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Introduction to School Districts and Education Situation in the New York Area

The U.S. education system is divided into preschool education, K-12 (middle and high school) education, and higher education. In the New York area, especially in Long Island and Westchester, there are some top school districts, such as Jericho and Great Neck, providing excellent K-12 education. New York City also offers a variety of educational options, including public schools, charter schools, and "Gifted and Talented Programs". When choosing a school district, parents usually refer to school ratings and other resources to ensure the best educational environment for their children.

Introduction to the American Education System


The American education system is generally divided into three main stages: preschool education, elementary and middle & high school  education. The basic education provided by American public schools is commonly referred to as "K-12 education" (similar to the "nine-year compulsory education system" in China), which denotes a total of 13 years of free compulsory education from kindergarten to 12th grade, provided by the school districts in the United States.


1. Preschool Education

Preschool education mainly refers to the education that children receive before they start elementary school (usually before the age of 5), which includes daycare and preschool. Pre-k is a common term used for this type of education.


The U.S. government does not bear the responsibility for all preschool education, meaning, most daycares or kindergartens in the United States are private institutions. If you wish for your child to attend daycare or kindergarten before the age of 5, it generally requires out-of-pocket expenses.


However, New York is one of the few cities that has already implemented free pre-k education. In most elementary schools in the corresponding school districts, children can directly enroll in pre-k schools. However, there are limited spots available, and a lottery system may be used. Priority is given to students with siblings already attending the school, while other students may be placed in government-funded private early education institutions or daycares to ensure that every child who applies can attend.


2. Elementary School and Middle & High School

Elementary and middle & high school in the United States are commonly referred to as “K-12 education”.Upon reaching the prescribed school enrollment age, parents can choose to send their children to free public schools, opt for private schools, or engage in homeschooling


However, as different states in the United States have enacted varying laws, the mandated educational durations for school-aged children also differ across states. The compulsory enrollment age generally lies between 5 and 8 years old, with New York setting it at 5 years of age.


In the United States, elementary education typically runs from kindergarten to fifth grade (K-5), although some elementary schools offer education up to the sixth grade. Children generally enter kindergarten at ages 5 to 6 and commence first grade at ages 6 to 7. Middle schools in the United States typically provide education from sixth to eighth grade, with some ranging from seventh to ninth grade, and high schools generally cater to ninth through twelfth grades.


Confusing Concepts!

Pre-K = Preschool, which can be understood as daycare, and Daycare is a type of preschool.

Finally, let's summarize the basic points: ■ ★ Babies from 6 weeks to 3 years old can go to daycare. ■ ★ Children from 3 to 5 years old can go to preschool (4 to 5-year-olds can attend pre-k). ■ ★ Children from 5 to 6 years old can go to kindergarten and officially start primary school.

A charter school is an educational institution at the elementary or secondary level that is granted a charter by a state government, operating outside the public education system. Compared to traditional public schools, charter schools have fewer regulations to comply with but also receive less funding. Charter schools can be either for-profit or non-profit, with non-profit charter schools unable to receive funding from private sources.

When a school is facing closure, the state government, local social organizations, businesses, or even individuals can take it over and convert it into a charter school. The startup funds for charter schools come from the state government, and the Bush "No Child Left Behind Act" provides over $2 billion in annual funding for the establishment and operation of charter schools. The Bush administration actively supported charter schools, seeing them as an effective educational reform measure that provides parents with more school choice.

In the 2016-2017 academic year, there were a total of 6,900 charter schools in 42 states and Washington, D.C. in the United States, with approximately 3.1 million students enrolled in charter schools. The number of students enrolled has increased six-fold over the past 15 years.

The biggest difference between charter schools and regular public schools is that charter schools are not subject to the same regulations and laws as regular public schools. They have their own operating systems. Just like the public school system in the United States, charter schools have different procedures for starting, operating, funding, and teacher qualifications in each state. In general, any individual, group, or organization can apply to establish a charter school by submitting an application. It is generally approved by the local school district or state education department. Charter schools are open to all students and cannot charge tuition fees. The funding sources vary from state to state, with a significant difference in funding. It depends not only on state government support but also on funding from various social sources. The quality of teachers in charter schools can also vary greatly, but in general, there are not more teachers with qualified teaching certificates than in regular public schools.

NYC School District


New York City boasts the largest public school system in the United States, comprising 32 school districts. Over 1500 schools within the city serve more than one million students. Any child residing in New York, aged between 5 and 21, can attend public schools in the city until they graduate from high school. Generally speaking, children are assigned to schools within the school district of their home address. If schools in the resident district have no vacancies for new students, the child might be assigned to another school. Most schools adopt open enrollment, and typically, the reputable schools are very popular, so early registration is crucial. Some schools even require a lottery for admission. Information about open enrollment periods can usually be found on school websites, and inquiries can also be made by phone when necessary.


Children of non-immigrant visa holders, such as F-1 and H1B, are also eligible to attend public schools, but those on tourist visas are not.


 For school district housing, ownership is not a requirement, but residency is mandatory (if one owns property but does not reside there and therefore cannot provide utility bills, it does not meet the local school district’s enrollment requirements), along with the provision of corresponding proof.


Gifted and Talented Program


Children from all 32 school districts can participate in the entrance examination for the Gifted and Talented Program. Between kindergarten and 3rd grade, the New York City Department of Education will use two test scores to assess whether students are eligible to apply for the program: Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (75%) and Bracken School Readiness Assessment (25%). 

Students who score in the top 10% are guaranteed admission to the Gifted and Talented Program within their school district. 

Students who score in the top 3% can apply to the top 5 Gifted and Talented Program schools citywide:

  • Nest+M

  • Brooklyn School of Inquiry

  • Tag Scholars Science, Technology

  • Enrichment, and Math Academy

  • The Anderson School

Key High Schools


New York City has a total of 8 specialized high schools, and candidates are required to take the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT):


  • Stuyvesant HS


  • Bronx HS of Science

  • HSAS @ Lehman

  • Brooklyn Technical HS

  • Brooklyn Latin School

  • Queens HS for the Science at York College

  • Staten Island Technical HS


The top 5 school districts in the Greater New York area are:

1. Jericho, NY 

Located near New York on Long Island, the Jericho district is one of the top school districts on Long Island. Jericho is a distinctive affluent area, about a 45-minute drive from Manhattan, New York, and is mainly populated by doctors, lawyers, and small business owners with a certain level of economic strength. Jericho High School is ranked first on Long Island, 13th in New York State, and 71st nationally among public high schools.

The median price of homes sold is $878,600, and the median list price per square foot is $471.

2. Great Neck, NY

 Great Neck is also a preferred location for many Chinese families looking for homes in good school districts. Located at the westernmost end of the North Shore of Long Island, Great Neck is one of the best school districts in the United States. For the past 100 years, it has been a high-end residential area and transportation hub, with easy access to cars, highways, and the Long Island Railroad, providing convenient transportation to New York City in less than half an hour by train. The convenient transportation and excellent school district make it the most populated area for Chinese residents on Long Island. Great Neck South High School ranks 21st in New York State and 115th nationally. The housing prices in this area have been appreciating due to the significant number of Chinese buyers.

  • The median rent price: $4,300

  • The median sale price: $1,000,000

3. Syosset, NY

Syosset is located in the eastern region of Long Island, and the commuting route is the Port Jefferson line of the Long Island Rail Road. It is slightly farther from Great Neck, so considering convenience in transportation, the total number of Chinese homebuyers in this area is not as high as in the previous two regions. Syosset Senior High School ranks 32nd in New York State and 158th nationally.

  • Median Sale Price: $713,600

  • Median Rent: $3,537

4. Scarsdale, NY

The Scarsdale area is located in Westchester, the legendary "Old Money" gathering place in the Greater New York area. There are many highly ranked public elementary schools here, making it the preferred residential area for many wealthy white families in the early stages of education and development. Scarsdale Senior High School ranks 21st in New York overall. The housing prices in this area range from $500,000 to $2.8 million.

5. New Hyde Park, NY

The Scarsdale area is located in Westchester, the legendary "Old Money" gathering place in the Greater New York area. There are many highly ranked public elementary schools here, making it the preferred residential area for many wealthy white families in the early stages of education and development. Scarsdale Senior High School ranks 21st in New York overall. The housing prices in this area range from $500,000 to $2.8 million.

  • The Median Sale Price: $692,100

  • The Median Rent Price: $3207


School Ratings

 The following websites are commonly used for checking school

 Rating Criteria: Teaching quality, test scores, equality, diversity, etc. Each website has different criteria, and there is no unified mechanism. Schools with the same rating may have significant differences in teaching quality, so it is important to evaluate schools based on your own priorities when choosing.

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