In New York City, families have many wonderful options for education their children in both the public and private school sectors. There are The challenge for many families is navigating these options to find a good match in a system that is complex and competitive not by design, but because of the number of families going through the process. Families should take the time to explore all of their options in making a considered decision, keeping in mind that the “right” school is the one that best fits your priorities for your child’s ongoing school experience.
PREPARING FOR THE KINDERGARTEN ADMISSIONS PROCESS
Familiarize yourself with the types of schools available to your child for kindergarten and ongoing elementary school. There are traditional schools, focusing on structured classrooms and academic benchmarks. There are progressive schools, focusing on experiential, hands-on curricular experiences. There are single sex schools, kindergarten through 8th grade schools, schools that begin in nursery school and go all the way through 12th grade. You can get an overview of independent school programs through books like Victoria Goldman’s Manhattan Family Guide to Private and Select Public Schools, or by exploring the website for the Independent School Admissions Association of Greater New York (ISAAGNY), which has links to its member schools. Once you’ve done some research decided on a philosophical approach, you can formulate your list. Beware of limiting yourself to labels; it’s not uncommon to find yourself attracted to schools that combine philosophies. We generally recommend a list of 6-10 schools depending on how seriously you are considering your zoned public school as a viable option.
For public school, your child is guaranteed a kindergarten seat based on your address; some parents might choose to explore the Gifted and Talented option, which seats children based on testing. A handbook of options based on your school district is available on the Department of Education website (schools.nyc.gov); another helpful resource for public school information is Inside Schools (www.insideschools.org).
APPLICATION PROCESS CHECKLIST
The majority of private schools are selective institutions that have the luxury of being able to construct their own communities. They are looking for families who present a good match for what the school has to offer, both academically and as a community. Most schools are looking for a broad based diversity: different types of people bonded by a commitment to the school, and students who bring a variety of personalities to the classroom. While schools can vary in the amount of academic challenge and expectations, all want to see your child thrive in the classroom. To help in getting to know your family, most schools will assess your child in a classroom setting, either in a small group or one-to-one. There is no way to “prep” a 4 year old for what will essentially be an observation of their potential classroom behavior and basic skill sets. Even for older children remember schools are not expecting kids to sell themselves.
Most schools will also interview you as parents. You should be able to describe your child in an appealing, well-rounded manner. Keep in mind that no one expects you to be objective, and this is your chance to boast a little, but be realistic about her/his strengths, and make sure any challenges you bring up can be easily spun to a positive, i.e.: “Susie can be reserved when you first meet her, but once she is comfortable she is fully engaged and enthusiastic.” Be able to articulate what you are looking for in a school, both academically and in terms of community, and make sure your vision is a good match for what the school has to offer. Come prepared with a few well-thought out questions. Your main goal is engagement … you want to be the kind of parents the school wants to have in their community.
Smart City Kids will work with you to prepared for interviews, providing a list of expected questions by school and giving you a chance to practice, along with practical advice on how to present yourself (hint: turn off your cell phone) and most importantly: what NOT to ask.
While there is no longer one standardized test for the private school application process (an assessment formerly known as the “ERB”, administered by the Educational Records Bureau and distributed among the private schools), all schools will be looking at your child’s readiness, whether through an outside agency or internally. In addition to the verbal and non-verbal skills assessed in a standardized test like the WPPSI-IV, the Stanford-Binet, or the OLSAT, schools are looking at your child’s ability to focus and follow directions.
Smart City Kids offers assessment of your child’s developmental and academic skill set and will offer suggestions on how you can reinforce as necessary to present your child in his/her best possible light (and find the best match for your child’s learning style).
HOW WE CAN HELP
If you schedule a one-on-one session with a Smart City Kids Advisor, one of the first things we'll help you do is narrow your focus. Before we meet, we'll send you a questionnaire that will help you think through what you want in a school for your child and for your family. During our meeting, we will spend time with you in advance of meeting your child and talk further about your goals. A detailed discussion of your child and your priorities will help us assess schools that would be a good match.
If you decide to work through the full admissions process with Smart City Kids, we will meet your child, provide our assessment of your child’s developmental and academic skill set and presentation, offer suggestions for reinforcement as applicable, and revisit your school list in context. We will work with you on essays, helping you present a realistic, appealing picture of your child and a clear expression of what you are looking for in a school. We’ll discuss the all-important touring and interview process, focusing on what you should be looking for (and how the schools are looking at you), as well as expectations for your child during the “play visit” and interview process. For families applying to non-entry point grades (generally first through fifth), we will assist in identifying likely spots at the schools on your list. Finally, we’ll strategize together as you prioritize your list, communicate with the schools and make choices from the offers you receive.
For more information, call Smart City Kids at (212) 249-4066 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org