Getting into NYC Kindergarten

| 01 Sep 2015 | 01:04

The kindergarten admissions process can be a daunting one, but Alina Adams assuages city parents’ fears with her book, “Getting Into NYC Kindergarten.”

A mother of three, she found herself regularly fielding questions about her experience with getting her children into school. This led her to start a column in the Examiner and give talks at River Park Nursery School on the Upper West Side. “There’s just so much information and after each talk, people would say, ‘I wish I had this all in one unified place.’ So that’s when I decided to write a book,” she explained.

The complete resource, which is the only one of its kind, offers information and advice on everything from admission essays that require you to ‘list your child’s greatest achievements up to this point’ to how you should never refer to your child as ‘truly advanced.’ The book is electronic, which not only allows Adams to update it with any changes the Department of Education or private schools may make, but also enables parents to click on links to pertinent articles or sections on the DOE’s website.

At the start of the book, you outline questions parents must ask themselves before starting the process.Whenever people ask me about the best school- besides the fact that I say the best school is the school that’s best for your child- it really has to do with what you consider is important about a school. For some parents I’ve worked with, it’s academics. They want a school that has the best test scores and prepares their child for a rigorous workload. For other parents, it’s completely different. They want a school where a child may discover their own particular passion, whatever that might be. Or a school that nurtures the joy of learning or a school that’s very much into social action. So the reason that I don’t give answers to those questions is because you need to provide those answers because you know what you want.

I like your point about not focusing on college placement when your child is young.Basically, a lot of the schools, public and private that are K to 12, you come in to tour and they’ll show you the wonderful science lab or the AP classes and they’ll tell you their college placements. But the fact is, you’re not looking for college placement, you’re looking for some place that will be wonderful for your child for kindergarten, maybe first and second, maybe up to fifth grade. But children change so much. Parents know literally month to month they change so much. You have no idea when they’re four years old, what they’re gonna need when they’re 18.

Explain what you mean by “working the waitlist.”In a public school, the way that Kindergarten Connect works, is you can put down 20 choices. And assuming you don’t get your first choice, any choice that you put ahead of the choice that you did get, you automatically get placed on the waitlist. The Department of Education makes the initial process of placing everybody in the school. But once that initial placement round is over, the waitlists go back to the school. Now, this is not something you’re going to find written formally in any DOE or school policy. But the fact is, I’ve spoken to enough people to know that they don’t follow a strict queue. A school wants families that want them, so if you can convince them that you’d be a wonderful family for their community, you’re gonna jump the queue. Also schools don’t want to spend all summer making phone calls asking, “Do you want the spot?”

What are the positives and negatives to having your child attend your local school?Your local school varies insanely. In District 3, you have PS 199 which is the school at Lincoln Center which has wonderful test scores. And only a few blocks away, you have PS 191 which is theoretically in the same neighborhood, but this year, 199 was oversubscribed and the DOE wanted to send families to 191 and people rebelled. Because even though both are local schools and theoretically follow the same general education curriculum, there’s a huge difference between them. So I can’t flat out say the benefits of going to your local school without knowing what your local school is. But the obvious benefit is you’re not putting a five-year-old on a subway and traveling for an hour-and-a-half downtown. It’s much easier to have friends over for playdates. It’s much easier to have relationships with other parents, you know, somebody can grab a kid for you if you have an emergency. That comes from being local and having a community. Location is really important when it’s February and it’s 7 am and you’ve got the kids bundled in nine layers and you’re trying to get them on the bus.

Another interesting point you make is that if you push your kid up, he or she can actually be 18 months younger than some of the other children in the class. And you may find a difference in maturity levels. Yes, that can happen, especially in a private school. Maturity is a huge difference. There are a lot of kids who have very high test scores and could go into a higher grade, but the question is, are they ready from a social and emotional level? Ever since Malcolm Gladwell in “Outliers” analyzed all this data and showed that if you’re the oldest in a group of hockey players, you tend to do better because you’re stronger. I think ever since that study came out, a lot more parents are interested in keeping kids back than in pushing them forward. I get a lot of emails from parents of December babies asking how they can keep them back so they won’t be the youngest in the class. You can buy the book here: