Choosing a Kindergarten For Your Child: Two Workshops Hosted By The Roosevelt Island Parents’ Network About Options for Roosevelt Island Families
Are you a Roosevelt Island parent about to choose a kindergarten for your child? If so, two upcoming question and answer sessions hosted by the Roosevelt Island Parents' Network and Main Street Sweets are for you....
Roosevelt Island Parents' Network Coordinator Eva Bosbach provides the following recap of the Choosing A Kindergarten panel discussion. Ms Bosbach reports:
Together with Main Street Sweets, the Roosevelt Island Parents’ Network hosted two free panel discussions about choosing a Kindergarten as part of the “Parents for Parents” workshop series. About 50 RI parents attended the workshops on Nov. 5 at Main Street Sweets and Nov. 10 in the Rivercross lounge. The seven panelists were RI parents who investigated different options, successfully placed their children in a variety of schools and programs including G&T and IEP, serve on PTA boards, are active in parent advocacy and were happy to share their knowledge with other RI parents. I moderated both events which were co-hosted by Coach Scot from the Main Street Sweets. The handout with online resources and deadlines was kindly provided by Emily Gohn-Barnill, Director of the Bright Horizons/MSKCC Children’s Center/475 Main Street, RI. Jen Reyes designed the event flyer.You can find a handout with different kindergarten deadlines and resources here.
Image of Roosevelt Island Parents' Network Choosing A Kindergarten Panel Discussion
Workshop topics included: Public vs. Private schools, Multilingual children, Application process and deadlines, Prepping and testing, Gifted and Talented program, Individualized Education Program, Things to consider (commute, finances) and Further resources (tours, fairs, websites).
The following information consists of selected personal notes from the Nov. 10 workshop taken by one of the participants. The notes have been edited by the panel speakers.
The workshop started at 4pm.
Eva Bosbach asked about the audience’s interest: A few were interested in private schools, most were interested in G/T, perhaps half were interested in PS 217 information.
Introduction of the speakers by EB and their up-front statements:
Michal Melamed: Michal has one child at G/T who used to be at Midtown West before. One child is in 3rd grade in STEM at PS 85 in Queens (one of five citywide g/t schools), another child at Harlem Hebrew, a charter school in Harlem dual language in Hebrew. Lots of choices for kindergarten citywide! Midtown West, Ella Baker, and Tribeca Learning Center are the three non-zoned district-wide schools in district 2. For G/T, take test and if have a great score, there are two crazy weeks to tour schools and rank them. Charter schools: not many in district 2 – a daughter goes to one in district 3 in Harlem. Success Charter schools have two in our district, Union Square and Hell's Kitchen. Parochial schools are usually less expensive than private schools. Hunter and Special Music School, a music-focused school are selective public schools. Son was in Midtown West. At Midtown West, Ella Baker, and Tribeca, students fill out an application and then get in via a lottery. Her older child was not fully challenged at Midtown West and the commute was hard, then got an offer from a G/T school in November, moved to the G/T school, and all went smoothly. Younger child got a district G/T eligible score but not a citywide G/T eligible score and she enrolled in a charter school.
Olga Shchuchinov: VP of PS217 PTA. You should look beyond the data to find good schools. Do not focus only on rankings. Many schools are similar in the sense that they follow statewide curriculum and offer a safe space. Think of your financial resources and your specific commute. Make three groupings of tiers for schools you like rather than focusing just on your top tier. Keep in perspective that kindergarten placement is not the hugest impact on someone's life.
Shirley Payne: One child in ps217, one at charter, one in public school. Youngest child has IEP for physical therapy and probably has a similar experience to parents with kids who have an autism diagnosis. For the child, Shirley focused on the level of support for physical therapy and IEP along with which school had the best nurse for therapeutic purposes. Online reviews are all negative for schools generally but the true views of parents are usually not as bad as the online reviews. Took tours, checked what resources were available, checked how much reading done per day. Chose PS217 for that child. See if the setting is right for your child, if your child would be happy, if the commute is ok, and see if the school looks like it has a family atmosphere that is tight-knit. Elementary school choice has a bigger impact on one's life than kindergarten.
Matthew Matasar: Two kids in G/T at Lower Lab. For G/T there are five "citywide" schools and many "district" programs in district two. For citywide G/T schools, you can apply if score at 97th percentile but most schools end up only accepting kids with a 99th percentile score. Different citywide schools go up to different grade levels (many have middle or both middle and high schools). District-wide schools require a qualifying score of 90, but most fill with kids with a 99th percentile score. Take tours because many schools give different impressions such as how NEST-M seems great to some parents but seems too strict/cold to other parents. Trust your instincts on the tours. G/T scoring takes into account how old the child was on the day of the test (down to how many years plus quarter-years the child is old). Some buy a $30 KTSS packet on G/T sample questions. More intensive test prep programs can be hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Lauren Blankstein: Son in kindergarten, daughter in 4th grade at the Ella Baker School, a pre-k to 8th grade progressive public school on the Upper East Side. Lauren spoke about the progressive approach to education. Information about this and Ella Baker's admissions process can be found at http://www.ellabakerschool.net" Lauren also recommended watching the video 180 Days Well Spent.
Kristi Towey: Kids at The Garden School and Poly Prep Country Day School. Two kids in private school – one of which initially went to PS217 for pre-K through 1st grade. Private schools love Roosevelt Island children because they bring uniqueness to the school geographically. Look at how your child interacts with other children and adults. Think about whether a small or large environment would be better. Consider what is important to you as the parent. We chose private school for our children because one needed more attention in his schoolwork from the teacher and the other needs more nurturing and emotional support. Both are provided better in a small than in a larger classroom. Private schools also commonly offer extra curriculum enriching courses and a wide variety of after school activities.
Nancy Ibrahim: Works in UNIS admissions. Some private schools have a great parent-student ratio. Many have application deadlines around mid-November. For busing, for $2,000 per year students can pay to ride on a private UNIS school bus but there also is the no-cost public school busing option (but it requires leaving earlier in the morning and has less flexbility).
Q/A, started at 4:55pm:
1. Q: Is it true that ERB is no longer being required in future years for Independent School Admissions Association of Greater New York schools and most schools are dropping it?
A: Yes, the ISAAGNY is looking for an alternative to the ERB. Please check with each school on their requirements.
2. Q: What happens at private school play date tryouts?
A: You should call and ask a specific school what to expect and then you can tell the child what will happen. At UNIS, they assess in groups of 5 playing together and also through a one-on-one meeting with a teacher. They are assessing numerous factors, probably including how well the kid separates from the parent, the kid’s social skills, and if the kid already took schooling then how much the kid has learned/how well behaved the kid is.
3. Q: How/when did one parent on the panel find out ADD diagnosis?
A: Different parents answered that one family found out at 11 years old and another family found out at 4 years old.
4. Q: How is the typical teacher to student ratio?
A: K at ps217 is 24 per teacher for general K and 17 or 18 per teacher for G/T. At one point there was around 31 for one teacher but then the school hired a second teacher and now there are around 16 per teacher. NYC maximum for Kindergarten is 25 per class. Allowance in Sept. and Oct. tends to go over the limit in order to see how many kids join or transfer out of the school. Only exception to the class limit is Midtown west, where it seems nobody complaints about having 28 children per class. In older years, some G/Ts have more students per teacher but it works fine because they might do work in groups of four with the teacher stopping by each group.
5. Q: For those parents with one child in G/T and one not in G/T, do you see any difference?
A: In G/T you notice a difference in the other students because they had to be able to sit and focus on that G/T test to qualify (although it is still possible for a kid in G/T to be misbehaved despite, if the kid frequently chooses not to exercise the ability to focus quietly). Another impact is that many G/T schools have committed parents willing to donate more money so that there are more resources.
A: Another parent says she sees a difference trending more as the children get older and thinks it might be due to the commitment level of the parents, not necessarily that there is better instruction.
6. Q: If not G/T qualified at first, what are the odds of getting back on the advanced track after doing non-G/T studies?
A: At UNIS, they look at many factors so they are not completely shutting out a child who had a specific pathway for K and first grade when applying for sixth grade, for example.
A: One parent says that for some schools, there are almost no slots open for the higher grades because so many students in the lower grades continue studying at the school and take up the slots.
7. Q: It seems funny to have lots of transfers around Sept. and October with students getting into G/T or switching public schools.
A: It does not happen much at private schools but it does happen in public schools. Probably not such a big deal if a school has only 3 or 4 new kids. But with 8 new kids (as once pretty much happened at ps217), it can be disruptive -- but various parents point out that having that many new kids is very rare so people should not worry about that too much.
8. Q: Other zoned schools seem to have better fundraising from PTA than ps217.
A: But at ps217, recently parents really came together to rescue an arts program, the school already has a music teacher and enough support that musical instruments are provided at no cost to students and the music program has been there for 20 years. The offer of no-cost musical instruments has some common sense limits, though – the PTA is not giving out pianos of course. PS217 has yoga and movement in class. It has gardening. It has some after school programs, too, that require families to pay to participate. Odds are that art and music classes will stay for a while.
9. Q: How is applying for public school pre-K?
A: Fill out a questionnaire and then it is pure lottery.
10. Q: Do you have any tips on figuring out whether a school is good at supporting specific special needs of kids?
A: The process actually begins in pre-school if your child has attended. If your child requires speech physical , and or occupational therapy they may need evaluations to determine the correct placement for them. Also children who have been diagnosed with Autism or ADHD or ADD may need certain classroom accommodations that your local school may not be able to offer. Your child may be eligible for services granted through a individual education plan. This plan helps address the needs of the student and gives then supports while in the classroom . If your child carries any of these diagnosis but you are unsure the school based team once in a school can evaluate your child if you address concerns. To answer your question more specifically: Look at the number of students serviced with special needs. For example, if they offer group therapy for ADHD, check how many are in their group. A school might say it can only take 8 minimum per group but at the kindergarten level a kid might really need a group of six or less people. Look for more details about what kind of equipment they have such as whether physical therapy is done by having a kid walk up a staircase. Schools with great therapeutic staff usually have staff that stays (so you can ask about the years of service of the staff).
11. Q: If born in fall and start public school but not old enough to meet the cutoff to apply for private school and the following year the child applies and gets accepted to private school, will every private school force every child in that situation to redo the kindergarten level?
A: One child repeated fifth grade when the child switched over. When older, school will check testing results to assess whether to move forward or repeat the level. For UNIS, at the kindergarten level the child in that situation will also be forced to take a year in kindergarten at UNIS but it is not really repetitive for the child because UNIS has a very different teaching method and will give more attention than the child probably had before.
A: At the kindergarten level, private schools are usually not flexible with admission age. There are some private schools that follow the same age guidelines as public school. At the higher grades, if you are coming from public to private, they will be more flexible. They will assess your child's test scores, etc. and make a decision with the parents. My niece missed the cutoff for kindergarten by one day at Sacred Heart and they were not flexible at all with the date. My son at Poly Prep was not even considered for the higher grade level even though he already completed fifth grade. As far as repeating kindergarten or any other grade level in private school, every school has a unique curriculum and your child will not be bored. The adjustment to the new school curriculum and environment will keep them engaged. Also, the smaller classroom will allow a teacher to give more one on one attention and challenge one student where needed while teaching others at another level.
12. Q: What happens if a child starts at private school and then shifts to public school and the child is born in the fall?
A: The public school often exercises flexibility by checking the kid’s skill level rather than purely applying a formula that would force the kid into a grade level based purely on the kid’s age.
A: If you are in private school first and then go to public school, the public schools will put your child in the next grade level after what they just completed in private school even if they are aged for the next grade. Your child will not be forced ahead a grade level.
The workshop ended at 5:40pm.