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City’s online guide to schools joins up with The New School

The website InsideSchools, which for years has provided independent information about schools for parents and teachers, has found a new home at The New School.

Founded in 2002 by Pamela Wheaton and Clara Hemphill, the site and its staff will be based out of the Center for New York City Affairs at the university, where Hemphill currently works. And as part of the move, the co-founders are retooling the site — updating its look and writing reviews that cater to parents who don’t have perfect English.

“The idea is that we want to make the site more accessible to people who don’t read very well and who might not speak English, so we’re going to try to have videos and pictures and try to have less text,” said Hemphill, the site’s senior editor, in a phone interview today.

“Of the schools the chancellor has opened, most of them are really geared for at-risk kids, so we wanted to make it easier for kids who have kind of limited reading levels to navigate,” she said.

The site’s design has already changed slightly — some of the profiles for newer schools are shorter and there’s a short video explaining how students can use the site to help them decide where to apply for high school.

With a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Wheaton and Hemphill have been able to hire freelancers to review schools, but now they’ll also have the help of the Center for New York City Affairs staff.

Originally, InsideSchools was housed within Advocates for Children of New York. When the group’s funding ran out last year its founders had a difficult time finding new support as philanthropists and foundations cut back on giving. Hemphill said the organization is still working to raise money.

INSIDESCHOOL.ORG MOVES TO THE NEW SCHOOL’S CENTER FOR NEW YORK CITY AFFAIRS Center for New York City Affairs Seeks to Expand Site’s Audience, Accessibility NEW YORK, November 1, 2010-Insideschools.org, the independent guide to New York City public schools, is moving to the Center for New York City Affairs (CNYCA) at The New School, the university announced today. The move reunites the original staff of Insideschools.org, Clara Hemphill and Pamela Wheaton, who helped found the site in 2002. Building on Insideschools.org’s status as New York City’s leading independent, online public school guides, CNYCA seeks to broaden the site’s already large network of parents, principals and young people who rely on Insideschools.org as an essential information source in a city where school choice is now a fundamental component of public education policy. Central to this effort will be making the site more accessible to parents with limited English literacy. Since its founding, Insideschools.org has stood as a model for the highest quality service journalism and grassroots community education, said Andrew White, Director, CNYCA. With our shared commitment to driving real and effective policy reform and parent involvement in New York, CNYCA and The New School are an ideal home for Insideschools.org to fulfill its mission. Insideschools.org was founded as a project of Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), a non-profit education advocacy organization focusing on the city’s public schools. AFC launched the site in 2002 to provide an independent source of information on the public school system, with expert, qualitative reviews on every public and charter school. Since that time, project staff and volunteers have reviewed more than 1500 schools and provided information to nearly 900,000 visitors a year. We are incredibly proud of what Insideschools.org has accomplished here at AFC, said Kim Sweet, Executive Director, AFC. We look forward to seeing the website thrive and grow in new and exciting ways, now that it will have a prominent research university behind it. Clara Hemphill has been senior editor at the Center since 2008, editing policy reports on education, including one on Chancellor Joel Klein’s small school initiative entitled The New Marketplace and one on the city’s controversial accountability system entitled Managing by the Numbers. Pamela Wheaton has been project director of Insideschools.org since December 2006. The transfer from Advocates for Children to The New School was made possible by a generous grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.