The NYC public schools offer grades Pre-K through 12. As diverse a city New York is so are the offerings in the NYC school system. Some public schools offer special programs and small environments that are similar to private schools while other schools are bustling with crowded classrooms.
Like other communities across the country, children are typically assigned to schools based on their home address. These schools, known as zoned schools, serve all children in the designated catchment area. You can find your zoned school on the NYC Department of Education's website.
The quality and tone of zoned schools vary widely. However, during the elementary school years, the majority of families are comfortable with their children attending their zoned neighborhood school. Some families however seek other options and have their children evaluated for public gifted and talented programs, identify bi-lingual or dual language programs, or consider charter schools in their neighborhoods or elsewhere.
Elementary schools typically house grades Pre-K to 5 or Pre-K to 6th grade. Traditional middle schools (also referred to as Intermediate Schools, Junior High Schools) house children in grades 6-8 and high schools serve student in 9th through 12th grade. There are however both well-established and new schools that are structured differently and serve children in grades K-8, 6-12, K-12; one school on the Upper West Side offers a successful program educating students in 5th to 8th grade.
Middle and High School
At the middle school level, school choice is much more prevalent with students applying to schools within their home school district or in other districts. The choice process brings with it an admission process that is varied. Some schools invest hours to meet with student candidates and administer and review locally developed assessment tests while others accept students based on a review of the school documents.
Gifted and Talented Programs
There are many schools throughout the city that offer gifted and talented programs with one or more classes per grade for identified gifted and talented students. In addition, there are a handful of schools which are dedicated entirely to serving gifted and talented students.
Bi-Lingual/Dual Language Schools
Dual Language programs in NYC public schools teach children the usual curriculum in English as well as in a second language. Dual language programs are available in Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Korean, Haitian Creole or French. Your child can be a native English speaker or an English Language Learner (ELL) to enroll in a dual language program. Most programs do some type of screening to be sure that a dual language program will be an appropriate fit for your child. You should contact schools you are interested in to find out whether they accept students who are not zoned for that school.
Charter schools operate as independent and autonomous public schools and typically rely on an active parent body. They are awarded a "charter" and are operated according to an approved plan that outlines how they will function pedagogically, administratively, and fiscally. In NYC charter schools are newly established schools and in some cases existing schools that convert to charter status.
Charter schools receive some funding from federal, state and public local funds, and typically must raise additional funds from individuals, foundations, and the private sector. A charter school must comply with all laws regulating public schools therefore any student that is eligible to attend a public school is also qualified for admission to a charter school. A school's charter and their autonomy is dependent upon their meeting educational performance standards, and maintaining sound fiscal and management practices. Charter schools are subject to oversight by the NYC Chancellor.
Public School Assistance within the Greater NY Metro Area
Carebridge Life Resources, NYU's Employee Assistance Program, is available by phone (800-437-0911) to assist you in gaining a better understanding of schools in your home community or a community in which you are planning to move. Or, you can also do some research on your own by exploring the websites for your state's Department of Education: