Insideschools staff

Insideschools staff

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

Monday, 17 December 2012 14:17

How to talk to children about Dec.14 tragedy

All schools should offer a "safe place" for children who wish to talk about last Friday's tragedy at Sandy Hook elementary school, Chancellor Dennis Walcott wrote in a letter to school communities and families today.

The letter, signed also by UFT President Michael Mulgrew and Ernest Logan, president of the principal's union, encouraged teachers to "give solace and support to your colleagues so we can be strong enough to take care of our students."

Included were suggestions of resources that teachers, school staff and families can refer to when helping children try to comprehend Friday's horrific acts such as Resources for Dealing with Traumatic Events in School, published by the University of Maryland's Center for School Mental Health.  

Ever since news of the school shootings in Newtown on Friday, parents have been sharing resources and suggestions on how to speak to their children about what happened. Here are a few resources to consider:

And, after the jump, here are some tips from a social worker accustomed to treating victims of crime. Thanks to Park Slope Parents listeserv for sharing them.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012 11:11

Cost is high for convicting teens as adults

A new edition of Child Welfare Watch -- issued by's colleagues at the Center for New York City Affairs --  reports on the city's youth justice system, looking at what has changed following several years of reform. It reports on new initiatives to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18; to build bridges between communities and the Department of Probation and to house incarcerated juveniles closer to home. And it tells the story of the difficult relationships between the NYPD, young people and other tenants in New York public housing.

Findings include:

  • The number of arrested teens aged 15 and under whose cases have been diverted from court and closed by the city's probation department increased 47 percent between 2009 and last year. This number has more than doubled since 2006. (See "Case Closed.")
  • Public housing residents make up about five percent of the city's population, but from 2006 through 2009, roughly half of all NYPD trespassing stops in the entire city took place in public housing. (See "To Protect and Serve?")
  • New York's policy of trying 16- and 17-year-old nonviolent offenders as adults in criminal court reduces each teen's lifetime earnings potential by more than $60,000. The state loses at least $50 million in foregone wages for each annual cohort that passes through the adult courts—and unknown millions in lost tax revenues. (See "The High Cost of Convicting Teens as Adults.")
  • ACS plans to spend $22 million to provide short term, evidence-based therapies to work with about 3,000 families. This is a targeted effort to reduce the number of children 12 years old and older placed in foster care. (See "Social Workers at the Kitchen Table.")

Child Welfare Watch offers a set of policy recommendations and solutions informed by the research and drafted by a panel of practitioners, experts, parents, young people and others, aimed at helping policymakers continue toward cohesive criminal justice reform.

Read the new edition of Child Welfare Watch here.

Monday, 26 November 2012 14:31

Why so few mid-sized high schools?

Does size matter when it comes to high school? A November City Limits article makes the case that mid-sized high schools -- those enrolling between 1,000 and 1,300 students -- are the "sweet spot" for students: small enough that students get personal attention, but large enough to offer many sports teams, clubs and a wide variety of courses.

In the years since Mayor Bloomberg and his chancellors have been closing poorly performing schools, they have replaced them mostly with small schools, of fewer than 600 students. They have not replicated some of the most sought-after mid-sized schools, such as the perennially popular Beacon High School in Manhattan, or High School for Telecommunications Arts in Brooklyn. In fact, only 20 out of some 554 New York City high schools enroll between 1,000 and 1,300 students, according to Class of 2013: Life in the "Sweet Spot"," an article written for City Limits by Helen Zelon.

As part of her year-long City Limits series about this year's high school seniors, Zelon profiles four students who attend Telecommunications. They say they appreciate the diversity of their classmates and course offerings -- things they might not have gotten at smaller schools.

This week and next, 8th graders will make their final decision on where to apply to high school. Size is certainly a factor to consider, but their choice mostly comes down to small or gigantic -- not the mid-size "sweet spot" Zelon writes about.

Read the full story on City Limits: Class of 2013: Life in the Sweet Spot: Amid the debate over whether small high schools have fixed—or added to—problems with large city high schools, four students at "Tele" are happy to be stuck in the middle.