For 18 years, InsideSchools has provided an invaluable public service: free independent reviews of the city’s schools, resources for families navigating the school system, and a trustworthy perspective on the city education scene. As a project of the Center for New York City Affairs, the work of InsideSchools has been richly informed by cutting edge policy analysis of some of the most pressing issues affecting communities citywide.
At InsideSchools, we are committed to making schools better for all children, families, and communities. We believe that the quality of the public education system today determines the vitality of our city tomorrow. We have to increase public engagement to improve public education. In our experience, a fundamental challenge to improving public schools is the availability of accurate and actionable information for families and the public. We have successfully provided that kind of information about public schools for many years. Now we are poised to build upon that work, deepening and expanding its reach.
When we solicited input from our community in January 2020, we were struck by some of the insights into what we were doing well and what we could improve. To date, InsideSchools has focused mostly on supporting families in finding schools that are the best fit for their children, getting families to Day 1 at a new school. Readers shared that additional information would help them in that process, including: insights into curriculum, perspectives from current students and parents, after-school options, new models for navigating the school selection process (i.e. online courses), and special education details. In addition, some readers suggested that finding a school is just the first step.
This is an idea the InsideSchools team had been pondering as well: What about Day 2 of school, and beyond? Ideas for improvement included expanding our content offering to help families support learning at home and school, sharing other kinds of data that offer additional perspectives into schools, and finding ways to make the effects of policy more accessible to busy families and New Yorkers.
Here’s our commitment: Over the next 1,000 days, we will help improve the quality of public education in NYC by increasing family and public engagement in understanding the school-home relationship, including: how the school system works, how to complement school-based learning at home, how city and state policies directly impact families' experiences with school, and how parents can contribute to improving schools. We will realize this commitment in three main ways:
1. By continuing to provide independent reviews of New York City public schools and guidance for families navigating the system, with increased emphasis on issues of equity. To achieve this, we will:
- add new quantitative data points to school profile pages that help the public gain even greater insight into schools beyond academics, while increasing available data related to diversity, achievement, and admissions to city schools via school profile pages and InsideTools;
- revise school review protocols and systems to reflect our commitment to equity and to collect qualitative data that will better help parents and the public understand learning and teaching;
- weave new voices into school profile pages, including current students;
- experiment with new models for helping families, including students, learn about and confidently navigate the school admission process.
2. By publishing a steady stream of accessible and engaging content that helps families and the public better understand the daily dynamic of learning, teaching, and schooling, including how to support learners at home and how city/state policy shapes what families experience. To achieve this, we will:
- publish daily posts related to the broader culture of education, including informative videos about learning, tips from experts on supporting learners, thought provoking clips from an array of sources;
- curate highly recommended educational products that help families and teachers better support children’s learning, at home and at school;
- create visual media to help a wider audience understand how city/state policy affects what happens in schools;
- compose a multilingual online experience designed to assist high school juniors and seniors with college applications, the financial aid process, and FAFSA.
3. By partnering with key stakeholders (parents, school and district leaders, community-based organizations, philanthropies, companies, policymakers) to energize and sustain research-based policy reform efforts from the sidewalk to the statehouse. To achieve this, we will:
- amplify underrepresented voices and perspectives that should inform education policy decision making;
- expand the reach of InsideSchools resources and expertise to new readers;
- demystify school funding and spending so families and the public can better assess the relationship between policies, resources, and school quality;
- promote content providers who share our mission to improve the quality of the public school system in New York City.
What does impact look like if what we envision comes to fruition? If we bring these three priority areas to life, we will help millions of New Yorkers better understand learning, teaching, leading, and schooling in both complex and concrete ways. With an increased understanding of educational issues, we foresee the community of InsideSchools readers taking action in their lives and communities that leads to improved home-school relationships, increased student achievement, and innovative grass-roots policy reform.
We are ever so grateful to our readers whose interest, engagement, and energy has made InsideSchools what it is today. And we are confident that we can continue to learn together, we can lift up unique perspectives, and we can advocate for improvements to the public education system that will benefit our city for generations to come.