2014-2015 NYC School Calendar

2015-2016 NYC School Calendar

Today, 7/3/2015
High: 82 Low: 63
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Tomorrow, 7/4/2015
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21% chance of precipitation.

Inside Schools

High School Hustle: Why middle school matters - Read Full Article

High School Hustle: Why middle school matters

At one particularly awful moment during my older son's awkward second year in middle school, the principal turned to me as I sat in her office:

"No one goes through middle school unscathed," she said, with empathy.

I tried to laugh, appreciating her sensitivity, but it didn't seem at all funny. In the space of a few months, my formerly angelic child had lost all of his so-called "friends," struck his gym teacher in the head with a ball (accidentally, he insisted, although the teacher begged to differ) and harbored a locker that smelled so foul it should have been condemned.

He'd discovered that cool (read: expensive) sneakers matter, and learned with dismay that most of the girls in his class seemed at least a foot taller. And of course, I wasn't allowed anywhere near the school; we had to designate a meeting place a few blocks away.

That's middle school for you. Middle school hurts, but middle school matters. I had gone to see the principal under the mistaken impression that we were going to have a conversation about math and science. (Tip: When choosing a middle school, find out what math and science courses they offer, including the 8th-grade algebra Regents, or your child could start high school behind in key areas.)

But it was hormones and not math that we spoke about, because this was not just any middle school – it was the Clinton School for Writers and Artists, my son's first choice, described by Insideschools as "a nurturing place where students are encouraged to express themselves through the arts."

All of that was true, and there were some terrific teachers. Clinton seemed like an ideal choice for District 2 kids who enjoyed both art and writing, and it had a fabulous drama program, a warm parent coordinator, active parents, some much needed team sports and plenty of performance opportunities—despite  cramped conditions and an endless climb to the top of PS 11 in Chelsea, where the school shared space.

Clinton has since moved to a former Catholic school on West 33rd Street, and it will move again in 2015 to East 15th Street, with amenities we missed out on, including its own gym, auditorium and cafeteria. Clinton will even include a high school offering the coveted IB program.

I'm always glad to see new schools being built, especially those, that like Clinton, will also house a high school. Overall, though, we still have a big middle school problem here—an area Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina plans to focus on.

Middle school can mean tough years for city kids and parents worried about everything from academic quality to subway safety and coping with the sometimes shocking physical and emotional changes of adolescence. The supply of quality middle schools in the city in no way approaches the demand, nor does the supply of great teachers. I've always had a lot of respect for educators who actually like to work with this age group, although some handle it better than others.

I'm sure that I did not emerge unscathed from the middle school years, nor did my kids, who both attended Clinton over a period of six years ending in 2011. The school went through one highly contentious move during that time and three different principals. My kids grew about a foot each. They weren't as prepared in math and science for high school as I had hoped. While they loved to write, their grammar still needed a lot more work once they got to high school.

We all survived, although I just wouldn't want to live through it again, nor, I suspect, would they.

As the school year comes to a close, Insideschools would love parents to contribute some of their own survival tips—for finding middle school, enduring the age of embarrassment with kids, getting the most out of the academic experience and surviving the social hell. What do you wish you had known about middle school before your child started that might help other parents? Anyone get through unscathed?

Policy brief: How teachers conquered math anxiety - Read Full Article

Policy brief: How teachers conquered math anxiety

It takes a lot of skill and commitment to be an elementary school teacher. Many who enter the profession love to read, are interested in social studies, civics and art and are adept at managing a room full of small children who are learning and growing at different speeds. Unfortunately there’s something else many early childhood teachers have in common: math anxiety. According to one study, elementary education majors, who are overwhelmingly female, have the highest levels of math anxiety of any college major, and unwittingly pass it on to their pupils, especially girls.

A new policy brief by Insideschools and the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School examines one of the most vexing problems facing elementary school teachers—their own anxiety over math. The brief takes an in-depth look at two elementary schools, PS 26 on Staten Island and PS 63 in Manhattan, and how their leadership and teaching staff confronted the problem head-on through collaboration and retraining—and got results.

“Both schools have strong female leaders and mostly female staff who have found ways to confront their own math phobia, become excited about math and communicate that excitement to students. Rather than focus on quick gains in test scores, they strive for steady improvement of their own and their pupils’ understanding of math,” write Insideschools founder Clara Hemphill and reporter Lydie Raschka, co-authors of the policy brief.

Below are some philosophies and practices the schools embraced in their effort to help teachers and students meet the Common Core Standards in math.

Talent isn’t fixed, everyone can improve: At PS 26 teachers examined their own discomfort with math. They studied the work of Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck and embraced what she calls a “growth mindset," the idea that their talent isn’t fixed and that they could improve, even at math. Over two summers, teachers at PS 63 read and discussed a series of books called Young Mathematicians at Work.

Ditch the textbooks: Concerned that teachers were relying too heavily on textbooks, the leadership at PS 63 took a bold move: They stopped using them. Through weekly workshops and meetings to plan lessons, teachers re-learned math from the ground up and created their own curriculum that reflected their deeper understanding and newfound enthusiasm for math.

Don’t ditch textbooks—change them: PS 26 adopted Math in Focus, the U.S. version of Singapore math. It’s considered one of the most demanding math programs available in the U.S. and requires a significant investment in time for teachers to learn how to use it.

Children learn from each other: At PS 63, teachers started bringing their own collaborative learning skills to the classroom. Students work in pairs during math and are free to use their own strategies for solving problems. They share their strategies with their peers during a daily class congress. Over time, and with guidance from teachers, students learn from each other the most efficient way to solve problems.

Parents can learn math too: As their confidence with math grew, teachers at PS 26 agreed to be filmed doing math to create short instructional videos that they posted online for parents.

Read the full report: “Conquering Teachers’ Math Anxiety: How two schools are tackling the Common Core”

Looking for some fun science and math activities you can do with your own child?  See our "Parents Guide to Math and Science" andour Free Programs section.

Pre-k, Round 2: Apply by July 10 - Read Full Article

Pre-k, Round 2: Apply by July 10

Everyone deserves a second chance. If you're not happy with your child's Round 1 pre-k placement, take heart: Round 2 of pre-k admissions is officially open, now through July 10, offering families dozens of new programs to choose from.

Even if you already received a pre-k offer, you can take advantage of Round 2 of the pre-k enrollment process. Round 2 is comprised mainly of new programs that were not listed in Round 1, as well as some sites that did not fill to capacity. The DOE will be adding more programs as they become available. (Check nyc.gov/prek for the latest updates.) As in Round 1, you can apply online, over the phone by calling 311 or in person at a Family Welcome Center. Applications can be updated right up until the July 10 deadline.

A quick look at the Department of Education's Pre-Kindergarten Round 2 Program List showed some interesting additions (and only one closure) with the majority of new programs in Queens. In Brooklyn, we noted 20 full-day seats at PS 112 Lefferts Park, an Insideschools pick and the subject of the 2005 documentary "Mad Hot Ballroom." In District 2, PS 51 Elias Howe and two new schools, PS 340 Sixth Avenue School and PS 343 The Peck Slip School, are housing pre-k centers. (In neighboring District 3, DNAinfo found that there are decidedly fewer options.)

The DOE's pre-k center programs are a central focus of the expansion this year. Exclusively dedicated to serving pre-k students, these free-standing programs are housed in existing schools or leased space and are run by DOE-appointed site coordinators who report to their district's director of early childhood education. All pre-k centers will host open houses in August when families who have been accepted can tour the program, meet staff and register their children, according to the DOE.

Yes, August feels far away. Many parents will be taking a leap of faith this year one way or another, and it's not an easy thing to do when it comes to your child's education. What do you do when you can't tour the school, the program is new and untested, or you are placed in a "failing school"? Aside from reading our reviews when applicable, talking with other parents, and attending any summer open houses, there aren't easy answers. But when it comes to pre-k, it's important to remember that some of the usual rules don't apply. Some things to keep in mind:

1. A failing (or mediocre) school doesn't necessarily mean a failing pre-k. If you're a dedicated Insideschools reader you've gotten used to looking at school surveys, attendance numbers and even test scores. We can tell you from years of combined experience that in many otherwise troubled or so-so schools, pre-k can often be an oasis of skilled teachers, sweet kids and thoughtful programming. Take PS 48 in the Bronx or PS 120 in Bedford-Stuyvesant, for example. PS 48 has struggled with test scores and discipline in the older grades, but it also has a strong pre-k program in a separate learning annex that our reviewer described as "adorable." At PS 120, where test scores have been low, the pre-k classes we saw had an undeniable spark that was lacking in the upper grades. If you can, take your time to find hidden gems like these. 

2. Pre-k for all doesn't mean pre-k down the block. Who doesn't want to take a leisurely stroll around the corner with their 4-year-old to the best pre-k in the city? We all do, but sometimes you may need to take a train or a bus instead. The city has rolled out an impressive number of programs this year, but mostly where space was available, not where need was highest. Decide on your priorities, and if quality trumps proximity, you may want to open your eyes to great programs further away. 

3. And remember, those wait lists move. As we've said before, you can apply to Round 2 and still remain on a wait list for all the schools you listed above the school your child was assigned to in Round 1. Even as you move forward with other options, an old favorite choice could surprise you with a spot. Stay patient.

Round 2 decision letters will be sent out in early-August. Families will need to pre-register in person with their child and required paperwork by mid-August. In the meantime, good luck and let us know how the process is working for you!

School Book

Opinion: Remove an Unnecessary Bar to Parent Involvement - Read Full Article

There’s something wrong when a parent’s old felony conviction, paid for long ago, is an absolute bar to membership on a volunteer education council.  Even elected officials and others in higher office are not held to such a standard.

The problem is caused by two identical provisions in New York State education law that preclude parents with past felony convictions from serving on one of New York City's education councils at both the community and citywide level.  Education councils were created in 2002 as part of the mayoral control law, replacing the old community school boards.  Largely advisory, they are composed primarily of public school parent volunteers selected by other parents. They have no direct control of public funds, contracts, or other fiduciary matters. 

However, the education council statutes deem as ineligible, without exception, “a person who has been convicted of a felony.”

The bans are clearly susceptible to an unintended yet abhorrent disparate impact on certain New York City communities.  That these bars fall disproportionately upon Black and Latino parents is supported by the unacceptable and dispiriting statistics on disparities of criminal convictions among Whites, African Americans, and Hispanics. 

A recent New York Times editorial cited research that “criminal convictions for Black men seeking employment were virtually impossible to overcome in many contexts, partly because convictions reinforced powerful, longstanding stereotypes.” 

These passages in the education law stand in sharp contrast to the widespread roll back of unnecessary inquiries into past criminal conduct and promotion of social re-entry.  Federal equal employment guidance now recommends against criminal background checks and at least 11 states and many cities, including New York, have passed "ban the box" legislation to eliminate criminal history as a blanket job disqualification.  New York State corrections law asserts that “the public policy of this state… [is] to encourage the licensure and employment of persons previously convicted of one or more criminal offenses” and New York's highest court recently reinforced the state's general prohibition against criminal records discrimination. 

Significantly, New York civil rights law allows those with past felony convictions to run for elected office in most cases, including school boards across the state.  The school governance law does not even demand that members of city’s Panel for Educational Policy be free of past felony convictions despite their greater responsibilities.

The education council felony conviction prohibitions even run counter to the spirit of the statutes themselves. The Community Education Council statute, for example, seeks to ensure membership that “reflects a representative cross-section of the communities within the school district” while flatly barring certain community members.  Denying those with past felony convictions the opportunity to participate in their children’s public school system and to serve their communities not only upends the law’s focus on representative, voluntary participation in civic life; it also deprives our communities of the service of committed and willing parent leaders. 

Our public school system needs the participation of as many dedicated, active parents as possible.

Though the current round of education council voting has just past, the legislature's re-consideration of mayoral control presents an opportunity to remove these misguided barriers.  They are unfair to parents and other individuals with prior felony convictions and to the electorate; they are inconsistent with similar eligibility requirements; and they fly in the face of prevailing policies against blanket discrimination toward people convicted of crimes. 

The next time a parent steps up to volunteer for an education council, let’s say thank you instead of checking for a rap sheet.

Dear Parent Leaders,

We are excited to share with you news about our annual Summer Meals program for all New York City children. The Summer Meals program is crucial to ensuring that New York City children are well fed beyond the end of the instructional year. 

Summer Meals provides free, healthy breakfast and lunch to all children—regardless of New York City residency—ages 18 and under at hundreds of locations around the City. Children do not need to register or show any kind of documentation or ID to enjoy a delicious meal.

This year’s Summer Meals program will launch on Saturday, June 27, one day after the last day of school for New York City students. Starting June 27, breakfast and lunch will be available at hundreds of public schools, community pool centers, NYCHA complexes, libraries, and other locations throughout the five boroughs and spread across neighborhoods. Additionally, there will be four mobile food trucks offering meals seven days a week throughout the summer at locations frequently visited by children and families.

We encourage you to share this multilingual flyer about our Summer Meals Program with your constituents. Schools were also encouraged to distribute this flyer, which provides information on the program, including our first-ever, free SchoolFood App (for both Apple & Android), an easy way for families to locate Summer Meals sites near them. Families can download the free app by searching “SchoolFood” in the app store. Families can also find locations by visiting schoolfoodnyc.org, texting “NYCMEALS” to 877-877, or via 311.

Thank you for partnering with us to make the Summer Meals program a resounding success for our children and families.


Division of Family and Community Engagement

Public Advocate James Calls for Reforms to Mayoral Control


2015-2017 CEC & Citywide Council Election results
 are now published online at  
 Elected and appointed Community and Citywide Education Council Members for the 2015-2017 term will take office on July 1, 2015.

School Admissions News

Kindergarten Admissions

The application period ended on February 18, 2015. However, you can still submit a late application in one of three ways:

Interpretation services will be provided in over 200 languages for the over-the-phone and in-person options.

Review our Kindergarten Directories to make your list of choices. The Directories are available online, and at local elementary schools and at Family Welcome Centers. Translated versions are available online, in nine languages. 

For a list of new schools opening in the 2015-16 school year, click here.

Community Events

Upcoming Events

District 3 Common Core Parent Survey

Encuesta para padres del CEC3 del Distrito 3, sobre estándares básicos comunes

CEC3 News

Attention Rising High School Seniors!
Applications are now available to apply to serve as the
 High School Student Council Member on the CEC3
 for the 2015- 2016 School Year!

To join the CEC3 Email List, 

please send your name and email address to