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DOE extends Kindergarten Connect deadline

Written by Pamela Wheaton Wednesday, 12 February 2014 15:15

With the Friday, Feb. 14 deadline looming for parents of kids born in 2009 to apply online to kindergarten, the Department of Education extended the Kindergarten Connect deadline to the following Thursday, Feb. 20.

The decision to give parents additional time to register was announced Feb. 12 by schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. 

In a press release, the DOE said that the new Kindergarten Connect application process has been "hugely successful: 85 percent of parents responding to our application survey have described the process as easy or very easy." 

But the new application system has its detractors -- particularly for families who don't speak English or don't have computers or email addresses. In a report earlier this week, DNAInfo.com wrote about problems some parents are having accessing and understanding Kindergarten Connect. ""The DOE has tried to make [the process] more equitable, but actually it's isolated the families who can't keep up with all of this," Upper West Side parent Jennifer Friedman, told DNAInfo.

While parents have almost a whole week more to consider their options and fill out an application, what they won't have is more time to tour schools. All schools will be on break next week for President's Week.

How can you find out about schools? Read the profiles on Insideschools and check out our new InsideStats data on every elementary school page. Be sure to read the school comments. Our Q&A about applying is here. The DOE has directories for each borough, listing every school. Check it out online or pick one up at an enrollment office.

Enrollment offices will be open to receive kinderggarten applications from 8 am to 3 pm, Monday through Friday. Or call 718-935-2400. (Make sure you know the list of schools you wish to apply to before you call.) Apply online here.

Kindergarten applicants find it hard to connect

Written by DNAinfo Monday, 10 February 2014 15:42

Friday, Feb. 14 is the last day for parents of incoming kindergartners to apply to schools online via Kindergarten Connect. But parents who don't speak English, or don't have an email address, are finding it hard to connect, DNAInfo found.

(This story first appeared on DNAInfo.com; by Amy Zimmer and Gustavo Solis)

Maribel Vega doesn't own a computer, has no email address and speaks only Spanish — all of which made it extremely difficult to sign up her 5-year-old daughter, Ashley, for kindergarten this year.

That's because in order to use the city's Kindergarten Connect system, which went live in January and has open enrollment through Feb. 14, Vega needed to be digitally savvy, and be able to read and fill out an English-only application. Thankfully for her, she found workers at the Upper West Side's Bloomingdale Family Head Start Program to help walk her through every step of the process.

"They helped with everything," said Vega, 25, who moved to the Bronx from Mexico six years ago. "I don't know where we would have found another computer to use.

InsideStats give lowdown on K-5 schools

Written by Pamela Wheaton Thursday, 06 February 2014 09:30

If you're looking for an elementary school for your child, you want to know: Do most parents and teachers recommend the school? Is it welcoming? How many students are in a kindergarten class? Is the atmosphere calm or rowdy? How do children do on standardized tests?

Now, just in time for the Feb.14 deadline to apply to kindergarten, we've got the answers to those questions for 735 public elementary schools, including charters. Our new feature, called Insidestats, presents easy-to-read data on elementary schools on each school's profile page. For example, you can see that at popular PS 321 in Park Slope, 97 percent of the teachers think the principal is a good manager.
 
Data is drawn from the Department of Education's parent and teacher surveys as well as the results of standardized tests and other DOE statistics. (We'll have stats for schools with grades K-8 posted soon!) The new feature is similar to Insidestats for high schools and middle schools, but for elementary schools, we include information about what parents think of the school. 

Applying to kindergarten? Here's how!

Written by Pamela Wheaton Monday, 03 February 2014 11:50

Two weeks into the city's new online application system for children entering kindergarten in September, there is some confusion about how it works. We don't have all the answers to parents' questions, but here's what we know so far. 

Q: My child is turning five years old in 2014. How do I sign him up for school? 

This year the city began a new kindergarten application system called Kindergarten Connect. Between Jan. 13 and Feb. 14 you may apply online, by telephone at 718-935-2400 from 8 am to 6 pm Monday-Friday or in person at a Department of Education enrollment office. There is one application and you may list up to 20 schools.

College Counselor: Negotiating for more aid

Written by Dr. Jane S. Gabin Tuesday, 28 January 2014 17:24

Q: My two sons applied to the same college Early Action, and they have both been accepted. Since they were EA applicants, they are not obligated to enroll at that college, and they have also applied to other schools. They don't know yet where they want to go, and will probably take a while to decide, before the May 1st deadline.

But I am concerned about the amount of merit aid they have been awarded. For some reason, one of my sons received an award of $40,000 merit aid, while the other one, who had a slightly higher GPA and slightly higher SATs, received $0. Unfortunately, it's this second son who is more interested in the school. At what point do I approach the school, and ask them if they will review their merit aid? Do I wait until he's sure he wants to go there? If it's in April, will that be too late?

A: I don't have enough information to know why one of your sons was made a generous offer, while the other has been offered nothing. It sounds like you have no idea, either. Does one son have stronger courses than the other? Or a special talent – such as in athletics or music -- that has been rewarded? You deserve to know the answer.

Figuring Out Financial Aid? Updated Guide Offers NYC Students Help with the FAFSA and Comparing Financial Aid Packages

The Center for New York City Affairs, home to Insideschools, has published a second edition of its popular guide for high school students who are applying to college and beginning their all-important quest for financial aid: FAFSA: The How-To Guide for High School Students (And the Adults Who Help Them).

We hope this guide will be useful to students, families and the many caring adults in New York City public schools and communities who help families navigate the U.S. Department of Education's Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

This year's guide has been updated with the latest information and a new section on what students need to do after they file the FAFSA. It includes an update on FAFSA verification demands and a new section on how to compare college financial aid offers.

Read more on CenterNYC.org.

Download FAFSA: The How-To Guide here. New this year: a Spanish language version of the guide!

Watch Thursday's policy forum on Financial Aid at The New School

FAFSA: The How-To Guide for High School Students was made possible thanks to the generous support of the Capital One Foundation. This guide is part of the foundation's efforts to empower students and provide them with resources to help plan for their academic futures.

Event: Taking the fear out of financial aid

Written by Insideschools staff Wednesday, 15 January 2014 16:07

Taking the Fear Out of Financial Aid: Making Higher Education Easier to Achieve for NYC Students

This event, presented by the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School, home of Insideschools.org, is still happening tomorrow (Thursday) morning! Flooding at the university has not affected our event space.

Securing college financial aid can be intimidating for NYC students. Aid is crucial for low-income and first generation college students—but they need help, particularly navigating the government's Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), finding grants and loans and working with college aid offices. Experts say the system is needlessly complicated and should be reformed. Join the Center for New York City Affairs for the release of its latest "FAFSA: How-To Guide for High School Students" and a discussion about what needs to happen nationally and locally to ensure that the next generation of college students can afford to matriculate.

Q: A lot of my friends spent almost all winter break working on college applications that were due January 1. But I am applying to several schools that have "rolling" decisions, and some of them say they will take applications as late as April. So am I right to take it easy and get my applications in later? What's the big hurry?

A: You may not be in a hurry, but colleges are eager to know if they will enroll a full first-year class. On the one hand, "rolling" policies seem flexible – you apply when you want, as long as it's before the deadline, and you get a response as soon as it's ready. But on the other hand, this also means that a college may fill all its available spots earlier than expected. When that happens, the last students who submit their applications may find themselves on a "wait list." That is not a pleasant situation.

A couple of years ago this happened with a CUNY - LaGuardia Community College.  Students who thought they'd have no trouble being admitted learned that more people than anticipated had applied, filling the class early. Those students had to wait to see if they could get into a different CUNY school instead.

What to expect from the new schools chancellor, Carmen Farina, just announced this morning at MS 51? More collaboration between schools--and less competition. Less emphasis on test scores. And more consistent efforts to improve the quality of teaching.

The new chancellor is not against school choice—which expanded under the Bloomberg administration. But her focus during nearly half a century of teaching has been to improve neighborhood schools—not to close the bad ones.

I first met her in the mid-1990s when she was was a principal of PS 6 on the Upper East Side. She transformed a school with lackluster teaching into a national model for writing instruction, a lively place with teachers who willingly adopted new methods. She eliminated “tracking,” or grouping children by ability, insisting that all children could benefit from a challenging curriculum. She replaced textbooks with classroom libraries of children’s literature, and allowed each child to choose a different book based on his or her interests and ability.

We mourn the passing of Judy Baum

Written by Insideschools staff Sunday, 22 December 2013 10:08

Judy Baum, who toiled for nearly 40 years to help every New York City child receive a good public education, died Friday, December 20, at the end of another day of doing the work she loved.

In what turned out to be her final blog post for Insideschools, she encouraged students and parents to visit museums, libraries and parks over the holiday break, providing a helpful link to free activities.

Only hours after the post appeared online Friday, she died of a heart attack. She was 77.

"She really was a model New York citizen—always guided by the belief that she had a perpetual stake in the success of public education," said Laura Zingmond, a friend and colleague at Insideschools. "She wanted every kid to have a safe and nurturing place to go to school."