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Video: How to find a middle school
Video: A guide to private schools
By GreatSchools Staff
Visit the school
Brown visited all the schools that she was considering for her daughter, a practice that Perelstein recommends. Each school has a parent coordinator on site who is a great resource for prospective parents. Most schools will schedule an open house and visiting days for parents. Visits will give you a good insight into the school’s philosophy, teaching style and mission, but they won’t give you the full picture.
Perelstein advices parents to drop in at the school during drop off or pick up, or during the children’s recess time. Watch how the teachers interact with the kids, notice if the principal greets the children at drop off, check out the other parents, take note of how many adults are on the playground. In general, the more adults present – be they administrative staff, teachers or parents – the better.
Citywide specialty schools
New York’s huge public school system offers many choices and many specialty schools. Is your child into math? There’s a school for that! Dance, music, languages? There are schools for those, too.
Some examples of specialty schools are:
• Ballet Tech/NYC Public School for Dance (grades 4-8): a collaboration between Ballet Tech and the city Department of Education that takes 150 students.
• PS 150 Tribeca Learning Center : a small school in downtown Manhattan. Admission is through lottery, with priority going to students with siblings at the school and who live in the district. The remaining seats are by lottery.
• New Explorations Into Science, Technology, and Math: a K-12 city-wide program for gifted and talented students. Admission is based on testing.
Check out each of the schools you’re interested in and keep track of their admissions policies and deadlines. As Brown discovered, no two are alike.
If your child’s school does not seem the right fit once you’re in, transferring out is possible, but not easy. If your child is in a school that is deemed a failing school by No Child Left Behind standards you will receive notice from the school department with information on how to transfer your child to another school.
The Department of Education lists all of the schools designated as “in need of improvement” at its web site.
Even if your school is not designated as failing, you may request a transfer. The first step is to fill out a variance form, which you can pick up from your local enrollment office. You state in the form the reason for the transfer (such as medical, safety, or hardship) and include all the documentation.
Explore the alternatives
Aside from the specialty schools that may focus on a specific subject, there are other options as well, including charters schools and private schools.
Public charter schools are another choice for parents looking for something outside of their zoned school. Charters are run independently of the local district and their admission is through lottery (though students who live within the charter school’s district will have priority). Currently there are 125 charters in New York, with new ones opening up each year.
Although all charter schools sound good from the outside, the facts are that many charter schools do not beat the performance of comparable public schools. One the other hand, there are charter schools which do an exceptional job. How do you find the diamonds among the rubble? The New York City Center for Charter School Excellence lists math and English test data for charter schools, along with a detailed analysis and a grade-by-grade comparison of test scores of charter and neighborhood schools. Test scores should not be the litmus test for quality but they can give a parent clues as to which schools are worth visiting.
For parents willing to spend more (or for those able to obtain financial aid), private schools can offer a whole slew of new options. For a list of private schools in New York, check out our listings, which include 495 private and parochial schools.
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