Navigating the system: New York
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Learn more on what to look for when touring schools in these videos:
Video: How to find a middle school
Video: A guide to private schools
By GreatSchools Staff
Get the 311
One of the first steps is to call 311 to find out what your zoned school is. Perelstein warns not to take a fellow parent’s word for what school your child is zoned for, because it changes often. Also if your zoned school is full, you will get sent somewhere else. So start by calling 311.
Prepare the paperwork
When you register your child, you have to bring a bunch of paperwork directly to the school you are registering for. Make sure you have everything before you head out to the school:
• Your child’s birth certificate or passport
• Immunization records
• Proof of residence (check the website for a full list of acceptable documents) • If your child is in special education, bring her Individual Education Program (IEP) and/or 504 Accommodation Plan.
Most elementary school children do attend their neighborhood school, but if you are not happy with your zoned school, you have other options including specialty programs, and un-zoned schools (these accept children by special application or lottery. They are also referred to as option, choice, or magnet schools.)
While you may be drawn to schools that have a good reputation, parents should consider their child before the school, says Perelstein. Think about how your child learns best, if she has particular talents or weaknesses and which schools will offer the best for her. Think about other situations where your child has thrived. How does she do socially? Does she need special help academically? Does she get most excited about math, but not reading? Does she love big groups or small intimate settings?
Talking to other parents about schools in the system will give you a piece of the puzzle, but they may not provide the information you need for your child.
Do your homework
The first stop in narrowing your choices is GreatSchools.org’s New York page . From there you can browse schools in your neighborhood and begin setting up a “search and compare” list, including private schools and preschools. You can not only see test scores but read the comments of other parents. The NYC school website provides another source of indispensible information. The site lets you enter your address to find out what school you’re zoned for and links you directly to the school’s site so you can look at all their stats, including NCLB report cards, class size, special education reports, demographics, attendance rates, and the school’s budget.
The site also has a section called “Choosing a school” that has a school search tool and information on all of the city’s options, including charters, gifted and talented schools, and English language learning schools. InsideSchools.org, an independent non-profit that contains loads of information on NYC schools, has a search tool that includes all the schools, including charters, magnets, dual language programs, and gifted and talented programs.
Brown started a folder for each school she was considering. She pored over all the stats for each school, and wrote down the information so that she could easily compare her choices. She also used the folder to keep track of the various deadlines for each school’s application process.