Two Gifts To Local Education That Keep On Giving

ThinkstockPhotos-dv1940003In this season of giving and giving back, I challenged myself to offer readers some ideas of my own for enriching family life in the city (see our charity guide post for a few more). I’m choosing two organizations that are somewhat related, somewhat complementary, but not the same. They are also hidden in plain sight, in the sense that you may know of them, may have even used them, but not thought of them as non-profits that could benefit from your donations. But donate to them you should! Because they help parents make sense of local school news and school choices—and in that way contribute palpably to our ability to raise children in the city. As a city, we are so lucky to have them, and would be much worse for it if they couldn’t sustain themselves.

Since it’s the older of the two, I’ll start with Inside Schools. Its core service is to offer parents free and independent evaluations of city public schools (including charter schools), along with good admissions advice along the way. Compared with the Department Of Education website, which offers a school’s statistics, Inside Schools goes beyond the statistics to offer a more palpable sense of the quality of the school—its pros and cons—as well as the stats. Even more than a guide, for many parents Inside Schools is a kind of matchmaker, giving them confidence that certain schools that seem like they might be good matches for their children are indeed good matches—or not. They have other facets, including coverage and analysis of school news, but their school guides are what help thousands of families every year find the best public education for their child. If you’re not familiar with their sensibility, I recommend a quick visit to their website, to research a school of interest or future interest.

To make a donation to Inside Schools, click here.

My other recommendation is Chalkbeat New York, a news website that does an exceptional job covering local education. The Times can’t cover everything, right? So Chalkbeat, which has bureaus in three other states, effectively insures us that when it comes to public education, the big stories—and the stories behind the stories—are being covered regularly, and with depth and fairness. By doing this they not only help parents understand what’s happening in local education, they focus a steady and strong radar of accountability on education leaders and politicians. Threaded into their core mission is the goal of focusing on policies and practices that effect communities “where improvement matters most.” The importance of this speaks for itself, of course, but I will submit that any city parent who cares about education, wherever that person sits at the intersection of educational background and personal income, would find Chalkbeat’s coverage important, interesting, and relevant to their lives as parents. Here’s a sample: A recent story about how the new Every Student Succeeds plan, which President Obama signed last week, could change New York schools.

To make a donation to Chalkbeat, click here.

Eric Messinger is the editor of  New York Family. He can be reached at emessinger@manhattanmedia.com