English Resources for
Parents and Teachers

1. Getting Ready for the School Year

The checklist below helps you get organized with all basic information you need to know about your child’s school in the beginning of the school year. You can find the information of numbers 1-9 by visiting the New York City’s Department of Education.

Your child’s student ID number is given when she/he is enrolled in the school system. If you don’t know it, first you should look for it on your child’s report card. If you don’t see it there, contact the school. Because a child’s ID is personal information, the school won’t give it to you without proving that you are the guardian of the child.

  1. School name
  2. School address & phone number
  3. Principal’s name
  4. Parent Coordinator’s name
  5. District Family Advocate’s phone number
  6. Community school district
  7. Community school district phone number
  8. Dates for parent-teacher conferences
  9. Standardized tests my child will take for the school year
  10. My child’s teacher’s name

In the United States, school consists of 12 grades. Grades 1-5 are called “Elementary School”. In New York City, many elementary schools are called “P.S. ___” and have a number. Example: P.S. 122. Do you know the correct name of your child’s school? Children in elementary school are usually between the ages of 5 and 10. You can see below the usual age of students at each grade level. Middle Schools consist of Grades 6-8 and are sometimes also called Intermediate School including Grade 5. Sometimes, the middle school can consist of Grades 6-9 and is called Junior High School. High Schools consist of Grades 9-12. Young people between the ages of 17 and 20 who have not completed high school can get a high school diploma by taking a TASC exam. Click here to find more information about your child school.

A child can attend New York City public schools free of charge if he or she:

  • Is more than 5 and less than 21 years of age and
  • Is a resident of New York City and
  • Has not received a high school diploma.
Pre-KElementary SchoolMiddle SchoolHigh School
Pre-K:        Age 4

  K:                  Age 5
Grade 1:        Age 6
Grade 2:       Age 7
Grade 3:       Age 8
Grade 4:       Age 9
Grade 5:       Age 10

Grade 6:       Age 11
Grade 7:       Age 12
Grade 8:       Age 13
Grade 9:        Age 14
Grade 10:      Age 15
Grade 11:      Age 16
Grade 12:      Age 17


Following are some job titles of the school personnel who work in New York City public schools. Learn about what they are called and what their job responsibilities are. In elementary and middle schools, students have homeroom teachers. In high schools, instead, students have advisors. They can discuss any academic concerns and progress with them.
  1. Principal:
    • a. Administers the school
    • b. Is the head of the school
  2. Assistant Principal:
    • a. Works closely with the principal
    • b. Assists the principal
  3. Guidance Counselor:
    • a. Guides students with high/middle school admission
    • b. Helps students with academic problems
    • c. Gives family counseling referrals
  4. Dean:
    • a. Disciplines students.
    • b. Deals with behavior problems
  5. Attendance Coordinator:
    • a. Is responsible for operating the school attendance program
    • b. Enters attendance reports in the computer
  6. Parent Coordinator:
    • a. Helps parents
    • b. Provides parents with information about their child’s school
    • c. Organizes workshops for parents
  7. PTA President:
    • a. Cooperates with other parents to improve the school
    • b. Organizes fundraising
  8. Nurse:
    • a. Takes care of sick students
  9. Librarian:
    • a. Works in the school library
    • b. Takes care of books
  10. Custodian:
    • a. Cleans the school building
    • b. Fixes things in the school building
  11. Secretary:
    • a. Answers the phone
    • b. Takes messages
  12. Advisor (for high school students):
    • a. Provides academic support to students
    • b. Counsels students with college admission.
The following are some of common school related acronyms you might find in school communications such as letters, notices and flyers.
  1. Pre-K: Pre-kindergarten
  2. K: Kindergarten
  3. PS: Public School
  4. IS: Intermediate School
  5. JHS: Junior High School
  6. HS: High School
  7. TASC: Test Assessing Secondary Completion
  8. NYC DOE: New York City Department of Education
  9. SES: Supplemental Educational Services
  10. ESL: English as a Second Language
  11. ELL: English Language Learner
  12. ELA: English Language Arts
  13. IEP: Individualized Education Program
  14. PE: Physical Education
  15. PTA: Parent Teacher Association
  16. PA: Parent Association
  17. SAT: Scholastic Aptitude Test
In the beginning of each school year, parents make sure that their children have all school supplies they need for learning. Following is a list of common school supplies. The list of school supplies can vary, depending on the grade and the school your child is attending.
  1. Pencil
  2. Pen
  3. Sharpening
  4. Eraser
  5. Blinder
  6. Folders
  7. Markers
  8. Crayons
  9. Glue
  10. Smock
  11. Scissors
  12. Composition Book-Wide Ruled
  13. Tape
  14. Stapler
  15. Paper clips
  16. Textbook
  17. Dictionary
  18. Backpack
  19. Boom Box
  20. Map
  21. Globe
  22. Calculator
  23. Protractor
  24. Compass
  25. Set Square

2. Communication with My Child’s School

The Parent Coordinator is a school staff person unique to New York City Schools. You might not find the Parent Coordinator in other cities or states. Each New York City public school has the Parent Coordinator to help parents with any school-related matters. To find who the Parent Coordinator is at your child’s school, you can call 311 or use the School Search. Parent Coordinator:
  • Helps parents with school-related questions and problems.
  • Organizes parent meetings, workshops and events that are interesting and important to parents.
  • Works with the principal and the school parent association.
  • Increases parent involvement in the school by working closely with all school, parent and community organizations.
  • Keeps in contact with community organizations that are involved with offering services to the school’s educational program.
When your child is absent, the school needs to know why. You will need to write an absence note. Include:
  1. Date
  2. Greeting
  3. Child’s name
  4. Date of absence
  5. Reason for absence
  6. Closing
  7. Your signature
Sample 1:

Tuesday, March 24, 20xx

Dear Ms. Sanchez, Nora Gomez could not come to school on Monday, March 21 because she had a fever. Please give her the homework. Sincerely, Dolores Gomez

Practice writing your own note.

When your child is absent, the school needs to know why. You will need to write an absence note. Include:
  1. Date
  2. Greeting
  3. Child’s name
  4. Date of absence
  5. Reason for absence
  6. Closing
  7. Your signature
Sample 1:

February 9, 20xx

Dear Ms. Camacho, I would like to make an appointment with you to speak about my son Jose Rivera’s homework. I am learning English to help Jose with homework. Sometimes, his homework assignments are difficult for me to help him with. Do you have any suggestions? Please send me a note back with a convenient time and date to meet. Sincerely, Adriana Hernandez

Practice writing your own note.

Summer changes everything. What children do in the summer can make an impact on their learning. Ron Fairchild, Executive Director, National Center for Summer Learning, recommends that parents ask for teacher’s advice on what they can do in the summer to prepare their child for the next year. Teacher’s responses can vary: Some teachers write back to parents with their recommendations. Other teachers send a homework package with the child home. Resources: How to Make the Most of Summer: What Parents Can Do to Keep Kids Sharp Over the Summer” English / Spanish
Sample 1:

June 17, 20xx

Dear Ms. Roberts, Hello. I am the mother of Julia Morris. I wanted to thank you for teaching Julia this year. The summer is right around the corner, and I wonder how she can make the most of the summer and what I can do to prepare her for the next year? It would be much appreciated if you can send me a letter with your recommendations. I am looking forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your support, Maria Sanchez

Practice writing your own note.

When your child is sick, you should call the school or write an absence note. Following is a sample dialogue of reporting your child’s absence. Listen and practice it.
Reporting and Absence

School Office:
 School Office. May I help you?
Parent: Yes, my daughter can’t come to school today. She is sick.
School Office: What’s her name?
Parent: Her name is Maria Sanchez.
School Office: What grade is she in?
Parent: She is in the second grade.
School Office: Who is her teacher?
Parent: Her teacher is Ms. Rodriguez.
School Office: Ok. Thank you for calling. I’ll tell her teacher.
Parent: Thank you. Bye.
School Office: Bye.

The Parent Coordinator is the person you should call if you have any questions related to the school. Following is a sample dialogue of a parent calling Parent Coordinator to ask about summer school. To find out who the Parent Coordinator is at your child’s school, you can call 311 (Find My Zoned Schools) or use the School Search.

Hi. My name is Adriana Estrada. I have a son in Ms. Sanchez’s class.
Parent Coordinator: Hi. How can I help you?
Parent: I would like to know if the school will have summer school.
Parent Coordinator: Yes, there will be summer school.
Parent: When will summer school begin and end?
Parent Coordinator: It will begin in July 2 and end in August 18. I will send out a notice next week.
Parent: That’s great. Thank you.
Parent Coordinator: You are welcome.

3. Parent – Teacher Conference

Parents usually receive a note or a call from the school regarding parent-teacher conferences. The sample note below includes the time, date and school telephone number (example) you can call to reschedule a meeting with the teacher.

November 1, 20xx

Dear Parents,
You are scheduled to attend a parent-teacher conference to discuss the progress of your child, Luis Garcia. The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, November 17 at 2:00 p.m. If you need to reschedule the meeting, please call the school office at (718) 222-4242 and leave a message.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Paula Jones, Teacher

To have a good meeting with the teacher, you can plan it before the meeting. Write down questions you would like to ask the teacher and say them aloud. A “We Are New York” episode “Welcome Parents” shows how immigrant parents prepare for parent-teacher conferences. The parent checklist below is derived from The Helping Handbook published by Learning Leaders. Before the Conference
  • Look at your child’s notebook or folder (homework, classwork and test or quizzes) How has the teacher graded this work? Does your child understand why she/he has received those grades?
  • Ask him/her to explain them to you.
  • Review your child’s report card.
  • Talk with your child about areas in which she/he is strong, and those which need improvement.
  • Make a list of questions you have for the teacher.
  • Speak to the school’s principal about having a translator, if you and the teacher do not speak the same language.
At the Conference
  • Introduce yourself to the teacher and communicate your goals for the conference.
  • Ask to see your child’s portfolio or work folder.
  • Talk about city and statewide tests.
  • Ask the teacher what skills your child needs to succeed on upcoming tests.
  • If your child’s report card indicated that his/her promotion is in doubt, ask the teacher to explain why.
  • Talk about the help your child needs.
  • Exchange phone numbers and set up another time to speak about your child’s progress. (Remember you can always speak to the teacher about your child’s progress)
Following is a list of vocabulary words you might find in your child’s report card or hear at parent-teacher conferences. School Subjects
  • Spelling
  • Reading
  • Writing
  • Listening and Speaking
  • Reading
  • Mathematics
  • Physical Education (gym)
  • Social studies
  • Science
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Geography
  • ESL
  • English Language Arts
  • Technology
  • Conference=professional meeting
  • Report card=a report showing a student’s performance and progress
  • Behavior problems
  • Interpreter
  • Comments=opinions
  • Matters=subjects, situations
  • To attend
  • To pay attention
  • To participate in
  • To raise hands
  • To follow instructions
  • To behave
  • To misbehave
  • To listen to
  • To help
  • To do homework
  • To check homework
  • To read
  • To explain
  • To do well in
  • To need help with
  • To write
  • To make progress (=improve)
  • To hand in homework
  • To practice
  • To help with
  • Talkative
  • Hard-working
  • Intelligent
  • Good
  • Interesting
  • Concerned about = worried about
Prepare a list of questions you would like to ask your child’s teacher and then read the questions aloud like actors on TV before you go to a parent-teacher conference. The following list of questions was created by parents who were enrolled in the English and Family Literacy Program in the Center for Immigrant Education and Training at LaGuardia Community College:
  1. How is my child doing in class?
  2. What does my child need to learn in this grade?
  3. What subject does my child do well in?
  4. What subject is difficult for him/her?
  5. How can I help him/her at home?
  6. Are there any after-school programs in _________ (subject)?
  7. Does my child turn in homework on time?
  8. Does my child pay attention?
  9. Does my child get along well with others?
  10. Does my child participate in group activities or class discussions?
  11. How does my child behave during the day?
  12. Is my child happy at school?
Click here to choose your preferred language to view “Parent Teacher Conference,” created by the New York City Department of Education.

Listen to the dialogue between parents and teacher discussing the child’s homework at a parent-teacher conference. What is the problem? What does the teacher suggest for the parents?

He Never Does Homework

Mother: Hello. My name is Elizabeth. I am John’s mother.
Teacher: Hello! I’m Ms. Betts. Welcome to the classroom.
Mother: I would like to introduce you to my husband, Theodore.
Teacher: It’s nice to meet you.
Father: Nice to meet you too.
Mother: How is our son doing in school?
Teacher: He’s doing very well. He always participates in class. However, he never does his homework.
Father: He doesn’t?
Mother: I had no idea! He always says he doesn’t have any homework.
Teacher: Students in my class have at least a small assignment every night.
Father: Well, I will certainly talk to him about this. Homework is so important.
Mother: Of course it is!
Teacher: Maybe you could dedicate a special time for him to do his homework. And you could decide on a quiet place for him to do it, a place with plenty of light.
Mother: I could help him if he has any questions.
Father: And when he finishes, I can check the exercise for him.
Teacher: You have some good ideas. I think that together you will help him a lot.
Mother: Thank you so much.
Father: I think you will see an improvement in John’s homework.
Teacher: That’s great.
Mother: Good-bye.
Teacher: Thank you for coming.
Father: No, thank you. Have a nice afternoon.


Listen to the dialogue between parents and teacher discussing the child’s homework at a parent-teacher conference. What is the problem? What does the teacher suggest for the parents?

She is Reading at 3rd Grade Level

Father: Good morning. We are Katie’s parents.
Teacher: Good morning. It’s nice to meet you.
Mother: Nice to meet you too.
Father: How is Katie doing in class?
Teacher: Katie is a good student in math, science and history. But she is reading at a 3rd grade level.
Mother: But she is in 4th grade!
Teacher: Yes, she really isn’t progressing in reading.
Father: How can we help her?
Teacher: We have an after-school program in reading here at Lincoln Elementary School. You could enroll her in that.
Mother: Yes, that’s a good idea. When is it?
Teacher: The program is every Monday and Wednesday from 2:30 to 4:00. The teacher is very good. His name is Mr. Lion.
Father: We will definitely enroll her in the program.
Mother: Is there anything else we can do?
Teacher: You can read with her for 30 minutes every day.
Father: Sure. We can bring her to the library and let her choose books she likes.
Teacher: I think that’s a great idea. Why don’t you work with Katie and come back to speak with me in a month?
Mother: Thank you for everything.
Father: We will see you next month.
Teacher: Goodbye. Have a nice day.


You might hear these comments at a parent-teacher conference or see them in your child’s report card. Ask yourself if it is a good comment or not? Ask the teacher what you can do as a parent?

  1. Jennifer hands in her homework late.
  2. Maria’s in the third grade but she is reading at second grade level.
  3. Benjamin has improved his reading.
  4. Jose is talkative.
  5. John always raises his hand.
  6. Luis is not paying attention.
  7. Maria’s project is well-done.
  8. Fatima is not making any efforts.
  9. Jose never sits still.
  10. David’s handwriting is sloppy.
  11. Doris has made progress in reading.
  12. Megan is very cooperative.
  13. Megan is getting along with everybody.
  14. Miriam is behind the other students.
  15. Oliver always completes her homework.
  16. Julia is ahead of other students.
  17. Christine is a little shy.
  18. Gloria needs extra help with reading and writing because she is going to take the NYSELAT in April.

4. School Safety

Questions about Bullying
Learn about what bullying is and how you can prevent your child from being bullied.

Bullying is when a bigger or stronger child intimidates another one. It also includes:

  • People calling you names
  • Hitting, pinching, biting, pushing and shoving
  • Taking your things
  • Stealing your money
  • Spreading rumors
  • Sending you intimidating e-mails, leaving abusive phone messages

Children are often embarrassed or afraid to tell parents that they are being bullied. Here are some signs:

  • Being quiet
  • “Losing” money or things
  • Staying home, avoiding school or other children
  • Torn clothes, cuts and bruises
  • Poor grades
  • Not sleeping well

  • Have a difficult family life
  • Want attention
  • Are jealous of good grades, nice looks, clothes etc

  • Talk about what bullies say, let child know that if they don’t react much to them, bullies often get bored, role-play the situations with parents making a comment and children saying, “Yeah, whatever…” as if the comment didn’t bother them at all
  • Make a habit of asking your child specific questions about school, classes, lunchtime, coming home
  • Encourage your child to make friends

Teacher, parent coordinator, principal, dean, guidance counselor.

  • Do not assume that your child’s teacher knows about the bullying.
  • Do not lose your temper, storm into school and cause a scene. It may make the situation worse and you could get banned from the school.

  • Tell your teacher (stay after class under the pretext of asking for help with school work) or tell the school nurse. They will not tell the bully that you told on him or her.
  • Tell your parents and ask them to talk to the teacher, parent coordinator.
  • During break or lunchtime, stay in area where teachers or groups of students can see you (bullies don’t like witnesses).
  • On the bus, sit near the driver.
  • Walk home with other children who live near you.
  • Tell a teacher or adult if you see someone else being bullied.

When you learn that your child is being bullied in school, contact the teacher immediately. Here is a dialogue of a parent calling the teacher to report her child being bullied.

Teacher: This is Ms. Johnson speaking.
Parent: Hello, I’m Maria’s mother / father. I’m calling to speak about a problem in my child’s class.
Teacher: What is the matter?
Parent: One boy in my child’s class is bullying my son / daughter.
Teacher: That is a problem. We talked about bullying in class. But some students still bully other students. Can you tell me about what’s happening?
Parent: This boy is calling him names, like you’re stupid or you’re chicken.
Teacher: Do you know the child’s name?
Parent: His name is Washington Jose Cabrera.
Teacher: Thank you for calling. I will talk to your child and the student who is bullying. If the problem continues, please call me again.
Parent: Ok. Thank you.

At some point, you may want to meet with the school principal if the problem is not being resolved. Here is a dialogue of a parent calling the school to set up an appointment with the principal.

Secretary: IS 125.
Parent: Hi, this is the mother of Luis Rodriguez. I would like to make an appointment with the principal.
Secretary: What is it for?
Parent: I need to report a problem in my child’s class.
Secretary: What kind of problem?
Parent: A boy at school always fights with my son.
Secretary: What grade is he in?
Parent: He is in Mrs. Ramirez’s class.
Secretary: Can you come to the school tomorrow at 9:00 a.m.?
Parent: Yes.
Secretary: I will let the principal know that you are coming tomorrow at 9:00 a.m.
Parent: Thank you.
Secretary: You are welcome.

Pacer Center Champions for Children with Disabilities, located in Minnesota, offers great resources on bullying such as translated handouts for parents, educational videos and websites designed for kids and teens. Click on the handouts and videos below to view the materials.

5. Report Cards

Click here for information and samples of report cards in English or other languages. The New York City Department of Education translates report cards into the nine official languages most commonly spoken. You can also request a translation for your child’s report card from your school in another language.

6. Enrollment & Admissions

Following is vocabulary you might see/hear during your child’s admissions process.

  1. Admission: the procedure for entering a school officially
  2. Apply for: to submit an application
  3. Fill out an application: complete an application with personal information
  4. Choose: decide; pick
  5. In person: to be present physically
  6. Eligible: qualified
  7. Zoned schools: schools by the address where a student lives
  8. Unzoned schools: Schools that accept children by special application or lottery. Also called option, choice, or magnet schools.
  9. Fairs: events where participants present information or sell products
  10. Parent coordinator: person who helps parents with any school-related questions/information
  11. Counselor: person who helps children with learning school subjects or offering family referrals
  12. 311: the number you call for school related information
  13. District: a region that includes a group of schools
  14. Enrollment Offices: offices that control admissions
  15. Lottery: random selection
  16. Audition: performance or presentation of a portfolio of art work
  17. Siblings: brothers or sisters
  18. Charter schools: independent public schools

Choosing a school is a very important matter to parents. In New York City public schools, parents can call 311 and ask questions about enrollment. If your child is already enrolled in a public school, parents can discuss middle school/high school admissions with the Guidance Counselor.

The dialogues below are created by parents who are enrolled in the English and Family Literacy Program in the Center for Immigrant Education and Training at LaGuardia Community College, based on their own experiences.


“A Parent is Calling 311 about Pre-K Admission”

Parent: I want to know how to apply for Pre-K.
311: What is your zip code?
Parent: My zip code is 10036.
311: Your district is 2. You can go to the Enrollment Office in person and get the application and information about Pre-K admission.
(The parent fills out the application and goes to the school office to speak with Parent Coordinator.)
Parent Coordinator: Your daughter is eligible to apply for this school because she has her sibling in this school and it is one of your zone schools.
Parent: Do you know any charter schools near here? Can you help me to choose one of them?
Parent Coordinator: There will be a charter school information fair next month. It is a little difficult to get in because they do a lottery. Good luck.


“Maria is going to the District Office”

Parent: I have a problem.
District Office: What is your problem?
Parent: My problem is the principal said she didn’t have the application for my son Alejandro. He is in special education.
District Office: I will call the principal to find out what happened. Then I will call you back.
Parent: I was waiting for one month. Please call me back. Thank you. 


“Talking to Counselor”

Parent: I need information about kindergarten admission.
Counselor: You need to fill out an application.
Parent: Can you give me a copy of the application?
Counselor: Sure.
Parent: When I bring the application back, is it necessary to bring my child?
Counselor: No.

One of school options that New York City public schools offer to students is zoned schools. Zoned schools give priority to students who live in their zone and are determined by home address. Call 311 to find out what schools are your zoned schools.

Operator: How can I assist you today?
Parent: I would like to know my zoned schools.
Operator: What borough do you live in?
Parent: Queens.
Operator: What is your address?
Parent: 43-16 47th St
Operator: Is it north, south, east, or west?
Parent: North.
Operator: Is it the north side of Queens Boulevard or the south side of it?
Parent: North side.
Operator: Well. You need to speak to someone in the district office for that. Let me look up a district office for you. What is your zip code?
Parent: It’s 11104.
Operator: I have to locate a district office with your address. Please bear with me.
Parent: Sure.
Operator: Thank you for your patience. According to your address, you need to call District Office 30. The telephone number is 718-391-8261. It’s open Monday to Friday, 9 AM to 5 PM.
Parent: Let me read the telephone number back to you. 7-1-8-3-9-1-8-2-6-1. Is it correct?
Operator: Yes. Is there anything else I can help you with?
Parent: No, thank you.
Operator: Thank you for calling 311. Have a nice evening.

7. Programs for Children

Some parents would like extracurricular activities for their children, such as ballet, gymnastics, swimming, soccer or others. Read the dialogue below of a parent calling to find out information about a gymnastic class.

R=Receptionist           P=Parent

R: Hello. How can I help you?
P: I need information about gymnastic classes for my daughter.
R: How old is she?
P: She is nine years old.
R: We have gymnastics classes for children six to fourteen years old.
P: What days does this class meet?
R: The class meets every Saturday.
P: What time?
R: 12:00 to 1:30
P: How much does it cost?
R: It costs $200 for three months.
P: Is lunch included?
R: No.
P: When does the class begin?
R: It begins on July 10 and finishes on September 10.
P: Where are you located?
R: We are located at 35-40 Main St, Flushing.
P: How can I get there?
R: Take the 7 train to Main St.
P: Thank you for information.

The questions below will help you make a final decision about the program that you are going to enroll your child in.

  1. What is the enrollment process and fees?
  2. What are the hours of operation? Is before and/ or after care services available?
  3. What is your reimbursement policy?
  4. Do you provide transportation? If so, what type?
  5. Do you provide lunch for my child?
  6. Is a uniform included in the tuition?
  7. What are the qualifications for instructors?
  8. How many students will be in one class?
  9. Can my child take a trial class?
  10. What is your discipline policy?