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Insideschools staff

Insideschools staff

By Leila Morsy and Richard Rothstein

As many as one in 10 African American students has an incarcerated parent. One in four has a parent who is or has been incarcerated. The discriminatory incarceration of African American parents is an important cause of their children’s lowered performance, especially in schools where the trauma of parental incarceration is concentrated.

Two policies have been mostly responsible: an increasingly punitive sentencing policy, including prison terms for violent crimes that have increased by nearly 50 percent since the early 1990s; and the declaration of a “war on drugs” that has included severe mandatory minimum sentences for relatively trivial victimless drug offenses. The incarceration explosion is primarily an expression of our race relations and of the confrontational stance of police toward African Americans in neighborhoods of concentrated disadvantage. (The incarceration rate of middle-class African Americans has declined and makes no contribution to the rapidly rising rate of incarcerations.) Young African American men are no more likely to use or sell drugs than young white men, but they are nearly three times as likely to be arrested for drug use or sale; once arrested, they are more likely to be sentenced; and, once sentenced, their jail or prison terms are 50 percent longer, on average.

Educators have paid too little heed to this criminal justice crisis. Criminal justice reform should be a policy priority of educators who are committed to improving the achievement of African American children.

Children of incarcerated parents suffer serious harm. It is tempting to think that these consequences are attributes of disadvantaged children, independent of parental incarceration. But careful studies of the effects on children have accounted for these attributes. Children of the incarcerated have worse cognitive and non-cognitive outcomes than children with similar socioeconomic and demographic characteristics whose parents have not experienced incarceration.

Learn about your public school options from Clara Hemphill, InsideSchools founder. She is offering two free workshops in Manhattan next week and presenting her new book, NYC's Best Public Pre-K and Elementary Schools.

Come to the Upper West Side on Monday, Feb. 6, at 6 pm for the workshop at Rutgers Community Programs at 236 W. 73rd Street. Sign up here.

Or, come to the Word Up Community Bookshop/Libreria Comunitaria, 2113 Amsterdam Ave. in Washington Heights, Thursday, Feb. 9 at 7 pm.  

Hemphill will talk about the changes in public schools over the past 20 years and offer tips for finding a good school for your child. The book is based on more than 150 visits to public pre-k & elementary schools in all five boroughs by the InsideSchools staff.

Friday, 06 January 2017 12:48

Child turning 4? Apply to pre-k now!

Stay focused, parents of kids born in 2013—the pre-kindergarten application season is in full swing.

You may apply between now and February 24. All applications are considered equally no matter when they are submitted, so there's no benefit in rushing it.

For in-person help, join us at our free event on Monday, February 6, at 6 pm, at Rutgers Community Programs, 236 W. 73rd Street. Sign up here. Our new book, New York City's Best Public Pre-K and Elementary Schools
will be on sale at the event.

Who may attend pre-k

Any child who turns 4 by Dec. 31, 2017 is entitled to attend pre-k in 2017 (a child with a fall birthday may start school in September when he is still 3). Most children attend pre-kindergarten 6 hours and 20 minutes a day, 180 days a year—the same schedule as older children.

What programs are available?

The city doesn't have room in its neighborhood schools for all the city's 4-year-olds. To create more seats, it contracts with child-care centers, private nursery schools, religious schools and community centers. In addition, the city has established freestanding "pre-k centers," which children attend for just one year. While some ordinary neighborhood schools have pre-kindergarten, the bulk of seats are in these other locations. Your child is guaranteed a seat somewhere but there is no guarantee you will get your first choice, or that your assignment will be close to home. No transportation is provided (except for children with special needs and those in temporary housing).

The city offers free directories of all the pre-k programs, updated annually. You may also find a school near your home by searching our website.  The Department of Education is offering pre-k info sessions in January, one night in each borough. See the schedule here: http://schools.nyc.gov/ChoicesEnrollment/PreK/events/default.htm.

How to apply to pre-k

You may apply online through the Department of Education website starting on Jan. 17; in person at a Family Welcome Center; or by telephone: (718) 935-2067. All families who submit by February 24 will get an offer letter in late April 2017 and must accept by early May.

There are many options out there all over the city. Check our profiles, which tell more. We've liked much of what we've seen, especially the new pre-k centers run by the DOE.

Good luck!

Wednesday, 07 December 2016 12:28

Top ten reasons to love InsideSchools

Here’s why you should support InsideSchools with an online gift today:

1. We visit schools in the snow and rain.

2. We’re independent.

3. We’re parents (we get it).

4. We don’t sugarcoat.

5. We know test scores don’t tell the whole story. 

6. We avoid jargon.

7. We call 'em like we see 'em.

8. We do our best to be fair.

9. Our advice is free—24/7.

10. You rely on us.


Want us to keep on keeping on?
 Show your love and support today! 



With gratitude,


The InsideSchools team

For nearly two decades, parents have looked to Clara Hemphill to help them find a good public school for their child. This Fourth Edition of "New York City's Best Public Pre-K and Elementary Schools A Parents' Guide" features all-new reviews of more than 150 of the city's best public elementary schools, based on visits and in-depth interviews by Hemphill and the InsideSchools staff.

This essential guide uncovers the "inside scoop" on schools (the condition of the building, special programs, teacher quality, and more), includes a checklist of things to look for on a school tour, and incorporates new listings of charter schools and stand-alone pre-kindergarten programs. It also provides the hard facts on:

  • Total school enrollment
  • Test scores for reading and math
  • Ethnic makeup
  • Who gets in?
  • Admissions requirements
  • Teaching methods and styles
  • Special education services
  • How to apply

The book is available now,  just in time for kindergarten and pre-kindergarten application season! You can look for it at your local bookstore or order online here. You'll get 20 percent off list price if you use the discount code TCP2017.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016 11:00

New report: Five steps to integrate schools

The City can do much more to foster economic integration of elementary schools than the small scale efforts it has made to date. That's the conclusion of our new report, Five Steps to Integrated Schools, based on our visits to 150 schools across the city over the past two years.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has suggested that school segregation is intractable because it is largely a result of housing patterns, that is, that schools are segregated because housing is. And Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña has said she favors "organic" or voluntary school integration efforts.

There's no question that that persistent housing segregation makes school integration difficult in many neighborhoods; however, as our earlier report shows, the city has segregated, high-poverty schools even in many integrated, mixed-income neighborhoods.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016 11:53

To give you help we need help ourselves!

Middle school and high school applications are due on Dec. 1!

Have we helped you in your search?

It's a tough task – and a rewarding one.
You trust us; you turn to us for help.
This #GivingTuesday we're turning to you!

InsideSchools is a tiny non-profit group.
We can't provide the free services that you count on without your help.
Please consider giving us a vote of your confidence with a tax-deductible contribution this year.

Donate now!

Tuesday, 15 November 2016 16:15

Event: How to make our schools more integrated

The Center for New York City Affairs and InsideSchools present a Nov. 30 panel discussion based on an upcoming report: "How to Make Our Schools More Integrated."

We will present our findings and recommendations for better socio-economic integration of the city's public elementary schools, with a particular focus on neighborhoods where integration is possible without busing—that is, economically integrated neighborhoods where the schools are segregated.

Applying to elementary school in NYC has been compared to having a second job, but things may just have gotten a bit easier for families. For the first time, the Department of Education is staging “It’s Elementary!” admissions events in all 32 city school districts beginning on Tuesday, Nov. 1. Enrollment officials will cover the major elementary admissions entry points in one evening—pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and gifted and talented programs. How the DOE manages this more complicated format remains to be seen, but it’s quite a boost from the handful of borough-wide admissions events offered last year. 

Families may begin applying to kindergarten on Nov. 30.

“We’re committed to making it easier for families to find and enroll in the school that’s right for them,” Deputy Chancellor for Strategy and Policy Josh Wallack said in a DOE press release. “We are confident the It’s Elementary! events are a real step forward—they’ll bring all the information families need for Pre-K, Kindergarten, and Gifted & Talented under one roof, and into every neighborhood—and we look forward to building on this progress.”

New York City is one of the most segregated school systems in the country, but some schools buck the trend and enroll a mix of children of different races and income levels. How do they do it? And how can their success be replicated?

The staff of InsideSchools, a project of the Center for New York City Affairs, visited 80 elementary schools to find out how some formerly high-poverty schools have succeeding in attracting children from a range of races, ethnicities and income levels. We published our findings in a new report: "Integrated Schools in a Segregated City."

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