Finding New York City’s ‘Top’ School for YOUR Child

Sometimes you just have to take a leap of faith.

That’s what I’ve learned, and sometimes it pays off. With so many choices in New York City– and yet sometimes so few appropriate or viable options– how do you choose the best school for your child?

As parents, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the hoops you have to jump through to find a good program for your kid: the applications, the deadlines, the terms you have to learn (just to navigate Urban Baby!–‘DD, DF, DC, DH.’ (ps- DB: don’t bother)

Guidebooks used to be the best starting point, school search consultants and advisors have some obvious benefits, and websites and blogs offer parent perspectives, but the best approach, is just like identifying advanced learners: multiple measures.

So plan open house school visits, ask questions to the teachers and principals, have conversations with parents who have kids currently — or no longer enrolled. Attend a public event at the school, like a school bookfair or better- an auction. (What better way to  meet the parent body and school faculty, see what monies are being raised for and get an inside look at the typical goings-on at the school.)

And keep in mind that what is ‘best’ for one child is not necessarily best for another. Don’t let ‘top schools’ ‘top tier’ or other NYC buzz phrases cloud good judgment.

This list, while not exhaustive, is simply a good place to begin the process.


The Observer’s Top 160 Schools 2012 list
The guide offers a list of 160 private, public, charter, preschools elementary, middle and high schools throughout New York City.

The rankings included here are based on consultation, advice and ratings from over 80 experts—school coaches, educational professionals and activist parents who are deeply immersed in the world of New York City schools. The ones listed here are all marked by excellence, and while many might disagree with these rankings (or some omissions), they represent the result of an extended investigation to capture the intense feelings that attach to the city’s great schools.

A sampling of their Top 5 picks by category-

Top 5 Preschools: 
Rivendell School

PS58 The Carroll School

Brooklyn Friends School

St. David’s School

Cobble Hill Playschool

Top 5 Public Elementary: 

P.S. 107 John W. Kimball

P.S. 290 Manhattan New School

P.S. 183 Robert L. Stevenson

P.S. 35 The Clove Valley School

P.S. 3 The Charette School

Top 5 Private Elementary: 

Ethical Culture Fieldston School

Grace Church School

St. Ann’s School

Horace Mann School

Riverdale Country School

Top 5 Public Middle Schools: 

I.S. 187 Christa McAuliffe School

P.S. 334 The Anderson School

Mark Twain I.S. 239

Nest + M Middle School

M.S. 447 Math and Science

Top 5 Private Middle Schools: 

Riverdale Country Schools

Horace Mann School

Saint Ann’s School

The Spence School

The Packer Collegiate Institute

Top 5 Public High Schools: 

Bard High School

Stuyvesant High School

Bronx High School of Science

Staten Island Technical High School

Hunter College High School

Top 5 Private High Schools: 

St. Ann’s

The Brearley School

Horace Mann School

Trinity School

The Spence School


A Better Chance

Blackboard Awards

Early Steps

Gotham Schools


Inside Schools

NYC Private Schools Blog

NYC School Help

NYC Performance & Accountability

NYC Public School Parents

Parents League

Prep for Prep

The School Boards

WorkLife @ Columbia


  • The Manhattan Family Guide to Private Schools and Selective Public Schools. 6th ed. Victoria Goldman and Catherine Hausman. Soho Press, 2010.
  • New York City’s Best Public Elementary Schools: A Parents’ Guide. 3rd ed. Clara Hemphill. New York: Teachers College Press, 2005.
  • New York City’s Best Public Middle Schools: A Parents’ Guide. 3rd ed. Clara Hemphill. New York: Teachers College Press, 2008.
  • New York City’s Best Public High Schools: A Parents’ Guide. 3rd ed. Clara Hemphill. New York: Teachers College Press, 2007.

SCHOOL CONSULTANTS: [This is not a referral, just a list of some of the options]

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