Wednesday, October 22, 2003

The Middle Class and NYC Schools

Since it's clear that we won't be able to move to the suburbs this year, we have to brace ourselves for the NYC public school system.

New York City is one of the few cities that has some decent public schools, and has a sizable middle class population. The middle class in NYC have mastered the science of navigating the schools in the city.

The rich have Dalton and Fieldston. They can pay $23,000 a year for tuition, but that it out of reach for all but Woody Allen and Soon-Yi. The rest of us have to figure out a way to get our kids into the right schools.

I wasn't able to blog much yesterday. One kid with a fever. And in the evening, I ran off to our pre-school's class, Preparing for Kindergarten. The school had representatives from the local schools and the exclusive Anderson school come to talk to us about their programs. This evening was one of the benefits of paying $5,000 tuition. (I brought along two friends from the neighborhood who can't afford the tuition, and took some grief for it.) We learned about the philosophy of the different schools and their admission processes.

In New York City, you don't have to just attend your one local school. There is choice within public schools, so you can apply to any public school in the city. The regular public schools vary greatly in their test scores and parent involvement. In addition, some public schools have gifted and talented programs, which require IQ tests. Some are extra gifted and talented, like Anderson or Hunter. Children have to score especially high to get in and then be screened by the school. Then all the children are ranked based on a combination of factors, and the best get in, although preference is given to siblings, students in the district, and the disadvantaged.

So, it's a complicated system that has elaborate rules that must be mastered. Time must be put aside to gain information. In addition to tonight's class, we've ordered a couple of books on the subject from Amazon and referred to a website. Also, time must be put aside to take tours of the schools, which are manditory, and take the admission tests and fill out applications. You also must have the money to shell out on over priced pre-schools that share information and to take the IQ test ($250). You must also be technically literate to check out the websites and download applications.

Once their children have been admitted to whatever school, then the parents kick into high gear. The middle class form parents organizations which donate huge sums of money for classroom equipment, provide tutoring, and supervise class trips.

The middle-class in the city have figured out which schools and programs are acceptable, and they have the skills (and the time and money) to get their kids into them. Then they assure their kid's success with hyper parent organizations.

Everyone else is on their own.

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