read aloud to your teenagers at bedtime

Check out the interesting stats from Scholastic here. "Eighty percent of children between 12 and 14 years old admitted they liked or loved it when their parents read aloud to them, and 83 percent of high schoolers aged 15 to 17 said they liked or loved it."

Click to read more ...


eenie, meanie: sorting public, charter and gifted kindergartens

Mentally sort elementary schools into three different catagories:

  1. DoE programs (zoned, un-zoned, out of zone)
  2. Charter schools
  3. Gifted and Talented programs

You will be applying to these programs in 3 different ways.

Click to read more ...


Ack! changes to Dual Language admissions

Last year you could list dual language programs as separate entries on your kindergarten application. This year you cannot. You will list the school in which the dual language program is housed and if you are assigned to that school, you may get the dual language or you may get the gen ed program. You will likely hear about your placement in the dual language program long after the window has closed on a g&t, charter or whatever other placement. This is a serious impediment to families who want to try for a number of different dual language programs or families who want dual language (but not gen ed) in a specific school.

Change has come about because of requirements at the state level about the placement of English Language Learners. We don't have a specific timeline for the assessments, and notification of placement within the program, but it is almost a guaranteed certainty that it will be long after you have to make decisions about g&t, charter and wait list placements from other schools.

Since families are ranking schools in order, it throws a monkey wrench into many families' ranking strategies. In the past if you liked a DL program, but didn't like the school's gen ed, you could list the programs separately. Now if you like the DL, you also have to be satisfied with the proposition that you may end up in that school's gen ed. That may be too great a risk for some.

If you have questions about the application:
write to

they can direct you to the people who can give you all the specific information about ELL testing and the state requirements.




tips for ranking kindergarten choices

Magical thinking is good in literature and bad in school ranking.

  • If you would like to attend your zoned school- LIST IT!
  • If you would absolutely not attend your zoned school, don't list it (but you better have a back up plan). If your zoned school is not popular and if you don't list it and you don't get lucky with your other choices, you will still probably be placed there- but no guarantees, ever.
  • Listing 20 12 schools does not improve your chances of getting in somewhere. Listing schools that take your priority (outside of zone, outside of district, etc.) does. If you list 20 schools that you have NO chance of getting into - you won't get in. Magical thinking will only disappoint. If you rank 2 schools that you have a good chance of getting into, you probably will (especially if one of those 2 is your zoned school).
  • The DoE is not out to screw you. Give up the conspiracy theories, as juicy as they are. This is a bloodless algorithm that doesn't take into account the favored or least favored tastes in each little neighborhood in the city. It is a big city, get over yourself. This is a giant, ham-fisted (yet elegant) placement system. Read this superb article in The NY Times by Tracy Tullis (thank you Tracy!!!) about the algorithm for HS placement (same algorithm they are using for K, with geographic priority instead of the schools' lists being the matching factor)
  • Your ranking is important only to tell the DoE where you would prefer to go. How many times can we all say this - DON'T STRATEGIZE. Rank schools in the order that you like them. Even those guys from Duke, MIT and Stanford said so. Ranking a school first DOES NOT give you priority over another person with the same geographic priority that puts it further down their list (also see Tracy's great article).
  • You will automatically be placed on a wait list for any school that you ranked higher than the school you were placed in. The wait lists DO move, more in some districts than others, but there is definite shifting and it happens late in the spring, summer and EVEN into the fall (usually stops mid to late Oct.). This is not about being the "early bird". This is about being the LATE BIRD. The bird who is left after all other birds have flown.
  • You will attend the LAST school that you pre-register at. You won't be simultaneously registered at a bunch of schools and decide later (don't be greedy). Each successive registration cancels the one before it, so they can offer that seat to someone else. You will be pre-registered at one school at a time if you are lucky on the wait lists.
  • There is no point at which the DoE traps you into a choice. As long as a school offers you a seat you can consider accepting or rejecting it. If a school offers you a seat, you don't have to take it. They are really, really leaving the choices open to you, even quite long after school begins! It doesn't matter that you may hear about your Kindergarten Connect choice before G&T, etc.
  • There are way way way more seats (seats for all!) at kindergarten than there are at prek. Your experience or luck in the prek choice will NOT be the same for k.

If you remain calm, pragmatic and patient, you will end up happy. People who panic, drown. People who make fear based choices get the school they deserve. People who can't wait, miss opportunities. You need a relative tolerance for uncertainty to make the NYC school system work. Many choices can be paralyzing and navigating this requires some fortitude, but there is also great opportunity, variety, diversity and talent out there. If you can make it here, you will make it anywhere. Courage. And happy hunting.

I am giving the last Intro to Public School: Prek and K talk of the season on Jan. 26 7pm at Hootenanny Art House in the south slope.

Tickets here:


PS 8's overcrowding

It is not new news that PS 8 is very very crowded and their kindergarten class may be "capped" in fall of 2015. That means that there may not be enough seats available for all in zone families at K. I have found, in other neighborhoods where this has been a problem (look to Park Slope and Kensington for Brooklyn prototypes), that the families who have the best outcomes are the ones who stop shaking their fists in frustration and try to affect change and/or avail themselves of the system which may also provide them with a wide range of school options. The DoE will do what the DoE will do, but they are not against listening and numbers will always get attention. You will feel frustrated through this process and rezoning (which will happen with a new plan or building) is always painful for someone.

Click to read more ...


did you ever have a crazy 21 year old dream?

My daughter, Libby, is graduating from Bowdoin College with a coordinate major in Environmental Studies and Sociology. She has a passion for maps, geography and urban planning and she likes a challenge. It is her dream to bike across the US this summer. As her parents, we are so proud of her and scared out of our gourds (trucks, cliffs, bad brakes). But as a former hobos and enthusiastic world travelers we have to put all that aside and support her fantastic adventure.

She has found a wonderful group, Bike the US for MS. She is taking the North tier from Bar Harbor, across New England through the Midwest to Montana and Seattle. She is an experienced treker and has done the NYC to Montreal, Albany to Cape Cod and Pittsburgh to DC trails. Bike the US for MS organizes cross country bike trips that raise awareness for multiple sclerosis, research & volunteer for patients. Many cyclists come to this program for the ride but become passionately involved with the cause. To participate she needs to raise $1 per mile - that is $4295 before the early spring25% of this amount goes to the cost of the trip (support van and trailer, gas for these vehicles, campsite fees, minor bike repairs, team gear, etc.) and public awareness of the program, 50% goes directly to MS research, 15% goes to service projects for MS patients that they will be involved in on the trip, and the final 10% goes for administrative costs.

Since we are in the midst of final (double) college payments and the fundraising is as much of a challenge as the continental divide, we are hoping to assist in her crowd sourcing.

If you can support this amazing cause and dream
Donations (which can be anonymous) can be made online here (please make sure to donate in Libby Szuflita's name)

Libby's Page

Old blogs about the other trips:
Our trip on the Great Allegheny Passage and C&O

Teen Treks


venting about middle school

I have heard too much distress from parents in the wind and now I just have to weigh in. It seems like so many people are unhappy about the fact that there are too few "good middle school options".

I have to ask. Do you mean schools with high test scores?
If you are clinging to the safety of high test scores, then you are empowering the tests and you will be supporting that culture; the stress, the prep, the high stakes and anxiety. Live by the sword, die by the sword.

If it is not high test scores, what makes a good school?

Click to read more ...


high school fair report

It was business as usual at Brooklyn Tech today; crowded, noisy and hot hot hot! It was also awesome. Thanks SO much to the wonderful educators, students, school security officers and DoE Enrollment officials (and my husband who is a school search widower)! I know a lot of you are now freaked out and just plain tired, but I feel very optimistic and energized!

Here are some take-aways:

Click to read more ...


Don't miss these events! from Town Square

If you don't live in Williamsburg/Greenpoint you may not know about Town Square (don't stop reading if you live in another neighborhood!!), but I wish every neighborhood had an organization like them! Civic minded, community building, information AND pure fun creators.

There are two events that you NEED to know about no matter where you live:

Click to read more ...


history book contest 

I asked newsletter readers to send me their favorite nonfiction history book suggestions and I would pick my favorite to add to my night stand pile. They would receive a copy of Uncle Sam Presents: The Great American Documents Vol. 1

Here is a list of suggestions from my readers:

  • Through the Eye of a Needle: Wealth, the Fall of Rome, and the Making of Christianity in the West, 350-550 AD by Peter Brown (fascinating look at the dichotomy between the wealth of the church that espouses virtues of poverty)
  • To Be a Slave by Julius Lester (a riveting book for teens)
  • River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey by Candice Millard (Teddy Roosevelt should win the prize as not only our most interesting President, but our nation's most energetic and compelling citizen)

Thanks to all who entered! I think that I am going with "Through the Eye of the Needle". We were in Rome last fall and this is a compelling subject that I have never read about before.