There are two terrific resources for families whose children attend New York City Public Schools, or who are considering such schools for logistical or economic reasons, or who are new to New York City. These organizations are related to one another, but they have different missions and separate websites.
The first of these is Advocates for Children, whose mission is to " promote access to the best education New York can provide for all students, especially students of color and students from low-income backgrounds ... using uniquely integrated strategies to advance systemic reform, empower families and communities, and advocate for the educational rights of individual students." In addition to a telephone helpline, they offer numerous publications explaining the very complicated New York City Department of Education and the services offered to students who learn differently, all in understandable terms in a number of languages.
Growing out of Advocates for Children's work with families is its website InsideSchools.org. This site offers "intimate knowledge, news, school reviews, and information about public education for New York City's diverse populations". Their reviews of public schools are based on actual visits and they offer the kind of information about schools that is of most interest to parents.
Armed with these two resources, New York City parents stand a better chance of finding the right school for their child in what can often feel like a complicated bureaucratic maze.