Elementary School Information

Schooling options for students from Kindergarten to grade 4 or 5. Click the links below to learn more about:

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Public Schools

Public schools are tuition-free and are funded at the local, state, and federal levels.  

New York City (NYC), consisting of 5 boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, The Bronx, Queens, and Staten Island) is home to the largest public school system in the country. There are 32 school districts in NYC and most districts are divided into smaller “zones.” The New York City Department of Education operates public schools in the city with leadership from the Mayor and a schools Chancellor.  

Any child who is a NYC resident is entitled to receive a free K-12 education, and a variety of options exist.

Only those with NYC residency may apply for or enroll in NYC public schools.  If you plan to move to NYC, note that registration cannot take place until residency has been established and NYC public schools will not hold spots.  

  • Ages/grade-level served
  • Availability of before or after-school programming
  • Educational philosophy and curriculum
  • Location
  • School building facilities and resources that support academics and extra-curricular activities
  • Size (individual class size and school as a whole) and teacher-to-student ratio
  • The admissions process for public schools, including public Kindergarten admissions, is described on the NYC DOE website.
  • The admissions process can vary depending on the child's grade, type of school, and point of entry.  Additional information is provided below, but it is very important to consult the NYC DOE website for the latest information as policies and procedures can change.  
  • Your child is generally guaranteed a seat in your zoned school, space permitting (See “Zoned Schools” below for more information).
  • NYC Public Elementary School - General Admissions Timeline

Websites

Recommended Book

  • New York City's Best Public Elementary Schools: A Parents' Guide. Clara Hemphill.

Types of Public Schools

A child’s home address determines his or her zoned school.  A zoned school serves residents who live in the specific geographic area designated for that school.  A child is guaranteed a spot at his or her zoned school, space permitting, but families must still apply.  If there is no space in the zoned school, another school assignment will be made.  

To find the zoned school for your address, please use the NYC DOE search tool or call 311.

Non-zoned or "un-zoned" schools do not have a zone (no set of addresses is assigned to these schools).  In addition, some schools are designated as “magnet schools” and receive federal grants to encourage racial integration.  The grant money is also used to offer a specialized curriculum which may include courses that strengthen students’ academic skills along with vocational options.  

These schools are open to all students within a given district and admissions is frequently done by lottery.  

For more information, visit:  

The NYC DOE’s Gifted & Talented (G&T) programs seek to offer an accelerated rigorous curriculum and the opportunity to be in a class with other academically high-performing children.  Eligibility to apply to G&T programs is determined by a standardized assessment.  Students entering Kindergarten through Grade 3 who have qualifying scores and are residents of NYC are eligible to apply.  

The popularity of these programs has increased in recent years, and there are now many more children who earn qualifying scores than there are seats available in G&T programs.  

Two types of G&T programs exist:  

  • District G&T programs which prioritize students who live in the district.  Most of the city’s 32 districts offer one or more G&T programs.
  • Citywide G&T schools which accept students from all boroughs with no admission priority based on where a student lives.  The five Citywide G&T programs are:

Admissions

  • The admissions process for the G&T program is described on the NYC DOE website. Testing is required.  You must submit a request for testing to the DOE in the fall prior to the academic year in which you would like your child to enter the G&T program.
  • Testing generally takes place in January or February, and applications are generally due in the spring.
  • Assessments are the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT) and the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test (NNAT), which are administered together.  See the NYC DOE G&T Program Handbook to learn more about these assessments.  
    • Scores in the 90th percentile or above are eligible for admission to a District G&T program.  
    • Scores in the 97th percentile or above are eligible for citywide programs.  (In recent years, most citywide programs have admitted only children who score in the 99th percentile).

Additional Options

Two additional schools that are distinct from the G&T programs, but also offer accelerated, rigorous curricula are:  

Each of these schools has its own admissions process. Please see the school websites for specific application and admissions procedures.

Dual Language programs are housed within public schools and typically have classes in which approximately half the students are native speakers of English, and half speak another language. Classes are taught in each language, frequently on alternating days, and the children are expected to become proficient in both languages.

Admissions

Because these programs are housed in public schools, admissions procedures are similar to those for the public schools, with some additional information about language proficiency often required.  

Some Resources

  • NYC DOE Kindergarten Directories.  Dual Language programs are listed in the NYC DOE’s Kindergarten Directories under the listing for the elementary school in which they are housed.  While these listings are in the Kindergarten Directory, entry into Dual Language programs is not restricted to Kindergarten.
  • InsideSchools also provides information about Dual Language programs.
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Independent Schools

The term independent school is most frequently used to refer to a private school that is tuition-based and not dependent on government funding. New York City is home to a wide variety of independent school options. Every independent school has its own unique mission and selects students through its own self-defined admissions process.  Residential address is not a factor in independent school admissions.

  • Ages/grade-level served
  • Availability of before- or after-school programming
  • Co-educational or single sex (“all girls” or “all boys”)
  • Cost and availability of financial aid
  • Educational philosophy and curriculum
  • Location
  • School building facilities and resources that support academics and extra-curricular activities
  • Size (individual class size and school as a whole) and teacher-to-student ratio

Independent schools will communicate their admissions deadlines on their own websites and applicant families are expected to adhere to these deadlines.  

Start early!   

  • You can begin to explore independent school options a year or more prior to the date of planned enrollment.  Starting your exploration during the spring or summer before the application year is advisable.  
  • Schools hold tours and open houses in the spring and early fall.
  • Expect to set aside time for touring and—for any schools to which you decide to apply—the interview process.

Some Resources:

  • Completed application (typically found on each school’s website)
  • Confidential School Report, completed by the child’s current school
  • Teacher recommendations

Many schools also require:

  • Standardized testing or assessment (examples include AABL, ECAA, ISEE)
  • Parent statement
  • Parent tour/interview and child visit

Always check specific school website for admissions requirements.

Financial aid is available at most independent schools.  Awards are based on the determined need of the family and repayment is not required.  Independent Schools make aid available in order to attract socioeconomic diversity in the interest of building a community that includes a wide range of views and life experiences.  

Families who intend to seek financial aid should note the following:

  • To apply, you must request and complete a financial aid application and submit it by the deadline.
  • While aid is available, there is an expectation that families will finance their children's education to the extent that they are able.
  • Because financial aid is limited, it is suggested that families planning to apply for aid should generally apply for admission to 8-10 independent schools.  
  • Tuition is the amount of money the school asks families to pay. When comparing schools, find out whether there are any additional fees for things such as lunch, books, before- or after-school care, trips or activities.  
  • Many schools use outside financial aid services such as School and Student Services (SSS), Financial Aid for School Tuition (FAST), or TADS to determine financial aid need.
  • While most schools only offer need-based aid, some schools also offer scholarships based on criteria other than economic circumstances.  Additionally, some schools offer sibling discounts.
  • Many schools offer tuition payment plans which allow families to pay tuition in monthly installments.
  • Primary Tuition Scholarship (PTS):  For eligible full-time regular salaried Officers, the PTS program pays between 10% and 35% of your dependent child’s tuition in Grades K-8 at a private school within the five boroughs of New York City, based on eligible family income.

Additional Financial Aid Information:

Some Resources:

Diversity Resources and Opportunities:

  • Early Steps, Inc. assists parents of color through the independent school application, admissions, and financial aid process for children entering Kindergarten or Grade 1.   
  • George Jackson Academy is a selective independent all-boys school in Manhattan that enrolls students from low-income families in Grades 4-8.
  • Prep for Prep identifies New York City's promising students of color in Grades 5 and 6 and prepares them for placement in independent schools in the city and boarding schools throughout the Northeast.
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Faith-Based Schools

Faith-based schools are private schools maintained and supported by a religious body (e.g., Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Islamic). These schools are separate from the public school system and religious instruction is included in the curriculum.

  • The Admissions Process varies from school to school – check websites for specific details on timelines and requirements 
  • Residential address is not a factor in faith-based school admissions 
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Charter Schools

Charter schools are free public schools that are independent of the Department of Education and operate under a contract or “charter” of up to five years.  Many charter schools have unique educational approaches that might include longer days and/or a longer school year, or thematic programs. Any student eligible for admission to a New York City public school is eligible for admission to a public charter school.

  • Each charter admits students by lottery in April.
  • Applications are available on the New York City Charter School Center website or at the individual schools (Some schools will accept a common application.)
  • Anyone may apply, but preference goes to children living in the school district in which the charter is located.
  • Most charters maintain a waitlist, and it is sometimes possible to get a seat in a charter during the school year.