Insideschools staff

Insideschools staff

New York City’s Education Funders Research Initiative asked our parent organization, the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School, to identify key priorities for education reform under Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio. On Thursday, the Center for New York City Affairs released the results: a new report called "Building Blocks for Better Schools: How the Next Mayor can Prepare New York's Students for College and Careers," co-authored by Insideschools founder Clara Hemphill. The paper analyzes the successes and failures of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s education initiatives—and proposes six key areas on which the next administration should focus attention and resources.

A top priority: Make sure young children can read. This is a first, crucial building block for school reform efforts.

Other priorities include:

  • Use the Common Core to build a true, skills-based college preparatory curriculum.
  • Revise the accountability system to use a wider range of measures, and to be more responsive to schools and families.
  • Keep principals' control of hiring, budgets and curriculum—but provide them greater supervision and support.
  • Strengthen neighborhood schools and create new structures to connect all schools—neighborhood, magnet and charters alike—within given geographic areas.
  • Build early and ongoing support for college and career guidance.

Read more about "Building Blocks for Better Schools" and download the paper on



Friday, 22 November 2013 11:11

You're invited: Free screening of "Mandela"

Teachers, students and parents are invited to a free screening of "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom" hosted by the American Federation of Teachers and The Weinstein Company.

Screenings will take place in Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan starting at 4pm on Monday, Nov. 25.

Groups, individuals and classrooms are invited to attend!

RSVP to or call (646) 254-6718, indicating which screening you'd like to attend. 

The film also has a free educators guide if teachers wish to engage students in activities or discussions around the film.

The film is screening at:

UA Court Street 12
106 Court St.
Brooklyn, NY 11201

UA Kaufman Astoria Cinemas 14
35-30 38th St.
Astoria, NY 11101

AMC Loews Lincoln Square
1998 Broadway
New York, NY 10023

Monday, 30 September 2013 12:06

Report looks at why kids aren't college-ready

High school graduation rates are higher than ever before but college completion remains frustratingly elusive for New York City's public high school graduates.

Barely half of students who enroll in CUNY schools graduate with a Bachelor's degree in six years; fewer than one in five of the students who enrolled in city community colleges in 2009 earned a two-year Associate's degree by 2012. Many city high school grads begin college at a disadvantage: not even a third of New York City's class of 2012 earned high enough test scores to avoid remedial courses at CUNY, which has been nicknamed the "13th grade."

A new report from the Center for New York City Affairs (Insideschools' parent organization), Creating College Ready Communities: Preparing NYC's Precarious New Generation of College Students, explores why so many New York City high school grads struggle to earn college degrees. It gives recommendations on how the city's Department of Education and schools could improve college preparation in K-12 enabling students to have a better chance of success. The report follows four years of research by the Center in 14 low-income city schools which were working to improve their college numbers.

Friday, 27 September 2013 09:59

Insideschools event: Applying to high school

Confused about high school admissions? Have questions you need answered about particular schools, or how to fill out the 12-school application? can help! We are offering a free workshop for parents on Oct. 9:  High School Hustle: How to apply.

Leading the discussion will be Clara Hemphill, founding editor of Insideschools and author of New York City's Best Public High Schools. Joining her are other experts on high school admissions, including Jacquie Wayans, Insideschools assignment editor and Bronx parent of three public school students.

We'll present Insidestats, a new way to judge high schools, explain what to look for in a high school, talk about the various types of high schools and provide plenty of time for Q&A.

The event is sponsored by the Center for NYC Affairs at the New School. It will take place at the Theresa Lang Community & Student Center, Arnhold Hall, 2nd floor, 55 West 13th Street, from 6-8 pm on Wednesday, Oct. 9.  It is free, but you must RSVP to EventBrite.

See you there! (Let us know in comments below what questions you'd like to see answered.)



Mexicans are both the fastest growing and youngest major ethnic group in New York City, with nearly half under the age of 25. Yet only 37 percent of the city's Mexican population, ages 16-24, are enrolled in school, according to a new report by Feet in Two Worlds, at the New School's Center for New York City Affairs. Foreign-born Mexican-Americans have a particularly high dropout rate, as do young men. 

A new podcast explores the high dropout rate among Mexican youth and reports on efforts by schools and community groups to reverse the trend. It finds that poverty and a lack of English language proficiency are major contributing factors. In addition, some undocumented students say they are given erroneous information by school guidance counselors.

Listen to the podcast on

Wednesday, 10 April 2013 13:08

My kid qualifed for G&T. Now what?


Many parents exhaled this weekend when they learned their children qualified for the city's sought-after gifted and talented programs.

But many will hold their breath again for the next stressful steps: visiting schools, ranking their choices and submitting applications to the Department of Education by April 19.

Even if a 4-year-old made the grade on the new, harder standardized gifted tests — scoring in the top 10 percent — they are not guaranteed a coveted seat, especially as the number of gifted and talented programs is in flux in local school districts.

[Read more of this article on, including a rundown of G&T programs in different neighborhoods and boroughs. DNAInfo reports that at least one Queens school was surprised when parents called to ask about a G&T tour. The school hadn't been informed that they would be housing a program! 

Some parents say that this system is flawed and wonder why there are not enough seats for the kids who score high enough to merit one. How did it work for you?]

Monday, 25 March 2013 10:10

Apply by March 27 to serve on CEC

Parents can submit an application to serve on one of the city's 32 district community education councils or the citywide high school, special education, District 75 and English LanguageLearners councils, through March 27.

Here's the information from the Department of Education.


Education Councils are education policy advisory bodies responsible for reviewing and evaluating schools’ instructional programs, in some cases approving zoning lines, and advising the Chancellor. Education Councils play an essential role in shaping education policies for the New York City public schools. Each council consists of nine elected parent volunteers who provide hands-on leadership and support for their community's public schools. Council members hold meetings at least every month with the superintendent and public at-large to discuss the current state of the schools in the district.

Community councils represent students in grades K-8 in 32 education districts. The four Citywide councils include the Citywide Council on High Schools, Citywide Council on English Language Learners, Citywide Council on Special Education, and the District 75 Citywide Council. The chance to run for a seat on one of the 36 Community or Citywide Education Councils only happens once every two years and parents are encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity to support their schools. For more information on the roles and responsibilities of Councils and to learn how to apply for a Council seat, visit The Frequently Asked Questions section provides brief answers to common questions. Parents can also call the Division of Family and Community Engagement at 212-374-4118.


The application period, which began on February 13, has been extended! The new deadline is March 27, 2013. Parents interested in applying to serve on a Citywide or Community Education Council can apply online or submit a paper application:

  Apply online at now until 11:59 p.m. on March 27.

  • Download paper applications at the DOE’s website or and postmark by 11:59 p.m. on March 27.
  • Paper applications are also available at the Division of Family and Community Engagement’s office located at:

49 Chambers St., Room 503

New York, NY 10007"

Thursday, 03 January 2013 11:44

Future of NYC schools event with Quinn

On Tuesday, Jan. 15, Insideschools and the Center for New York City Affairs will co-host a conversation with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn on the future of schools in New York City.

Quinn will discuss her vision for "building a 21st century school system," including college and career readiness. She will also participate in a Q & A with Insideschools' founder and senior editor, Clara Hemphill. This event is one of a series of events with potential 2013 mayoral candidates sponsored by the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School.  (See a write-up of a 2012 event with mayoral hopeful Tom Allon here.) 

Quinn also spoke about city education policy, along with other potential mayoral candidates, at a GothamSchools event in November. See a rundown of that event here.

The Jan. 15 forum will be at The New School, at 65 West 11th Street, from 8:30 am to 10 am. Tickets are free but you must reserve a seat; RSVP here: Do it soon! It's a small venue and seats are going fast.

Thursday, 20 December 2012 16:56

Seasons Greetings from Insideschools

In 2012, more than 1.2 million parents, students and education professionals visited for the most up-to-date and independent information on New York City public schools. We are thrilled to share with you our accomplishments from the past year, and to ask for your support as we continue our work to promote excellence in public education.

  • We will soon launch InsideStats, an innovative scorecard highlighting noteworthy information for each of the city’s 400+ public high schools;
  • We held public forums and community trainings for parents and school guidance counselors;
  • We identified 60 of the city's best special education programs; and
  • We updated hundreds of school profiles and added photo slideshows and videos. 

Please support Insideschools today -- even a small donation can help.

Thank you for your commitment to Insideschools and have a happy and safe holiday season and New Year!
We're looking forward to working together in 2013.
Clara Hemphill, Pamela Wheaton and the Insideschools team

Parents Liz Rosenberg, Kemala Karmen and Dionne Grayman organized the first Parents' Charrette which was held on Dec. 8. Here's their report on how the event went, plus next steps for the group. See a slideshow of the day's events at the bottom of the post.

Fran Huckaby, standing at the front of Battery Park City School's brightly lit auditorium, was speaking about seesaws. Her audience, parents and parent leaders from most school districts and all five boroughs, listened intently as Huckaby, an education professor at Texas Christian University, employed the playground image to illustrate the current power imbalance between parents and policy makers.

As she spoke, graphic artist May Lee, Sharpie in hand, drew on a giant piece of foam core, literally illustrating Huckaby's point: policy maker "heavies" weigh down the power seesaw, leaving parents, who have little input into decision making, dangling in the air, totally at their mercy. Sometimes, the heavies drop us suddenly. (Bam! School closure.) Other times, frustratingly, nothing at all happens, even when parents have clearly agitated for change.

Whether or not you see merit in this metaphor, you may be wondering why a Texan professor, currently studying parent activism in Chicago, wound up talking to a bunch of New York parents on a rainy Saturday morning. You may also be curious as to why we bothered mentioning what is essentially a Sharpie doodle.

The answer: With parent participation in the schools at an all-time low and the mayoral campaign looming, we assembled a diverse group of parents to grapple with the question "What might real 'parent engagement' look like under the next mayor?" The gathering was our organization's inaugural event, and, like, the website we intend to launch, functioned as a space where parents could learn together, organize around a particular topic, and take action.

We invited Huckaby, along with Lisa Donlan of the District 1 Community Education Council and Kim Sweet of Advocates for Children, to give participants some background on parent engagement. We invited Lee because our audience members had widely varying levels of experience as parent activists; graphic facilitation is believed to help an audience develop a "big picture" in common. (It's also fun to watch.) Finally, we invited the (presumed) mayoral candidates because we wanted them to listen to what parents have to say.

When the speakers wound down, we split into groups for the day's major work, a charrette. The charrette, whose roots are in architecture and urban planning, is a tightly facilitated, highly participatory brainstorming session that is focused on generating actionable solutions—in this case, ideas for improving parent engagement. Parents produced brief written and oral responses to a series of questions, gradually honing in on one idea that they would flesh out for presentation to the mayoral candidates. The charrette rooms buzzed with activity in English and Spanish as parents (and some grandparents) scribbled on post-its and clustered around White Boards scrutinizing each other's work. The atmosphere was lively, generally respectful, sometimes passionate, and definitely productive.

One group suggested creating an independent education 311 that would track concerns and provide an advocate to help parents strategize. The same group also called for a survey that would offer schools and the system real feedback—totally detached from the retributions of the progress report. And, the group suggested joint parent-teacher projects, with the idea that it would create an opportunity to talk about what needs improvement in a context where something positive—the project—was already happening.

As for the presumptive mayoral candidates, NYC Comptroller John Liu popped into a few rooms, getting a glimpse of the process and responding to a few ideas. Back in the auditorium, Tom Allon (declared Republican candidate) joined representatives who had been designated to report back to Liu, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (potential candidates on the Democratic ticket). All four discussed the ideas and their desire to learn about other proposals. Each said that parent engagement would be a key issue in the election.

We found it extremely gratifying to bring parents together for something purposely proactive. We parents are certainly not a monolithic group. (One example: some charrette participants could imagine improved parent engagement under a modified form of mayoral control, while others believed mayoral control wholly incompatible with real parent involvement.) We can learn from one another and work together, and—if this one charrette is any indication—create a slew of practical, sensible ideas. The bottom line: parents are a valuable resource; when we are ignored or undervalued, it is to the detriment of everyone in the system.

NYCpublic is compiling all ideas that emerged from the charrette into a presentation that we hope to share directly with individual candidates. For more about our organization and proposed website—we are currently seeking funding for a 2013 launch -- please visit