Stand on the corner of 116th Street and Lenox Avenue in Harlem early on a school day morning, and you'll see a steady stream of children leaving the neighborhood by bus and subway. Some parents call this daily exodus the "Harlem diaspora." They may live in the neighborhood, but they don't necessarily send their children to their zoned neighborhood schools.

The hemorrhaging of students over the past decade has left many of the traditional neighborhood schools with declining enrollments and shrinking budgets. Five of the seven zoned elementary schools in the northern part of District 3—a district that includes a portion of Harlem in addition to the Upper West Side—now have fewer than 300 children; three have fewer than 200. And, because the children who stay tend to be needier than those who leave, the traditional zoned schools have higher concentrations of poverty and more children with special needs than they would have if everyone who lives in the neighborhood attended their zoned school.

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If you're one of the 4,800 8th-graders who didn't get a high school placement last week (or if you didn't like the placement you got) you may want to consider a charter school.

Most charter schools start in the elementary or middle schools gradesand don't accept students in 9th grade—but a few begin with high school and some others have seats for new students in 9th grade. All admit students by lottery. The application deadline is April 1. (Because April 1 is a Saturday, some charters are accepting applications until April 3. Make sure to check their websites.)

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Pre-Kindergarten applications for children turning 4-years-old this year are due on Friday, Feb. 24. Let us help you get informed and ready. Sign up for our free workshop at Rutgers Community Programs at 236 W. 73rd Street on Feb. 6 at 6 pm.

Join Clara Hemphill and the staff of InsideSchools as we release our new book, New York City's Best Public Pre-K and Elementary Schools. We'll highlight some undiscovered gems and walk you through the pre-kindergarten and kindergarten application process.

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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 is available now,  just in time for kindergarten and pre-kindergarten application season! You can look for it at your local bookstore or order online here. You'll get 20 percent off list price if you use the discount code TCP2017.

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Wednesday, 17 February 2016 13:32

Apply now for new middle school programs

Fifth-graders unhappy with their middle school choices now have a few more options. The Department of Education announced several new middle school programs slated to open in September 2016.

Most of the options are not new schools, but rather new dual language programs opening in established middle schools. The one exception is the new Dock Street School for S.T.E.A.M. Studies in DUMBO, Brooklyn.

Applying to a new school will not override students' choices entered on the middle school applications they submitted last December. According to the DOE’s website, “students who receive a match from their new schools application will be able to choose between their new schools and main round matches in the spring.”

Students eligible to attend a new middle school program can request an application from their elementary school guidance counselor. Non-public school students can pick up an application at a Family Welcome Center. Applications are due by March 1.

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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.

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It seems the blocks are stacked in Mayor de Blasio's favor. One day into the pre-k enrollment process, nearly 22,000 families had applied, up from 6,500 in the first day last year. By the end of the first week, some 37,000 families had signed up, according to the Daily News. If the mayor gets his wish, the city will serve 70,000 pre-k students in fall 2015. 

Last year, the mayor's fast-paced citywide rollout of more than 53,000 pre-k seats was unprecedented and largely successful, although the timing and logistics were far from headache-free. Some popular schools had far more applicants than seats available, while others remained under-enrolled, and parents had to navigate separate application systems for district schools and early education centers.

Although inconsistencies may persist around the city, this year promises some relief with a (mostly) single application. If you have a child born in 2011, you can apply online, by phone at 718-935-2067 or in person at a family welcome center now through Friday, April 24. You may list up to 12 pre-k programs including district schools and full-day New York City Early Education Centers (NYCEECs). Those interested in charter schools or half-day programs at a NYCEEC, however, should still contact the program directly. 

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It ain’t over yet. The Department of Education extended the deadline for parents to apply for a seat in their district or citywide Community Education Council through the end of today. After years of voting snafus, difficulty attracting members and claims of CEC ineffectiveness, the DOE power players seem ready to start anew—and they want parents to know it. Jesse Mojica, executive director of the Department of Education’s Division of Family and Community Engagement (FACE) answered several questions via email about the CEC application process and emphasized Chancellor Carmen Fariña’s commitment to give the parent-led councils a stronger voice in education policy. Here's what he had to say.

Q: Which districts are particularly in need of more applicants?

A: Our unprecedented outreach efforts have resulted in at least one applicant for every council seat within a shorter time frame than in previous campaigns. We would like to have at least two candidates for every available seat in every council; we are still short of that goal in Districts 16, 17, 18, 23, 26, 28, 32 and Staten Island High Schools.

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Tuesday, 30 September 2014 11:52

Not the usual suspects: Our middle school picks

Here's help for 5th-grade parents now in the throes of the hunt for middle school. Insideschools combed the city for good middle schools that are not among the usual favorites—those popular screened and highly competitive programs that everybody applies to. What we found are solid neighborhood and non-selective options in every borough. Overall, we were less concerned with a school’s test scores than with its tone and environment, and the quality of its instruction and leadership. Several on the list serve kids in grades 6–12. These schools seem to do a particularly good job with struggling and average students, and their leaders tend to not fret too much over middle school stats so long as they believe they are laying a foundation for higher achievement in the upper grades. Of course there are topnotch schools that are not on this list, but many of those are the schools that already receive many more applicants than they can accept!

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Tuesday, 01 April 2014 10:31

State: NYC must give space to charters

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…

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