About

About Us

We are journalists, parents and public school advocates dedicated to improving schools for our own children and for every child in the city. We believe that engaged, informed parents can promote racially and economically integrated schools of the highest quality. Furthermore, we believe that excellent public education is crucial to the functioning of a democratic society.

We provide authoritative independent information about New York City's public schools. We want to tell you what's really going on, because test scores don't tell the whole story. We visit hundreds of schools each year and interview thousands of people—principals, teachers, students and parents. We observe what's happening in the classrooms, cafeterias, hallways and even the bathrooms.

InsideSchools is a project of the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School and is supported by grants from the Walton Family Foundation, Deutsche Bank Americas Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the New York Community Trust. We are also supported by reader donations and advertising revenue. Former grantors include the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Tortora-Sillcox Family Foundation, the David L. Klein Foundation.

Our paid staff is small. We welcome volunteers. Write us at [email protected] if you would like to help.

How we evaluate schools

Our school reviews are based on both quantitative and qualitative information. Our school reviewers biographies are listed below; many of us have visited hundreds of schools.

For each school, we analyze Department of Education data including annual school surveys (which measure teacher, parent and student satisfaction); Quality Reviews (formal evaluations by trained educators); Comprehensive Educational Plans (annual plans written by school staff); as well as attendance, chronic absenteeism, test scores, teacher turnover, suspension rates, demographics, graduation rates and college-ready rates. We look at how a school compares to schools with similar demographics (a measure the city calls “impact”).

After reviewing the data, we schedule visits to see schools, usually for 3 to 6 hours while classes are in session. We sit in on classes and interview the principal, teachers, and sometimes parents and students. We look for well-equipped classrooms, a high level of engagement among the students, lively class discussions, good examples of student writing (posted on bulletin boards or collected in student notebooks), math instruction that balances conceptual understanding with drill, imaginative lessons and a well-rounded curriculum that includes art, music, science and social studies.

We ask and observe how teachers reach a range of pupils, how they challenge top students and offer support to students who are struggling. We ask and observe whether teachers handle discipline gently but effectively. We look for pleasant interactions between staff members and staff and students. We look for schools that welcome children and parents of different income levels and racial and ethnic groups.

We list as Staff Picks schools that do well on all or almost all these measures.

We list as Noteworthy schools that do well on some of these measures, including new schools (which may not yet have a full complement of grades or a graduating class) and schools we have not visited recently.

Noteworthy schools may have an innovative but untested approach to learning; a promising new leader who is implementing positive changes; an unusually warm and nurturing atmosphere but mediocre test scores; high test scores but punitive discipline; a staff that supports struggling students well but doesn’t offer options for high achievers; or a staff that offers options for high-achievers but doesn’t support students who need extra help.

Staff pick for special education includes programs were recommended by special education advocates, parents’ groups, university researchers and InsideSchools staffers. We looked for schools with high academic standards (reflected by better-than-average test scores among children with disabilities); that treat all children kindly; and that serve a substantial number of special needs students. This list is not exhaustive and we welcome additional suggestions.

Who we are

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Laura Zingmond, senior editor

Laura reviews schools, writes for the Insideschools blog, advises parents on school choice, and contributes to policy research for Insideschools and the Center. She has visited hundreds of schools across the city and led the research on middle and high schools for a multi-year project evaluating science and math instruction. Previously, Laura worked as a litigation attorney and administrative law judge. From 2014 to 2016, she served as Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer's appointee to the New York City Panel for Educational Policy. Laura is a lifelong New Yorker and her two children are the fourth generation in her family to have attended the city's public schools. She holds a bachelor’s from the University of Michigan and a law degree from the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law.

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Lydie Raschka, reporter

Lydie reviews schools and writes for the Insideschools blog. She is a graduate of Bank Street College and is interested in education in all its forms. With Clara Hemphill, she co-authored a 2015 report called "Conquering Teachers' Math Anxiety." Lydie is a former public school teacher (grades 1–3) and continues to work as a Montessori teacher-trainer during the summers. Her son attended public school in Manhattan. As a teacher, parent, writer and consultant she has been inside hundreds of New York City schools.

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Nicole Mader, senior research fellow

Nicole manages the statistical data on InsideSchools and contributes research, analysis and data visualization to the Center for New York City Affair's k–12 education policy research projects. Before coming to InsideSchools, she taught high school social studies for six years at Samuel Gompers CTE High School in the South Bronx and Lyons Community School in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. She holds a master's in secondary social studies education from Fordham University and a bachelor's in political science from Davidson College. She is currently a Ph.D. candidate in public and urban policy at The Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy at The New School, where her focus is on the potential for integrated student supports to reduce the impact of poverty on educational outcomes in New York City public schools.

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Caley Jack Steward, web developer

Caley Jack Steward is our full-stack web developer that handles all facets of the InsideSchools website. He has been designing and building digital experiences for over 15 years. In that time he has been a lead engineer and technical director at several creative agencies. Some of the notable brands he has worked with include Microsoft, ESPN, Cornell and Tory Burch.

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Melanie Quiroz

Melanie is an Education Policy Data Analyst, assisting with data management for InsideSchools. She is currently pursuing her BA in Urban Studies and an MS in Public and Urban Policy at The New School. She has worked at the educational non-profit Prep for Prep as a student advisor, helping high-achieving, disadvantaged, minority NYC middle school students transition to independent day and boarding schools, both socially and academically, and is an alumna of the program herself. Melanie has also worked in Community Outreach at Target through their Human Resources department, and is currently a Respite Service Coordinator at the non-profit Human First, providing in-home support services to adult individuals with developmental disabilities and their families.

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Jacqueline Wayans, consultant

Jacquie was the outreach and event coordinator, and on-camera voice of InsideSchools, where she worked for more than 10 years. She is a co-author of the New York City’s Best Public Schools guides, having visited more than 350 city schools. Most important, she is the mom of three children who've all successfully completed their education in New York City public schools. Her passion is to inform low-income and minority communities about all of the options available to them.

Gail

Gail Robinson, reporter

Gail has been visiting schools and contributing write-ups and blog posts to InsideSchools since 2012. An independent writer on education and other policy issues and an adjunct professor of journalism at Baruch College/CUNY, Gail was editor-in-chief of Gotham Gazette and has covered politics and environmental issues. Her article on Brooklyn's John Dewey High School won a first prize for education reporting from the Education Writers Association. Gail's two children attended New York City public schools.