School Book: Helping Parents Navigate NYC Public Schools

Last summer, The New York Times and WNYC joined forces to start SchoolBook, a resource about New York schools. Their goal is to provide a compass, providing resources that New Yorkers can use to make their own opinions about NYC schools.

They have carved out a niche somewhere between the Department of Education’s own web site and other resources like Inside Schools, which offer more independent experiential information. What makes this web site stand out is their approach to data. You can access the controversial teacher ratings on this web site. Look up your child’s school and peruse the ratings for all of the 4th to 8th grade math or English teachers. Their FAQ about these reports provides interesting insight to how they were formed and to their logic for providing the information. In addition to providing the ratings, they give teachers the opportunity to provide input. One teacher we read about took the opportunity to question the value of publishing this information. Also interesting, is the site’s lax attitude to editing reader input. They trust their users will weed out anything inappropriate. Value added!

Also when you look up your child’s school, you will be able to access every other data you can imagine about the school. Aside from links to the school’s Inside Schools profile and DOE portal and reports, you’ll see scores for academic performance, student/teacher/parent satisfaction, and diversity in comparison to other schools. If you click on “View all Data,” you’ll see graphic representation of all the data that they’ve analyzed about the school. Information ranges from scores on state tests to demographic information on students. A unique aspect of this information is that they strive to provide this sort of information for all NYC schools, parochial, private, and charter included. While the information on non-DOE schools is much less– it’s something they’re working on expanding. This pre-digested information can really help the way you look at junior’s school and also the way you choose the school to enroll junior in. If you are considering more than one school, use this web site to compare the stats for each side-by-side.

An important component of this web site is conversation. Many school reports include comments from principals, for example.  SchoolBook also encourages input from users. You can contribute by starting or contributing to a discussion on your school’s page at SchoolBook. They also encourage news tips and are building a “Public Insight Network”. The plan is to reach out to this network of parents, teachers, and students to get input on stories.

SchoolBook’s staff has put together a number of guides to help New Yorkers better understand the education system in the city. The most amazing one is a sort of glossary to everything about the NYC public school system. It’s titled “Guide: Understanding New York City Schools” and it’s a must-read. This report highlights the different ways you can become involved in your child’s education and this one highlights how to enroll your child in school.

Of course, with the New York Times at the helm (at least in part), there are articles about the hot topics in education like small schools versus large schools. There are also articles about other interesting topics—one parent’s experience directing the school’s production of “The Wizard of Oz” was featured front and center this weekend. We dare you to go through this amazing resource in one day! It’s a must-visit and a must-revisit for your family.


By: Sandy Jimenez