Public Schools in NYC: What to Know


student in school

Public Schools in NYC: What to Know

The school season is approaching! Before we know it, we’ll be trading flip flops for sneakers as we frantically make our way around the city in search of the right school for our little ones. While we’re exaggerating just a bit, the school search really can feel like a race. So before fall sneaks up on us, get ahead of the game and start thinking about NYC education. If you’re considering sending your kids to NYC public schools, then we’ve got the scoop for you. Read on to learn about what you can expect in the NYC public school system! 

Looking for more activities to do before school starts in the fall? Check out 8 Family Friendly Hotel Pools for NYC Staycations!

Diverse Learning 

NYC public schools offer a diverse range of academic subjects for your kids to dive into. These include but aren’t limited to: arts, computer science, health education, literacy, math, physical education, science, social studies, and STEM. You can expect a very well-rounded education for your kids where they’ll get to figure out exactly what they enjoy doing. 


Testing is an important part of the NYC public school system. Tests are used to determine your child’s progress and adapt accordingly, as well as check eligibility for certain programs. For elementary school (K-5), kids are required to take several NY State and local tests. In middle school (6-8), students continue to take the tests from elementary but with added tests that reflect their increased skills and opportunities. High school tests are used in a similar way, but also to open up post-graduation opportunities, including college credits and college admissions. Testing accommodations are available for students with disabilities.    

After School 

We all know how important after school programs are for working parents. NYC public schools offer more than 900 after school programs around the city. Most programs are free, and they allow your kids to explore their interests and discover new things. 

Clear Expectations by Grade

NYC public schools have a well-organized system that outlines clear goals and expectations for students in each grade level. For example, in first grade, your child will learn how to subtract numbers up to 20, describe shapes, tell time, understand place values and whole numbers, recognize properties of liquids, solids, and gases, explore music and rhythm, and more. As a parent, you’ll know exactly what to expect for each grade that your child enters. 

Admissions Process Q&A 

Do I have to apply for a public school? 

All NYC kids are guaranteed a seat in NYC public schools! However, you still have to apply because there are several programs available. There are district or zoned schools, which are determined by where you live. But there are also non zoned, borough-wide, and citywide programs that are open to more students. 

How do I apply? 

You can apply online through MySchools. You’ll add up to 12 programs that your child would like to attend. Adding more choices increases your chances of getting an offer to any of your top programs. The order matters, so be sure to rank accordingly! 

What factors go into my application? 

Besides your own rankings, available seats and demands are used to determine what school offer your child gets. Priority groups also play a role, such as students and residents of the district or applicants eligible for free and reduced lunch. 

Who can I reach out to for help or advice? 

If your child is already enrolled in a public school, then reach out to your school counselor to talk about your options. MySchools also lets you easily explore options and programs. You can also contact a Family Welcome Center


We hope this helped you narrow down your school search!