Lydie Raschka

Lydie Raschka

Lydie Raschka reviews schools and writes for the blog. She is a graduate of Bank Street College, a former public school teacher (grades 1-3) and a Montessori teacher-trainer during the summer. Her son attended public school in Manhattan.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017 13:19

Pre-k picks: Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island

Got a 4-year-old? Now's the time to apply to pre-kindergarten. We've compiled a list of best bets, based on our visits and intel on schools most likely to have space. Before reading on, see more details about the process on our post, Pre-k picks: Manhattan & the Bronx

BROOKLYN

Fort Greene, Bedford-Stuyvesant and Vinegar Hill
In District 13, in the heart of Bedford-Stuyvesant, PS 3, a school noted for its dedication to the arts, has five pre-kindergartens and even had space for out-of-district students last year. It has a great outdoor play area, a garden and it offers after school until 6 pm. We can recommend PS 54, an up-and-comer with space that has a great STEM curriculum. Kids run their own composting program. Just a block from Fort Greene Park, PS 67 has a vibrant, play-based program in a school that's on the upswing. A few blocks away in the DUMBO–Vinegar Hill area, PS 307 has some great perks, including a STEM magnet grant and a Mandarin Chinese teacher. The sparkling new pre-k center at Dock Street has 72 seats, and all did not fill in its first year: on a recent visit there were only 55 children enrolled. Consider PS 133, a lottery school which offers Spanish dual language in pre-k. It's also open to residents of District 15, but priority goes to low-income students and to those learning to speak English.

Tuesday, 31 January 2017 15:21

Pre-k picks: Manhattan & the Bronx

It's gone from famine to feast in recent years: Parents once faced with too few pre-k options may now wade through a world of choices. Let us help you narrow the list with some promising new programs and schools we can recommend in every borough. Note: If a great program is hopelessly oversubscribed we didn't include it here.

Applications for pre-kindergarten for children born in 2013 are due Feb. 24. (Charter schools have separate applications. The Common Online Charter School Application closes on Saturday, April 1 at midnight.)

Popular programs, especially in public schools, have many more applicants than seats. We've limited our picks to programs that are most likely to have space for children living outside the school zone or who aren't siblings of current students. Still, it doesn't hurt to apply to a program where space is tight: If you're not matched in this first application round, your name will be automatically put on a waitlist for all the choices you listed above the one you got. Be patient. Spaces frequently open up even in the fall. 

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.

One day last school year, a girl in Fanny Roman's kindergarten class at PS 244 in Flushing, Queens arrived bubbling with excitement about her new shoes. With Roman's encouragement, she began tracing classmates' feet on paper and constructing "shoes," using pipe cleaners for laces. Her enthusiasm proved contagious; in response, Roman read poetry and picture books about shoes and students set up a play shoe store of their own, with different-size shoes in boxes, labeled "Jellies" or "Sneakers," as they categorized by size and even priced their wares. In their writing, they started using words such as "Velcro," buckles" and "shoelaces."

Welcome to "choice time." In a number of New York City elementary school kindergarten classes, it revives, in modified fashion, the once-common play-as-learning "free time" that's been driven almost to extinction in favor of whole-class instruction, textbooks, worksheets, and other elements of more rigorous education in the Common Core era.

Eight years ago, as a brand-new bilingual special education teacher, Ruby had some clear ideas about the kind of school that would match her skills—and her passion for her students.

"I wanted a small English-and-Spanish dual language school with a positive culture," she said.

Using Insideschools profiles and our parent comments on schools, she found the right fit: PS/IS 89 in Cypress Hills.

Now she spreads the word to new teachers and urges them to use Insideschools in their own job searches.

"It's very important that your personality match the culture of a school," she said. "Insideschools can help."

Insideschools is the go-to website for information about New York City public schools. Last year alone, more than 1.8 million visitors turned to Insideschools for help choosing the best schools -- and improving schools for all children. We rely on your support. Please consider a tax deductible gift today.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016 16:56

Parents of 3s and 4s, it’s pre-k time!

Did you know all children may attend a free, full-day pre-kindergarten the year they turn 4? The window of time to apply in 2016 is from Jan. 25 to March 4. That's six weeks! Plenty of time to scroll our site and then tour your favorite pre-kindergarten classrooms in person.

Programs are scattered throughout the city: in public schools, charter schools, religious schools, private nursery schools, Head Start programs, child care centers and community organizations. It's a lot to take in. Many are good, some are not-so-good, but most look like lively hubs where 4-years-old can learn through play with blocks, puzzles, sand tables, Legos and toy kitchens.

Where to start?

Take five minutes to watch our video, "What to look for in a pre-kindergarten." Read about one parent's experience applying: "One mom's trek through the pre-k application maze."

As a librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library, June understands what good research looks like.

As the mother of middle school twins with very different ideas about what they want from high school, she faced one of the most important research challenges of her life.

To guide their high school searches, she and her kids turned to Insideschools.

Her daughter's passion is dancing—so she and her mom clicked on our website's "arts focus" category.

For June's son, Insideschools' math and science icons were the "Open Sesame!" in his high school search.

June also wanted racially diverse schools: At a glance, she could easily see the ethnic breakdown of every high school on the Insideschools website.

June reads everything on our website: The informative articles; the blog posts; and the comments that parents, teachers and students post below school profiles.

"It's helpful in fleshing out a lot of the information about the school," she said.

Now while they're waiting to hear about high school acceptance, thanks to Insideschools they also know that they applied to the schools that are right for them.

Insideschools is the go-to website for information about New York City public schools. Last year alone, more than 1.8 million visitors turned to Insideschools for help choosing the best schools -- and improving schools for all children. We rely on your support. Please click here to make a tax deductible gift today.

As a social worker in East New York, Giselle worked with parents at risk of losing their children to foster care.

Her clients included families with teens chronically absent from school or children with special needs who couldn't get the in-school services they needed.

"For vulnerable families, it's that much harder," she said.

She used Insideschools to help such families take charge of their lives again.

"I really think it's an amazing resource for social workers," she said. "Very quickly, I started thinking how I could use it with my clients who were navigating this complex school system."

She recalls a 15-year-old who disliked school and was habitually absent. "We'd sit together and look at schools with dance," Giselle said. "She was able to find a school that interested her and she transferred."

Now, she works at Insideschools and leads our outreach efforts because she wants more low-income families to know about Insideschools.

"My favorite part of Insideschools is the free programs—academic programs, tutoring, dance, science," she said. "It suggests unimaginable possibilities for low-income families."

Help Giselle and social workers like her keep opening up new worlds of possibilities for the families they work with.

Insideschools is the go-to website for information about New York City public schools. Last year alone, more than 1.8 million visitors turned to Insideschools for help choosing the best schools -- and improving schools for all children. We rely on your support. Please click here to make a tax deductible gift today.

Tuesday, 01 December 2015 16:20

How Insideschools helped Hugo

Hugo was diagnosed with autism at a very young age.

By the end of 8th grade, he was ready to leave a small program for students on the autism spectrum, but he knew he'd still need counseling and other services in high school.

Insideschools helped him narrow his search.

"When you click on the special education tab on the Insideschools website it will tell you the four- and six-year graduation rates, and whether students with special needs are involved in activities," he said. "You can instantly tell if it's good for special education."

With his interest in animation, he liked the look of Academy for Careers in Television and Film. He said it was a "new kind of school that I hardly knew existed."

Hugo was admitted and now he's a freshman at a high school with one of the highest graduation rates for special education students in the city.

Insideschools is the go-to website for information about New York City public schools. Last year alone, more than 1.8 million visitors turned to Insideschools for help choosing the best schools -- and improving schools for all children. We rely on your support. Please click here to make a tax deductible gift today.

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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