Related topics that might help you

I think my child needs extra help with the material taught in the classroom
If your child is already enrolled in a school program, it’s important to first talk to your child’s teacher. In New York City public schools,, if you need a translator to have a good conversation, one can be provided to you: ask for one when you schedule a meeting with the teacher. A scheduled meeting is often better than trying to catch the teacher’s attention at pick up or drop off when the teacher is usually occupied.

Extra help can be provided to your child in the classroom for academic subjects. You can also ask the teacher whether a ”Response to Intervention” (often abbreviated “RtI”) should be conducted. An RtI is an evaluation tool schools use to identify areas where a student might need extra help and to make sure they receive it. It also identifies the best ways to monitor the effectiveness of the response or “intervention” and to identify further steps if needed, including whether a special education evaluation is necessary. Your active involvement, in this case your insistence that a school responds to your concerns, is essential to providing your child with high quality instruction. Your school or other nearby programs may also offer afterschool tutoring or homework help, Saturday programs, or summer programs. To find out, you need to ask: your child’s teacher, principal, your school’s parent coordinator (who helps families understand how their school works—the school can give you this person’s name and contact information), a social worker or people in other trusted neighborhood organizations. It’s always a good idea to ask more than one person, and to keep asking if you don’t get a helpful response. Many people can help you find the additional support your child needs.

If you are unhappy with the responsiveness of your child’s teacher, your ability to effectively communicate with him or her, or the nature of their response to your concerns, you can make an appointment with the school principal, counselor or social worker, and/or the parent coordinator. Another place you can go for support, answers to questions or with complaints is the District Superintendent or Family Support Coordinator: Click here.
My child’s first language is Spanish or another language. / I ‘d like my child to attend a dual language program:
Special programs have been designed to help children identified as ELLs (English Language Learners) develop their language skills. Dual Language (DL) programs are especially beneficial for English language learners: they provide instruction half in English, half in another target language, so that children can be bilingual. These programs include both English language learners and English-speaking students who want to be bilingual. Studies show that over the long term, students in classrooms taught in two languages do better than students in one language ‘immersion’ programs, both in terms of academics and language development (“Students learning English benefit more in two-language instructional programs than English immersion, Stanford research finds,” March 25, 2014, available here. Enhanced Language Instruction (ELI) is offered in some pre-K programs to give support and foster language development in the native languages spoken by children. Other language programs offered at district schools include English as a Second Language (ESL) programs have academic subjects taught in English from the beginning using special techniques and supports until the students can be moved to general English programs.

The NYC Department of Education offers a helpful video that explains the difference between these programs (in English, Spanish and other languages): View here.

If you are planning to enroll in a school or program and are interested in specific language programs they already offer, you should contact the schools directly (this information is usually included in directories for transitional grades such as pre-k, kindergarten, the Middle School Directory, and the High School Directory). For other students, shortly after a child begins school in NYC, s/he should be assessed to determine their eligibility for an ELL program. Within the first 10 days of school you should also be asked to express your specific language program preference and give further information about your child by filling out a Parent Survey and Program

Selection Form—ask for these forms if you do not receive them. Based on the results of these surveys and evaluations, your school will be identified for the appropriate language program.

High school-aged students who have recently arrived from another country have an additional option. If they are not yet fluent in English and applying to high school, they should consider public “international schools.” They have their own admissions priorities and selection criteria (requirements regarding home languages, English proficiency, and/or the amount of time lived in the United States). These schools not only offer instruction in academic subjects (including acquiring fluency in English), but they also support new arrivals as they learn to handle new social and cultural situations. Like other schools they offer extra-curricular activities and prepare students for opportunities after high school, including college. Information about these schools can be found in the High School Directory, available from a school or from the Department of Education web site, or at Family Welcome Centers If you are interested in a particular international school, call it directly for more information on how to enroll. More information on the purpose, vision and networks of public international schools can be found at here.

If your child is enrolled at a school that you feel does not offer the language services your child needs, speak to your child’s teacher, principal, parent coordinator, social worker or counselor about your concerns. However, if you do not receive an adequate response to your concerns, don’t stop trying. Talk to someone at a Family Welcome Centers or call 311 to speak to someone at the Department of Education. There are also non-profit organizations that may be able to help you. For more regarding what to do if you are dissatisfied with the quality of education your child is receiving, click here.

To learn more about the language options in charter schools, you should contact those schools directly.
My child has been diagnosed with a disability or might have a disability:
If you haven’t already, you should also have your child evaluated for a disability right away. An evaluation will help you identify the right program for your child and help the Department of Education provide your child with free additional services if appropriate. Keep reading to find out how to have your child evaluated.

Are you afraid or embarrassed to seek extra help for your child? Some people are afraid of having their child assessed, or they get upset, offended or embarrassed if someone says their child is disabled or might need “special help” or “special ed.” “Special education” refers to services designed to meet a child’s unique challenges and provide them with the best possible educational experience. If a child qualifies for these services, an Individualized Educational Program (IEP) is developed for their needs. These services are not meant marginalize or isolate students, nor do they “mark” a student as bad or deficient—only as entitled to individualized assistance. Special Education can be delivered inside and outside the general educational program. Importantly, your child has a right to this free support. The NYC Department of Education says, “Every child with a disability has the right to what is called a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE), alongside their non-disabled peers to the greatest extent possible” (“Family Guide for Special Education Services for School Aged Children: A Shared Path to Success” NYC Department of Education, Fall 2014, available here)

To have your child evaluated you can do one of the following:
  • A parent can start an initial evaluation by sending a letter to your school official (if you are attending a local district school) or to your district Committee on Special Education (CSE). The letter requesting an evaluation for your child can be written in English or Spanish (and the responses to the request should be written back to you in the same language). A link which can help you locate the office you should contact is here.
  • Go to your local district elementary school and ask to talk to the school social worker. This official can help you start the process. A social worker from an organization outside the school can often help you better understand this process and sometimes can even accompany you to appointments. It’s important to keep asking questions and making appointments until your child gets the services s/he needs!
  • If you are worried that your infant or toddler (ages 0-3 years old) is not growing or developing like s/he should be, you can contact NYC’s Early Intervention Program. It identifies developmental delays in children from birth to the age of three and offers free assistance to help these children and their families. For more information on the NYC Early Intervention Program click here or call 311.
For school aged children, within 10 days of submitting your request in writing you should be notified by the Department of Education about the steps that will be taken to evaluate your child. A meeting will be arranged to explain your rights, options, and the procedure for an evaluation. This meeting also should take place in your preferred language, with the help of an interpreter if necessary. The response to your request is your right and your child’s right as long you live in NYC. You can insist upon it without any penalty to you or your child.
I think my child has exceptional academic abilities. / What is the Gifted and Talented program and how can my child get in?
Some city public schools have a special “Gifted and Talented” (“G&T”) program from kindergarten through fifth grade to meet the unique needs of students with advanced or exceptional academic ability. These free programs are highly sought after and competitive. This program is open to all children, including those with disabilities and/or IEPs. You can also request that your child be tested in Spanish (as well as several other languages listed on the application).

The Department of Education hosts G&T Community Information Sessions in the fall a few weeks before the application deadline. For dates and locations, your can call 311, 718-935-2009 or visit Gifted and Talented.

Many parents find the G&T admissions process somewhat complicated, but if you believe your child has advanced academic ability or potential, the benefits of the program may be well worth the effort. Space in these programs is limited, so not all exceptional children are placed: only children who score in the 97th percentile and above on the G&T test or other standardized tests.

Parents of children currently in pre-k through second grade must submit a request to take the G&T test. The application and testing process for kindergarten G&T will take place while your child is still in pre-k, and even if you apply for G&T programs, you should still proceed with the regular application processes (for example, you should still apply to the general kindergarten application process). A Request for Testing (RFT) form must be completed by the yearly G&T application deadline (usually mid fall). Students who become NYC residents after the RFT deadline can submit the form in the summer. The application can be submitted online at NYC.GOV Apply Online, in person at your child’s school if they are already a public school student, or in person at a Family Welcome Center (for non-public and charter school students). A list of Family Welcome Centers and their addresses can be found here.

If you meet the Request for Testing deadline, your child will be tested at school (if already enrolled at a district public school) or on a weekend (if not yet enrolled in a district public school). A few weeks later you will receive notification of their eligibility, their score, and if eligible you will have the opportunity to apply to G&T programs. The Department of Education states that children do not need special test preparation: just a good sleep and healthy breakfast the day of the test. To help familiarize your child with the test, sample test questions are printed in the Gifted and Talented Program Handbook, available at schools, Family Welcome Center and on line:
Click Here for English
Click Here for Spanish

However, many parents seek out test prep (classes, materials or tutors that help a child prepare for a test), spending anywhere from a few dollars for additional test material to thousands of dollars for expensive classes and tutors. There are different opinions about whether it is worth the time, money, and effort to seek out test prep, and whether the very existence of test prep makes the system inherently biased toward families with greater resources. As it stands, it is a decision that is up to each individual family. A teacher, counselor, or another parent whose child has been through the G&T process might be able to help you make this decision and learn more about your options.

The parents of third and fourth graders who want to apply for G&T admissions must submit a Request for Placement form in the spring. Parents can get this form either from a Family Welcome Center or from their child’s school. Eligibility is determined based on NYS test scores (English Language Arts and Math), report card grades, and teacher feedback. If you apply and your child is found to be eligible, you will be notified in the summer and sent further application materials.

If your child does not have New York State test scores (for example, new NYS residents, private, parochial, or home schooled students), families may submit official student test scores, administered within the current school year, that are comparable to New York State Math and ELA assessments. According to the Department of Education, “A comparable assessment is defined as any standardized achievement test that assesses the Common Core Standards in reading, writing, and math at the grade level in which the child is currently enrolled (e.g. a family applying for enrollment in grade 4 will need to submit grade 3 assessment results). The assessment must have published evidence regarding its reliability and validity. School-created assessments will not meet these criteria. The assessment results submitted must include performance level indicators along with the definition of those indicators.”

For more information about Gifted & Talented admissions Click Here.
If I am dissatisfied with the quality of education my child is receiving. / My child is being bullied or discriminated against, what can I do?
If you are dissatisfied with your child’s school in any way, it is always important to speak to your child’s teacher, principal, parent coordinator, social worker or counselor about your concerns. As always, a good early step is to communicate with the school and consider all the options available on-site.

If you do not receive an adequate response to your efforts to improve your child’s educational experience or if your concerns are ignored, don’t stop trying. Talk to someone at a Family Welcome Center, or call 311 to speak to someone at the Department of Education. There are also non-profit organizations that may be able to help you: an outside social worker or community based organization. A list of external advocates put together by the Department of Education can be found on their website at NYC.GOV Resources.

Another place you can go for support, answers to questions, or with complaints is the District Family Advocate for pre-K through middle school or the Borough Family Advocate for high school.

There are established procedures for filing a complaint with the Department of Education if your concerns are not resolved at the school level in a timely manner. The rules and process can be found on line at NYC.GOV Parent Complaint Procedures However, other official options include asking your school directly for an “Intake Form” (a form to formally register your complaint), also available at NYC.GOV Parent Intake Form. You can also contact the Chancellor’s Office/Division of Family and Community Engagement at (212) 374-4118. If your complaint is of a particularaly sensitive nature or has to do with the child’s exclusion from school, you may submit the Intake Form directly to the District Superintendent: Click Here.

If your child receives special educational services or has an IEP, you have a right to a school that can meet your child’s needs. If your current school is not adequately meeting these needs, you can call 311 and request to speak to the Special Education Call Center or call the Special Education Hotline at 718-935-2007. You also have the option of contacting your District or Borough Family Advocate. Further steps that can be taken include requesting mediation or an impartial hearing. Please see the Department of Education website for more on these options: NYC.GOV Getting Help.

Discrimination, harassment, intimidation and/or bullying are prohibited in schools, during school hours, before or after school, while on school property, at school-sponsored events, or while traveling on vehicles funded by the Department of Education. If your child is being bullied by another student, you should speak with your child’s principal immediately. If your child is being bullied by a school staff member, contact the Office of Special Investigations at (212) 510-1500. Discrimination based on race, color, ethnicity, religion, creed, national origin, gender, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, citizenship/immigration status, weight or disability should be reported to the principal or to the Office of Equal Opportunity at (718) 935-3319.