Pamela Wheaton

Pamela Wheaton

Pamela Wheaton is one of the founding members of Insideschools. Since 2002 she has served as deputy director, project director and managing editor. She edits the blog, reviews schools, leads workshops about school choice and oversees editorial content. She collaborated with Clara Hemphill on a series of guides to New York City’s best public schools. Previously Wheaton was a producer of PBS television programs and a reporter and editor at the Buenos Aires Herald. Her two daughters graduated from New York City public schools.

Middle school admissions season kicks into high gear this week for parents of 5th-graders. You can meet school representatives at evening district fairs beginning Tuesday, Sept. 30. Middle school directories for 2014-2015 are online and hard copies are available at elementary schools.

Now is the time to sign up for school tours and open houses! The Department of Education website lists some open house dates here. If you don't see the school you want to visit listed, check its website or call the school to find out. In some popular schools, especially in Manhattan where there is active school choice, many tours are already fully booked. If you're shut out, try contacting the parent coordinator to see if additional tours will be added. Be sure to ask about admissions requirements when you visit schools. The directory listings are not always specific.

In addition to fairs, some districts hold informational nights where principals talk about their schools. Check with your district's family advocate to see if one is scheduled. (You can find their names and contact information on our district pages.) So far we've heard about forums in District 15 on Oct. 16District 3 on Oct. 16 and District 1 on Oct. 29. District 21 is offering a middle school admissions workshop on Oct. 22

This weekend, Sept. 20 and 21, is the Department of Education's gigantic citywide high school fair from 10 am to 3 pm at Brooklyn Technical High School. Prepare for a hectic day, where you will meet teachers, students and administrators and find out about their schools.

You can attend information sessions several times during the day, led by staff from the Education Department's enrollment office. This will be helpful especially if you're a newbie to the process (and it will give you a place to sit down and take a breather.)

Here's the schedule provided by the DOE:

High school admissions basics at 10:30 am and 12:30 pm 
Auditioning for arts schools and programs at 2 pm 

Students who are new to New York City public schools or who are re-entering city schools after a time away, may register at special temporary enrollment centers beginning on Aug. 27 in all boroughs. The centers are open Monday-Friday, 8 am to 3 pm through Sept. 12, with the exception of Sept. 1, Labor Day. Regular enrollment centers will be closed from Aug. 22 to Sept. 15.

All high school students should go to the enrollment centers, along with any elementary and middle school students who do not have a zoned school. Elementary and middle school students who have a zoned school should wait until the first day of school, Sept. 4, to register at the school, the Education Department said.

All special education students who have a current IEP (Individualized Education Plan) may enroll directly at their zoned schools on Sept. 4. Students without a current New York City IEP, need to go to an enrollment center or to a special education site, for those with more restrictive needs.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014 12:55

Pre-k sign-up & info sessions happening now

If you're still uncertain what to do with your 4-year-old in September, you're in luck. There's still space available in many of the city's pre-kindergartens in schools and community organizations. To be eligible, your child must turn 4 by Dec. 31, 2014.

On Tuesdays in August, beginning today in Brooklyn, parents can meet with officials from the Department of Education's enrollment office at Brooklyn Borough Hall to find out how to enroll their 4-year-old in a pre-kindergarten for September. Enrollment officials have the list of schools and early childhood centers such as libraries, YMCAs or Head Starts that may still have openings. Community organizations enroll students on a rolling basis so enrollment numbers are changing throughout the summer. 

The Brooklyn sessions are on Aug. 12, 19 and 26 from 4 to 7 pm in the lobby of Brooklyn Borough Hall at 209 Joralemon Street. We've asked the DOE whether there will be information and sign-up sessions in other boroughs but there is no centralized list. Many sessions are organized by legislators as part of the city's push to enroll children in 53,000 pre-kindergarten slots by September so contact your borough president's office or local council members or go to a DOE enrollment office for help.

Newcomers to New York City, who are entering 9th or 10th grade in September, must register by Tuesday, August 19, if they want to take the summer exam for admission to one of the selective specialized high schools, or to audition for the arts school, LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and the Performing Arts. Families may register and pick up an admissions ticket for the test and audition at any Department of Education Enrollment Office.

Eligible students are those who are entering 9th or 10th grade for the first time, moved to New York City after Nov. 1, 2013 and did not take the specialized high school exam (SHSAT) or audition for LaGuardia last fall.

You'll need these documents to register: proof of residence, proof of birth, immunization records and a final 2014 report card.

The exam will be given on Aug. 26; the auditions for LaGuardia will be held on Aug. 28. But you must be registered and have an admissions ticket to be admitted to the test or audition. You should find out whether you are accepted before school starts on Sept. 4.

Entrance to the specialized high schools is highly competitive. Most successful applicants spend a good deal of time preparing. See the 2014-2015 Specialized High School Handbook for a sample test and audition guidelines.

For more information, see the Department of Education's website, read our reviews and see our video below about specialized high schools.  

Evening workshops about the high school admissions process for 8th-graders and their families begin next week. Enrollment officials from the Department of Education wll lead information sessions and answer questions about the types of high school programs offered and how to fill out your application. All sessions run from 6:30–8 pm.

Insideschools will be at some workshops too, to meet parents and present our new mobiile high school search.

The first workshop is Tuesday, July 15 at Prospect Heights High School in Brooklyn; on Wednesday, July 16, there will be workshops at Lehman High School in the Bronx and at LaGuardia High School in Manhattan; and on Thursday, July 17, there are sessions at Queens College Kupferberg Center for the Arts (65-30 Kissena Blvd.) and at Staten Island Tech High School. 

Monday, 30 June 2014 12:37

Free summer meals available now

All children, ages 18 and under, may receive free breakfast and lunch every weekday from now until Aug. 29, 2014 at thousands of locations including schools, parks, pools, libraries and New York City Housing Authority complexes. Four mobile food trucks will operate seven days a week throughout the summer at popular places for families.

Looking for a summer activity for your middle school student? Sign up now—before June 30—for one of the city's free enrichment programs just announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio last week.

Eligible students are between the ages of 11–13. Programs begin the first week of July and go through Aug. 22 and are designed to support children of working families. Most run from 9 am to 6 pm, although hours vary. Daily activities include time for reading, writing and STEM (science, math and technology) as well as theater, music, creative arts and sports. Kids take trips around the city and explore different communities. There are programs in all five boroughs, housed at schools or community organizations. Find a list of programs and sites here (PDF).

Wednesday, 11 June 2014 14:11

Pre-k push is great but what about zero-3s?

by Kendra Hurley, senior editor at the Center for NYC  Affairs at The New School, home of Insideschools.org. This article appeared on SchoolBook on June 11, 2014

New York City recently approved over 10,000 new pre-k seats, closing in on its goal of providing about 53,000 4-year-olds with free, full-day, pre-kindergarten starting this fall. Having just completed a (soon-to-be-released) report on child care and early education, I understand what an enormous boon this is for the city's families and future.

But, as a working mom with two kids under 3, I fear what it means for my family right now.

In the two-plus years my son has been in daycare, not one of the teachers heading his former classrooms is still there. I suspect more of the best teachers will leave before he and his younger sister move from daycare to pre-k. With the city hiring 2,000 new pre-k teachers over the next two years, directors of child care programs say they are bracing for a mass exodus of talented staff, creating instability and inconsistency at a time when my kids' and their peers' development hinges on the quality of their relationships with adults...

Read more on SchoolBook.

A report, co-authored by Kendra Hurley, will be released next Tuesday, June 17, at an event entitled: "Big Dreams for New York's Youngest Children: The future of early care and education." RSVP here.

The city's push to fill public school pre-kindergerten classrooms with 4-year-olds next fall seems to be working. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced today that 97 percent of the half-day and full-day pre-k seats were filled after the first round of applications, as compared to 91 percent at this time last year. But there were still far more applicants than seats available for school-based programs, and many families were disappointed to learn in letters today that they did not get a spot.

Only 62 percent of the 41,178 families who applied got one of 26,411 slots, compared to 70 percent in 2013. Roughly 45 percent of famlies got their first choice, according to Department of Education data. There are 715 vacant seats, most of them clustered in low-income areas such as District 23 in East New York, District 16 in Bedford Stuyvesant and in districts where many new seats were added, such as District 14 in Williamsburg and District 5 in Harlem.

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