by Karra Puccia

During 10 months of the year, hundreds of thousands of New York City kids eat free school breakfasts and lunches. These meals constitute a vital lifeline for families with already-stretched food budgets. So for many such families, the June 28th last day of public school classes may be less about planning summer fun for the kids and more about facing a serious months-long gap in their nutrition.

It doesn't have to be that way. Each year, the federal Summer Food Service Program (which New York City's Department of Education administers under the name "NYC Summer Meals") provides free breakfasts and lunches to all kids 18 and younger—without registration, documents or ID required. From June 29th—the first full day of summer school vacation—right through September 2nd, Summer Meals will be offered weekdays at public schools, Parks Department outdoor pools, New York City Housing Authority complexes, libraries, food pantries, soup kitchens, community organizations and other locations throughout the city. There will also be four mobile food trucks providing meals seven days a week.

Unfortunately, the Summer Meals program can seem like the world's best-kept secret. Food Bank For New York City is in a position to know. We serve nearly 1.4 million people—almost one out of every five New New Yorkers –through a network of food pantries, soup kitchens and community-based charities. And our October 2013 report, "Hunger's New Normal: Redefining Emergency in Post-Recession New York City," which was based on interviews with more than 1,200 people using food pantries and soup kitchens in all five boroughs, found that a whopping two-thirds of families using those resources don't take advantage of Summer Meals. The number one reason? They don't even know about it.

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By Bruce Cory, editorial advisor and Nicole Mader, data analyst at the Center for New York City Affairs.

There’s a longstanding debate about why so few Black and Hispanic students are admitted to New York City’s specialized high schools, including Stuyvesant, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech. They accounted for fewer than 9 percent of students offered admissions at eight specialized schools for the current school year; that’s down from 9.6 percent the year before. Some say the specialized high school admissions test (SHSAT) is discriminatory and should be scrapped; others say the test merely reflects the poor preparation most Black and Hispanic students, who make up some 68 percent of public school enrollment, get in the elementary and middle schools.

Now, new research by the Center for New York City Affairs shows that even Black and Hispanic students who do very well in middle school—that is, those who as 7th-graders earn the best possible scores on either math or English language arts (ELA) state standardized tests—are much less likely to attend specialized high schools than their similarly high-performing Asian or White classmates.

This suggests that the City’s Department of Education (DOE) may be able to increase Black and Hispanic specialized high school admissions without scrapping the SHSAT (a politically daunting task) or completely overhauling the elementary and middle schools. It offers hope that plans announced last week to increase the diversity of students taking and passing the SHSAT could produce progress.

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by Barbara Glassman, Executive Director, INCLUDEnyc

The just-released 2017 New York City High School directory has a whole new look. It features more pleasing graphics, and information that is clearer and easier to understand.  While we at INCLUDEnyc support the DOE's efforts to bring more clarity to a notoriously intimidating process, applying to high school is still challenging for students with disabilities (SWD) who have Individualized Education Programs (IEPs).

INCLUDEnyc staff has come to know these challenges firsthand, after 30 years of advising parents and students with disabilities about the high school application process.  We tell them that the Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) stipulates that all schools must be able to accommodate students with disabilities and provide them with the services and support they need in order to receive a Free and Appropriate Education (FAPE).

Unfortunately, what happens in reality does not always comply with federal law. While the directory is a good place for parents and students to begin their search for the best-fit high school, families must know that not every school can provide every SWD with the support and services they need. As we continually coach parents, it is of vital importance that they contact the school administration at the school their child is interested in attending to make sure he or she will be properly accommodated.

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Q: I hope you can answer this before school closes for the summer. It would help settle a family dispute! Our son is finishing his junior year of high school. He's a good student, B/B+ average—not at the top of his class, but probably in the top quarter. He has to apply to college next fall, and I think he needs to use this coming summer to better advantage. The last three summers, he's played baseball in a town league and when not playing baseball he's worked at a local restaurant as a busboy and server. I think he ought enhance his applications. I want him to take an SAT prep course and to get at least one internship. Our next-door neighbor is a dentist, and is willing to let our son work in his office for a month. Wouldn't an internship in a dental practice look better on his applications than a job bringing people their pizza?

A: No, not necessarily. One can learn a lot about people by serving them their meals, as well as a lot about oneself by accepting responsibility.

Unless your son's essay or other activities indicate that he has an interest in the health professions, working in a dentist's office for a month won't matter.

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It's time for 7th-graders to be thinking about applying to high school. The Department of Education announced key dates for rising 8th-graders including its annual series of July high school admissions information sessions.

The 2017 high school directory is online, and paper copies are available for every 7th-grader at schools and at Family Welcome Centers. In addition to the 600-page book that lists every city high school, there are now individual directories for each borough. Students may see at a glance the different kinds of programs in each borough and what the particular challenges are for students applying. 

In another change, the directory now makes it easier to understand the odds of acceptance to a school whether you are in the pool of general education (GE) students or are a student with a disability (SWD). For each school there's information on the number of GE and SWD seats available, how many applicants there were for each category in the previous year and whether or not those seats were filled.

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Q: I am in 10th grade and starting to think about preparing for college admission. This year, some of my friends took the new SAT. But at this point I don’t know if I should prepare for the SAT or take the ACT. Which would look better for college?

A: To colleges, the SAT and the ACT “look” the same. Admissions offices do not care which test you take. It doesn’t matter. You should take the test with which you are more comfortable. Some students like the new SAT, while others do not. There is always going to be a difference of opinion.

The tests were created at two different times and by two different companies. And, these companies pretty much control the testing market. The tests are not perfect, and results are dependent on many factors including academic preparation, socioeconomics, and English fluency.

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Got a 7th-grader at home? Relax. High school admissions season doesn't kick in until the fall, so you can spend the next few months preparing for, rather than stressing over, the process. Our advice:

Make sure your 7th grader keeps up with her work and gets to school on time every day. Many high schools look at grades and attendance from this year and there are still three months of school left before summer break.

Come to our high school admissions workshop for 7th grade families!


Join the staff of Insideschools for a presentation on Tuesday, April 19 from 6:30-8 pm at the New School in Manhattan. We’ll tell you what you need to know about high school admissions so that you're ready to hit the ground running in September. Topics covered will include:

The nuts and bolts of applying

Describing your options and how to narrow your list

Applying to screened, audition and specialized high schools

What to do when: spring, summer and fall

Registration is required. Learn more and sign up here.

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Huge neighborhood schools in Queens topped the list of the 20 most sought-after high schools in 2016, according to data released by the Department of Education today. That's not surprising in a borough where most popular high schools are over-crowded and operating with staggered start times.

With 9,468 applications, Francis Lewis received the most applications. Second was Forest Hills High School with 8,375 applicants. Both schools have sizeable zoned programs, giving preference to students who live in the neighborhood, as well as offering themed programs open to anyone.

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High school acceptance letters arrived Friday for the more than 75,000 8th-graders who submitted applications in December. Ninety-three percent of them went home knowing they were accepted by a high school; the remaining 7 percent came up empty-handed and must apply again, choosing from a list of schools that still have room. (See our picks here.)

The number of Black and Hispanic students accepted at the highly competitive specialized exam high schools dropped, prompting Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña to once again call for "strategies to foster diversity at these schools."

The city touted gains made by students with disabilities who were accepted in higher numbers than ever before by some of the most selective schools, not including the specialized high schools. 

Here's a rundown of the results.

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If you're a rising 9th- or 10-grader who wasn’t matched with a high school this week, here's what to do: You need to apply to schools with open seats during Round 2 of admissions. Applications are due March 18.

Get to the Round 2 fairs scheduled for next weekend, March 12 and 13, 11 am–2 pm at the Martin Luther King Jr. Educational Campus. Try to arrive early so you have plenty of time to meet with representatives from each school on your list.

Eighth-graders who are unhappy with their high school match may reapply during Round 2, but be aware that if you are accepted to another school you give up your first round match. Current 9th-graders who are offered a 10th-grade seat during Round 2 will have the option of remaining at their current school.

Where to start? Hundreds of schools have openings, but not all are worth considering. As you go through the Round 2 list, focus on the same factors that mattered to you when you applied last fall: How long is the commute? Do I prefer big or small? Are there any special programs or activities that I may enjoy? Will I be challenged?

Still not sure which schools you should consider? Let us help. We've combed through the list to identify our picks—schools that are proven best bets or seem promising. 

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