Applying for Elementary School: Chapter 3, Rich Man - Poor Man

Applying for Elementary School: Chapter 3, Rich Man - Poor Man

I hear parents talk with great certainty about how you need to find a school with a rich PTA to get arts, staff and other untold benefits. Schools, please tell me that I am wrong, but that is not what I see on many tours. What you need is a savvy and thoughtful Principal who will attract a staff that can multi task, including grant writing to bring the programs that they need. Now this is not a blog meant to excuse gross inequities in the system and the fact that public school educators have to be superior grant writers to bring basic arts and enrichments to their schools is appalling. BUT parents who think that you can only get the 'good stuff' at a 'rich school' can be shockingly misinformed. This is a valentine to the schools serving the kids who are not coming from affluent homes, who have done amazing things.

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what mick jagger and sarah birnbaum have in common

"you can't always get what you want, but if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need..." I am beginning to think that is a song about parenting - I can't stop quoting it to families. 

I finally met Sarah Birnbaum, NY Special Needs Support, in person this morning. If you have a child who "will do well anywhere" you can stop reading. You are good to go. This blog is for the parents of "quirky" kids, kids with learning differences, kids who require a specific environment, and for parents who need to find someone who understands and can help. Sarah is the missing link for those families. She is your translator, interface, the truth teller (whether you are ready to hear or not), and your fierce advocate.

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public prek info is online NOW, yippee

You can apply online for public prek here from March 4 - April 5.
You can download a copy of the new 2013-2014 prek directory here.

You can attend a free DoE PreK information session in Brooklyn on March 11 6pm at Sunset Park HS.
For more info and the prek calendar here.

In my quick perusal of the procedures, it looks like everything is the same as last year. You should contact each individual school for tours and for information about how the school will handle a wait list (if they have seats left over) in June. The one difference is that if you attend prek at a school that is outside your zone, you have a slight preference over regular outside of zone families to attend that school at kindergarten.

A very quick and inaccurate survey of new programs from the directory this morning:
PS 10, 107 and 321 in District 15 no longer have prek classes.

Some of the schools below (and in the directory) may have more seats than listed. They were added after the directory went to press.

In District 13 AND 15:
PS 133 has additional seats
the new PS 118 has seats

In District 14:
PS 84, PS 110, 196 and 250 all have more seats than last year.

In District 17:
PS 705 and New American Academy have seats.

nyc school progress reports 2011

So what is the deal with the letter grade that the schools get from the DOE? It is not a rating of the school's quality as a whole and even if it was I would be sceptical because a single grade rating is too rigid and one dimensional to tell the story of whether the school is right for you or not. There is a great simple explanation from the fabulous Clara Hemphill on Inside Schools. Clara suggests that you look more closely at the School Survey results which you can find on the school's page within the DOE's website. I also think that you should consider the Quality Reviews, what your friends and neighbors say, and mostly - your own eyes. Also, many of these schools are so new or the demographics are changing so rapidly that the data is non-existent or behind (remember that you have to wait until a population reaches 3rd grade before you will see how they test).

These reports are trying to figure out how well the school is taking its most struggling learners and helping them to succeed - not the students in the school as a whole. This is important to determine because we have many kids in the city whose needs must be addressed but it is not necessarily helpful as a blanket measure for parents to determine how well the school is addressing the needs of their on-grade and above-grade learners - these kids are not considered in this letter grade. The schools are also compared to their "peer" schools and the progress and performance grades are mostly determined by the year's test scores of those challenged learners. There are two problems here. First, the demographics in several neighborhood schools are changing rapidly, so the "peer" rating may be way out of wack and the test scores which begin in 3rd grade relate to a different peer group. Second, the Board of Regents has been rescaling the test for the past two years and the test scores have been fluctuating wildly - same kids, same teachers, same curriculum, wildly fluctuating numbers. How can you track progress when the metric that you are using has been all over the map for the last 3 years?

A school may wave around their A grade at their open house. Good for them. They may be doing a good job with their struggling learners. A lower grade may be a warning to them that they need to change the way that they address those specific learners or it may just be a giant hurdle of paperwork that they have to cross the following year. How can you trust a rating that fluctuates so wildly in stabile schools?


getting organized for school with urban clarity

I asked the wonderful organizer and Brooklyn mom, Amanda Wiss, of Urban Clarity to give me some tips for organizing for back to school.
For your nursery school scholar: Take a moment now to create a place for all the incoming artwork. It can be a drawer, a shelf, an oversized inbox or a large portfolio. Make it THE landing spot for your budding Picasso’s. When you want to display a few gems in your house or to send some to grandparents, it’ll be a snap. And you’ll thank me when glitter hasn’t invaded every nook and cranny of your living space. Want a super cool product to corral the art?
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back to school with the NYC dept. of education

Are you new to NYC or back after a time away? If you are not already registered in your local school you will need to go to a Student Registration Center from August 31 to Sept. 16, Mon. to Fri., 8am to 3pm.

IEP help

This guide, designed to help families developing an Individualized Education Program for their special needs student is published by Autism Speaks Family Services and it seems to be very clear and helpful.

Advocates for Children has numerous programs and resources to help families and students.

Carol Greenburg at NY Special Needs Consulting is a Parent Advocate who helps families navigate the process of getting appropriate services for your child. She is the parent of a special needs child as well as an adult with Aspergers Syndrome, so she has been there and understands it all from the inside out.

If you have experience with any of the IEP process and have found helpful resources, please let me know so that I can list them here as well as in the Resources page of the website.

This article, Tips for Changing Schools, from the Child Mind Institute might be helpful when starting a new school program.

prek round 1

Now that the Kindergarten application period is winding down (it ends March 4 this year) it is time to start thinking about prek.

Beginning Monday, March 7, the prek directory and application will be available on the DOE's website at the borough enrollment offices and at all elementary schools that have a prek class.

There is an information session at Sunset Park HS (35th St. and 4th Ave.) on Tuesday, March 8 from 6 to 7:30pm

The deadline to submit and application is April 8
Families will be notified of placements in early June and
Pre-registration at schools for placed families will be June 8 - June 17

The programs funded by UPK (Universal Pre-K) money can be found in two different places; public schools and CBO's (Community Based Organizations). CBO's are private or needs based programs that have their own individual application procedures. In past years the CBO's have been listed at the back of the directory for your convenience, but you may find that many of them have already completed their admissions. The lottery process that I will be describing is for the classes that are housed in the public schools.

I highly recommend that you submit the application electronically. The computer doesn't let you fill the form out wrong and you will get an electronic confirmation. In the past you have been able to list 12 choices (although you can list as few as you want). Spaces are assigned by lottery with priorities: first to siblings, then to in zone families, then to out of zone but in district, then to out of district, etc. The exact number of seats is assigned (no waitlist) and because of the late notification sometime families don't take the seats. That is when the Round 2 is announced (I blogged and linked to last year's Round 2 directory if you want to look at the numbers)

You won't find reference to "Round 1" or "Round 2" on the DOE's info. It is too confusing for most people, but I think that it is important information if you want to strategise. Round 2 has a very fast turnaround and placements and registration usually happens before everyone leaves for August.

I suggest that you check out the info session (I may see you there). I also do short phone consults around this process, 15 min. for $45. and 30 for $90. to help you strategise, talk about specific schools and figure out the wrinkles. Remember, if you are dead set on going to prek at your very popular zoned school, you are probably out of luck, but if you are flexible and keep your mind open to the less obvious choices (and perhaps travel a little) you may find a wonderful place for a year and save tens of thousands of dollars on a full day program.

2010/2011 prek round 2 directory

I have found the PreK Round 2 Directory to be a useful resource when you are assessing your chances of gaining entry to a public prek program. The DOE has removed their file from the website, so I will link to it here. It is a bit large so it may take a minute to download.

So what are you looking at? This is just for research at this point. These numbers don't represent current seats available. In the "applicants" column they are showing you the numbers of ANYONE who ranked the school on their application that year; they may be out of district or out of borough and they are definitely not "first choice" numbers. Some of the numbers may be daunting, don't freak out. The "seats" column shows the numbers of seats available in the first round. What has happened in the first round is that the computer has placed the exact number of seats and no more (no waitlist). Because the list comes out on May 31, some families who have been offered seats have paid their deposits and decided to stay in their current private nursery schools, some families have gotten grossed out with the whole thing and moved to Jersey. The number of seats that haven't been scooped up by those families will be up for grabs in the second round, even in highly sought after schools. There will be a second lottery and the same "priorities" apply; siblings in the school first, then inzone families, then out of zone/in district, etc.

The first round prek directories for 2011/12 will not come out until Jan. (on the DOE's website and hard copies in the schools) and the deadline for the application has previously been in early March. You can start calling schools and checking their websites for tours now.

The DOE has announced the  kindergarten application timeline but they only have it listed under special needs for some unknown reason. I suspect that these dates will remain true for all students:

Kindergarten application period:            Jan. 10, 2011 - March 4, 2011
Families notified of assignment offers:   March 21, 2011 - March 25, 2011
Offer acceptance period:                      March 28, 2011 - April 15, 2011

Happy Hunting!

be careful looking for a zone

I had been assured by the powers that be that 311 and the zone search engine on the DOE's homepage were accurate places to enter your home address and find your zoned school information. It turns out that it is not. Who knew that the DOE's own website would not be connected to their central ATS system?

To find the truly accurate information, call your local Enrollment office between the hours of 8am and 3pm on weekdays or contact the local school that you think is your zoned program to confirm your zone. The school is the place that will be registering you for kindergarten, so you might as well start at the source.

If you live within District 13, 14, 15 or 16 these are the pertinent Office of Enrollment numbers: 347-298-0117, 347-298-0139, 347-298-0160.


prek round 2! ding!

I love the Prek Round 2 Directory. The numbers fascinate me! What happens is that they don't "over offer" in the Prek process. If there are 18 seats they only pick 18. If a family declines the seat for whatever reason that seat goes to Round 2. So even schools like 321 which had 475 people placing it somewhere on their application for only 12 spots has a seat up for grabs in Round 2.

There are still many, many seats out there - often more than a handful in each of a lot of terrific schools in all the Brooklyn Districts that I cover.

The Directory is up today and you can submit your application online  through the deadline, 7/30/10 (if you submit online, you are notified by email as well as by snail mail). The second round offers will be out in late August.

The same lottery priorities apply; sibs get first priority and then in zone families, out of zone/in district, etc.
Good luck, one and all.

high school research on

If you don't know and adore them (perhaps you are an independent school parent who is just dipping your toe into the icey waters of public high school) they will soon become your new best friend - after me of course.

Some helpful hints to get the information that you need.

  • sign up for their email alert newsletters - you will never miss a deadline
  • look up the school page within their site and click "more school data" on the upper level of the review and "read our full review" to get all the good stuff
  • the information on the upper panel of the review is current, even if the review might be a couple years older
  • if you have trouble finding the school by name, don't get frustrated typing the name a million different ways, immediately go to "location and level" and enter the zip and "high school" or do an advanced search and list the same, zip and level it works EVERY time!
  • they are also more than reviews; the blog, news articles and forums are all chocked full of great information
  • remember that they are a non profit and they need your help to keep doing the impressive work that they do, send them a little gift, they deserve it!

what did I do over summer vacation

This is a quirky business. Everyone assumes that September is my busy time - actually not as much as the dog days of August. Happily for me, the DOE distributes their admissions throughout the year, and just when the middle schoolers stop calling the elementary parents start in. The summer is very busy with families moving, the second round of prek applications, the DOE HS directory and the independent school applications coming online. I love switching gears from talking about AP classes to discussing what is great about blocks in the classroom. And a word to the wise, if you are thinking of booking a consult, do it sooner rather than later.

So here are some things to watch:
Preschool: If you find yourself without a placement, call the schools this month, you may get lucky
PreK: July 19 the PreK Second Round directories go online.
High School: Wed. 7/7, 7/14, Tues. 7/20, 7/27, 8/3, 8/10 the DOE holds their summer workshops
High School: Thurs 7/15, 7/19 I hold my HS Short List Workshops, different from anything the DOE does
State Test Scores should be coming out in August
If you have your heart set on an Independent School keep checking the websites for applications and tours. They ususally start coming online in August
Nursery School talk: I will probably do one or two in August and September and I will list them on the site

Also I just sent out my July newsletter. I am quite regular getting one out a month, as close to the first as I can. If you have signed up and haven't been getting them, make sure that I am on your approved email list, or check your spam folder. If you haven't signed up, you can do it here.

nyc prek, upk and cbos

It is almost March 1! - time for the public prek applications.

UPK stands for Universal PreK - government subsidized fours programs. Your child must have been born between 1/1/06 and 12/31/06 (4 years old this year) and reside in NYC. These are programs available to everyone (not based on need). Unfortunately, there are not enough seats available for everyone. You can find them in public schools (full 6+ hours for five days) or in different private preschools around the city. The programs that are located in the public schools are free.

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charter schools?

People feel strongly about charter programs. My role is to let parents understand all of their options. Charter schools are publicly funded programs. They are often housed in public school buildings. Sometimes the relationship is good, sometimes it is strained. It is good for parents to know if the school is going to have to move. This is very disruptive to any program.

Charter schools are not zoned. They choose their students by lottery. They are required to give priority in the lottery to families who live within the district where the school is located. When the school is new or under capacity they may often have extra seats and take children from outside of the district. There is no downside to registering for lots of charter programs. You don't need to rank them, or decide which one you like better until you are offered a seat. They often call families from their waitlist. Why not register for every one you like? Charter schools do not have Prek programs. They often begin in Kindergarten and may be K - 5, K - 8, K - 12, 6 - 8, 6 - 12, or 9 -12 programs.

Charter schools are not under the DOE's jurisdiction so they may use a different curriculum, different hours and hire teachers in different ways. They still have to take the same NY state tests and they answer to their own individual Board of Trustees to maintain their charter.

The Brooklyn New School and the Brooklyn Children's School accept their students by lottery but they are NOT charter schools. These schools do have prek programs. To search for Charters in a National Directory or SUNY authorized Charters.


I answered a question on Park Slope Parents about a child with a late fall birthday whose parents were interested in waiting a year for kindergarten. It seemed to be helpful so I am posting it here.

The age cut off in NYC is Dec. 31. Any child that turns five years from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 is eligible for kindergarten. Some parents feel that their children are not ready for kindergarten at five and want to wait to enroll them in public school. Starting a six year old child in kindergarten is not completely the parent’s choice.

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