer qualify; rich-poor gap persists

Written by Pamela Wheaton Friday, 04 April 2014 15:23

Nearly one-third of the 14,600 rising kindergartners who sat for Gifted & Talented assessments in January and February found out today that they qualified for one of the city's district or citywide G&T programs. That's  about six percent fewer than qualified in 2013, according to Department of Education data released Friday afternoon. The number of children who scored in the 99th percentile--the score usually necessary for a chance at entry into one of the five coveted citywide G&T--programs also fell, from more than 1,450 last year to about 950 this year.

Even with the lower number of qualifiers, there are still three times as many top-scoring tykes than there are seats in the five most selective citywide programs which have only about 300 seats for incoming kindergartners. Further decreasing the odds of entry, qualifying siblings of current students get first dibs at those seats.

The gap in student performance between richest and poorest districts remains wide but there were gains in Harlem and Washington Heights. In Districts 4 (East Harlem), 5 (Harlem) and 6 (Washington Heights and Inwood) nearly twice as many students scored in the top percentile than did last year.

Parents were notified of their child's score today along with an application listing their progam options. Families who do not get their results by Monday, April 7, should call the DOE at 718-935-2009. Families have until April 21 to apply one of the gifted programs, but since schools are closed for spring vacation from April 14-22, parents have only next week to visit schools.  A list of open houses is posted on the DOE's website here. Letters of acceptance for regular, non-gifted, kindergarten programs will be sent during the spring break. G&T applicants won't find out until May 26 if they have been offered a spot.

City creates 4,200 new full-day pre-k seats

Written by Pamela Wheaton Wednesday, 02 April 2014 12:55

Some highly sought-after schools that lacked pre-kindergarten programs will now have them. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced today the city will add more than 4,200 new full-day pre-k seats at 140 public schools in September, thanks to $300 million in funding from the state that was approved over the weekend.

There are three new programs in popular midtown Manhattan schools: Midtown West, PS 116 and PS 40. In Chinatown, PS 130 is offering a full day instead of a half-day program, and PS 124 will house three classes. In Brooklyn's District 15, the new Maurice Sendak Community School will have 66 seats, up from the 30 originally planned. PS 15 in Red Hook is offering 84 slots. PS 20 in Fort Greene will have two classes, instead of one.

In the Bronx, perennially popular Bronx New School will offer two full-day classes, not one and PS 23 in Fordham will have 48 seats. In Queens, new programs will open at PS 290 in Maspeth and PS 63 in Ozone Park and at two new schools that will open in the fall, PS 343 in Corona and PS 316 in South Ozone Park. PS 175 in Rego Park will also offer three classes. In Staten Island, 15 schools have either created new programs, added additional seats or are expanding half-day programs to full-day.

State: NYC must give space to charters

Tuesday, 01 April 2014 10:31
In New York City, a new siting process paves the way for more charter schools (via Chalkbeat New York)

The state budget bill’s expected passage includes several dramatic education policy shifts for the city, but perhaps none have been more fiercely debated than new provisions for providing new city charter schools with free or subsidized space. Now…

15 charter schools opening, apply by April 1

Written by Pauline Zaldonis Thursday, 20 March 2014 17:22

Amid the debate surrounding charter schools in the city, 15 new charter schools will be opening in the fall, adding to the 183 already operating in New York City. The majority of the new schools are part of established charter networks, including Success Academy, Achievement First and Ascend Schools. A few of the new schools are independent “mom and pop” charters that aren’t part of a larger network.

Applications for most charter schools are due by April 1 with admissions lotteries held in early April. Parents may submit applications to multiple schools at once using the online Common Charter School Application on the New York City Charter School Center website. Parents should also contact the schools that they wish to apply to directly to make sure that they understand all the application requirements. Admissions to charter schools is determined by lottery, giving priority to residents of the district where the school is located. Some charters have additional admissions priorities.

In a charter's first year, there is frequently space for out-of-district students, as some families are reluctant to take a chance on a school until it has a track record. All charter schools keep waitlists so even if you miss the application deadline, if you are interested in a school it's worth asking to be put on the waitlist.

Q: My son is a senior in high school, so we have just finished with applications and testing and expensive test prep. Now I have to start worrying about my daughter, who will be entering ninth grade next year. When the New York Times magazine devotes its cover article to the "new" SAT test, it's got to be something major! I am in a panic!

A: Everyone needs to take a deep breath about the "new and improved" SAT.  The College Board is a business. It is a huge business. Yes, it is a .org and calls itself a "not-for-profit" entity. But that lack of profit comes after taking their multi-million-dollar revenues (from the PSAT, SAT, and AP exams) and subtracting their expenses. And among their expenses are tremendous salaries for those at the top of the organization. While the current head of the College Board has an annual compensation package of $750,000, his predecessor had a compensation package of $1.3 million. Many executives at the College Board have salaries over $300,000. You want to know why test fees have increased so much over the years?

All right, to be fair, the head of the ACT company gets $1.1 million. As I said, testing is big business.

District 2 schools get most applications

Written by Pamela Wheaton Thursday, 13 March 2014 11:39

What are an 8th grader's odds of getting accepted by the most popular New York City high school? Less than two percent at tiny Baruch College High School, which got a whopping 7,238 applications for just 111 seats this year. For the fourth year in the row, Baruch, which has a 100 percent graduation rate and screens for student grades, test scores and attendance, tops the Department of Education's list of the 20 high school programs that received the most applications. (Some huge neighborhood schools in Queens and Brooklyn get far more total applicants but the DOE ranked the list of applications by programs, not schools.)

In a repeat of the past few years, second on the list with 5,779 applicants, was Pace High School in Chinatown, followed by Eleanor Roosevelt on the Upper East Side, with 5,740 applicants. What the top three have in common is that they are all small schools located in Manhattan's District 2.  

Unlike the other boroughs, there are no large zoned high schools in Manhattan. Instead, District 2 created a series of small and successful schools which have yet to be widely replicated around the city. Five of its screened schools give priority to district students and Manhattanites, all but shutting out applicants from elsewhere. Because there are few comparable schools in other boroughs, 8th graders citywide continue to apply, even though chances of acceptance are slim. According to a SchoolBook article this week, more than 78 percent of the students offered admissions to six District 2 schools last year came from the district. For Baruch and the New York City Lab School (number 18 on the list), about 95 percent of the students accepted in 2013 came from District 2 middle schools.