10 NYC Hidden Gems: Best NYC Schools Most Ranking Sites Overlook

If you’re searching for the best NYC schools, you probably already know that the NYC City School District is like no other district in the country.

For one thing, the district is huge. Encompassing five boroughs and more than 1700 public schools, this school district is the largest in the nation. 

For another, unlike most public schools, all NYC public schools operate on an application-only basis, even if your family plans to attend the zoned school nearest you. This means your child will apply for school up to five times before college: 3K, Pre-K, kindergarten, middle school, and high school. 

Still, most students end up attending their zoned school, which is why it’s crucial for you to carefully consider the zone in which you purchase or rent.

Finding the right school for your family is tough anywhere– but especially in a city with over 1700 options! (Photo: Heather Shevlin)

The Problem With School Selection Today

Most families today choose schools based on word of mouth and school rankings websites like GreatSchools.org. Both methods, however, will give you only a narrow view of your school options

You see, public school ranking websites like GreatSchools factor in test score results in their ranking formulas. In fact, test scores are the biggest influencer of the rankings on these sites, and word of mouth usually mirrors the highest rated schools on these websites.

But research has proven that the most influential factor in predicting test scores is not the school itself or quality of instruction. The most influential factor is parent income

The end result is this: people are selecting schools in the most expensive neighborhoods, often in suburbs with long commutes to work, sacrificing time with their family. All this in the name of chasing the “best” schools, when in reality, they are chasing schools with the highest parent income.

Can you find a good school in an affordable NYC neighborhood? Absolutely! (Photo: Hannah Busing)

The SchoolSparrow Solution

SchoolSparrow understands that parent income is the biggest driver of test scores at any given public K-12 school in the US, and our ranking system reflects that. 

We calculate an “expected” test score for each school— that is, the score you’d expect solely based on average parent income at that school. Then, the school is graded based on how it departs from this expected score. 

If the students perform better than expected on standardized tests, that means the school is clearly putting in extra work to make sure these kids succeed. In short, our ranking system elevates schools with socio-economic diversity to the forefront.

Below you’ll find the top 10 Hidden Gems in New York City: schools that most ranking websites (and most parents, too) overlook because of the biased metrics. Don’t make that mistake! The schools on this list don’t just exceed expectations on standardized tests: they’re diverse learning communities located in neighborhoods that won’t break your budget.

NYC is full of hidden gem schools with diverse learning environments and educational excellence. (Photo: Dylan Freedom)

Top 10 Hidden Gem NYC Schools

Parents, do not overlook these schools in #NYC! #schoolequity #schoolsparrow

1. PS 188 The Island School (14 minute drive from Times Square)

PS 188’s diversity score and central city location alone would make it a worthy candidate for any family, but if you look at the school’s test score improvement over time, you’ll be floored. 

In a single year, the Island School brought its scores up by 67.5%! Now the 3rd and 8th graders are both scoring at A- level, according to SchoolSparrow rankings, and the other grades aren’t too far behind.

PS 188 The Island School deserves a place among the best NYC schools.
PS 188 The Island School deserves a place among the best NYC schools. (Photo: www.superhappyhealthykids.com)

Shoutout to the 8th grade teachers, who brought their class up an incredible 39.5 test points in only one year!

PS 188 is only 14 minutes away from Times Square. Located in the middle of the Lower East Side, its zip code has a median sale price of $898,900 and a median list price per square foot of $1,782.

Don’t be fooled by the 3/10 GreatSchools gives The Island School: this K-8 school deserves a ranking among the top elementary schools in NYC!

Address: 442 E. Houston St., New York, NY 10002

Website: https://island188.org/ 

2. PS 198 Isador E Ida Straus (16 minute drive from Times Square)

Though its score on GreatSchools is nothing to scoff at, this hidden gem school deserves far more recognition than it gets! 

PS 198, a top NYC school, enjoys a gorgeous day outside!
PS 198 enjoys a gorgeous day outside! (Photo: http://www.ps198m.org)

With a diversity score of 40.0 out of 40 possible points, you can be sure of a rich and inclusive educational environment for your child. What’s more, students at PS 198 Isador E Ida Straus score an average of 20.7 points higher than expected, when adjusted for parent income!

Shoutout to the third graders who scored at A+ level according to the most recent test data: a whopping 90.0 points out of 100! 

PS 198 serves the Carnegie Hill neighborhood, and its zip code is one of the more expensive on our list. The median list price for homes in this area is $1,597,000 or $660 per square foot. 

Easily accessible by public transportation and only 7 minute drive from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, PS 198 is a great option for families looking for a home with an urban feel!

Address: 1700 3rd Ave., New York, NY 10128

Website: https://www.ps198m.org/

3. PS 19 Asher Levy (18 minute drive from Times Square)

This K-5 school provides leadership in educational excellence to the East Village area, but with a 6/10 on GreatSchools, it’d be easy to overlook. Don’t make that mistake! Overall, students at Asher Levy are performing a whopping 18.6 points above expected, when normalized for parent income. 

Hidden Gem PS 19 Asher Levy counts as one of the best NYC schools!
Hidden Gem PS 19 Asher Levy counts as one of the best NYC schools! (Photo: www.youtube.com/watch?v=OE2PafMw9eQ)

Special shoutout to the fifth graders, who perform at A+ level, according to the most recent data!

Located an 18 minute drive from Times Square, this school’s zip code has a median sale price of $976,700. Median list price per square foot is $1,204 (compared to New York’s overall average of $660), though prices have been declining over the past year. 

With a 20.0 diversity score (out of 40.0 possible points), great test scores, and innovative use of the workshop model in math classrooms, Asher Levy deserves a place on your school search list! 

Address: 185 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10003

Website: https://www.ps19school.com/

4. PS 1 Alfred E Smith (20 minute drive from Times Square)

Only 20 minutes away from Times Square, this K-5 school features a great diversity score and even better test scores. Students at this school score an average 11.7 points higher than expected on standardized tests. 

Though you wouldn't guess it from its GreatSchools score, this school is rocking it!
Though you wouldn’t guess it from its GreatSchools score, this school is rocking it! (Photo: ps1m.org/)

PS 1’s 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders all score at B level or above according to SchoolSparrow metrics, but other school ranking websites often underrate this hidden gem elementary school. GreatSchools, for example, gives it only 6/10. 

Take a look at the raw data, however, and you’ll see that this school deserves a place among the best NYC elementary schools.

PS 1’s zip code has a median list price of $1,800,495. That’s $1,837 per square foot, making this neighborhood slightly more expensive compared to the overall city’s average of $660

Address: 8 Henry St., New York, NY 10038

Website: https://ps1m.org/ 

5. River East Elementary (13 minute drive from The Met)

River East Elementary ranks among the best NYC elementary schools because their students score an average 20 points higher than expected on standardized tests when normalized for parent income. 3rd and 5th graders are doing especially well, with A and A- scores, respectively! 

River East Elementary is a hidden gem, a top NYC school hidden in plain sight.
River East Elementary is a hidden gem, a top NYC school hidden in plain sight. (Photo: insideschools.org/school/04M037)

Like the first three schools on our list, River East Elementary has a great diversity score (20.0 out of 40 possible points), but GreatSchools only gives it a 3/10 rating. That’s what makes this school a hidden gem and one of the best schools in NYC! 

River East is a 22 minute drive away from Times Square, and its zip code is the one of the most affordable on our list! The median list price of homes in this school’s area is $549,000, and the median rent price is almost $900 lower than the New York median price.

Address: 2351 1st Ave., New York, NY 10035

Website: https://www.rivereastelementary.org/

6. PS 30M Rafael Hernandez / Langston Hughes  (14 minute drive from The Met)

PS 30M Hernandez/Hughes serves approximately 350 students in the East Harlem community, and with its great diversity score, this K-5 school promises a warm and welcoming community for any family.

GreatSchools gives PS 30M a 5/10 rating, but take a closer look at their test scores.

In one year, PS 30M Hernandez/Hughes brought its test scores up by 35.7%! Now 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders score an average of 7.3 points higher than expected, making this hidden gem one of NYC’s best elementary schools. 

Principal Austin, it’s clear that you and your wonderful staff are doing something right! 

A 21 minute drive from Times Square, this school shares a zip code with River East Elementary (see above), and its prices are just as low: the median list price of homes in this school’s area is $549,000, and the median rent price is almost $900 lower than the New York median price.

Address: 144-176 E. 128th St., New York, NY 10035

Website: https://www.ps30mnyc.org/ 

7.  Community Health Academy of the Heights (16 minute drive from The Met)

Community Health Academy stands apart from the other schools on our list because it serves a unique section of NYC students: 6th through 12th graders. This hidden gem school gets only 4/10 on GreatSchools, but a closer look at the test scores reveal they deserve closer to a 8/10 rating. 

The Community Health Academy of the Heights deserves a place on your family's school search list-- and on the best NYC schools list!
The Community Health Academy of the Heights deserves a place on your family’s school search list! (Photo: www.chah.nyc/our-mission)

With an 8.8% improvement over the span of one year, Community Health Academy’s students now score an average of 5.2 points higher than expected, giving the school a solid B level rating. 

Located in Northern Manhattan, Community Health Academy’s zip code has a median home price of $469,000, making it the most affordable option on our list. What’s more, its median rent price is almost $1000 lower than the New York median!

Address: 504 West 158th St., Manhattan, NY 10032

Website: http://www.chah.nyc/ 

8. PS 83 Luis Munoz Rivera (11 minute drive from The Met)

PS 83 Luis Munoz Rivera ranks as one of the best NYC elementary schools based on diversity stats alone: 30 out of 40 possible points. But this hidden gem has multiple factors going for it.

Take a closer look at Luis Munoz Rivera School's test scores: you might be surprised at what you find. It's one of the top NYC schools.
Take a closer look at Luis Munoz Rivera School’s test scores: you might be surprised at what you find. (Photo: www.youtube.com/watch?v=eO-9HCNPH2s)

It’s 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders have all scored above expected based two years in a row. (Shoutout to the 3rd grade teachers, whose students score at A level according to the most recent data!) Plus, the school has seen a 10.6% improvement in scores over a one year period: these scores are going to get even higher!

GreatSchools gives this school a mere 6 out of 10— we’d rank it closer to an 8 –but that just makes this hidden gem an even more valuable find. Don’t overlook PS 83 Luis Munoz Rivera: it ranks as one of the top NYC schools! 

Another school in the East Harlem neighborhood, PS 83’s zip code offers houses at a slightly higher price than New York City overall. Median list price per square foot? $1,102 (compared to $660 for NYC overall). Median price of listed homes? $840,000.

Address: 219 East 109 Street, Manhattan, NY 10029

Website: https://www.schools.nyc.gov/schools/M083 

9. The New York STAR Academy PS 63 (20 minute drive from Times Square)

With a 5/10 rating on GreatSchools, it’d be all too easy to overlook this hidden gem K-5 school, but STAR Academy ranks as one of the top schools in NYC— for more than one reason! 

The S.T.A.R. Academy's welcoming community could be perfect for your child-- and it's one of the best NYC schools.
The S.T.A.R. Academy’s welcoming community could be perfect for your child! (Photo: www.staracademyps63.com/)

STAR Academy boasts a 20.0 diversity score (out of 40 possible points), and its students score an average of 15.8 points higher than expected on standardized tests. A huge shoutout to the fourth graders, who’ve been absolutely rocking it for the past two years!

Only 20 minutes away from Times Square, STAR Academy finds itself in a zip code with a median home value of $862,011 and median rent price of $3,400 per month.

Address: 121 E. 3rd St., New York, NY 10009

Website: https://www.staracademyps63.com/ 

10. PS 129 John H Finley (20 minute drive from Times Square)

Don’t miss this hidden gem just because of its low rating (4/10) on GreatSchools. PS 129 John H Finley should be counted among the best schools in NYC. Take, for example, its diverse and inclusive student body (20.0 out of 40 possible points) and the marked improvement in test scores it’s made: in a single year, PS 129’s scores increased by more than 30 percent! 

John H. Finley Elementary deserves a place among the best schools in NYC!
John H. Finley Elementary deserves a place among the best schools in NYC! (Photo: unsplash.com)

This positive trend suggests PS 129 scores are only going to keep getting better over the next few years. The 3rd through 6th graders are all scoring between 7/10 and 10/10, and a special shoutout goes to the fourth grade teachers, whose students’ scores increased by a whopping 30 points over a one year period!

Located in the Manhattanville community, this school is only three blocks from the Hudson River and a 12 minute drive from the Yankee Stadium! PS 129’s zip code features a median list price of $1,267,500— about $1,242 per square foot.

Address: 425 W 130th St, New York, NY 10027

Website: https://johnhfinley.org/

Want to learn more about our unique school ranking algorithm? Interested in learning how your school district compares?

Come visit us at schoolsparrow.com or read about the Hidden Gems in 25 cities across the U.S.!

(Photo: John Schnobrich)

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3 Comments

  1. PS/MS 129 a 30% rise in test scores. Where did you get this information? How was it calculated? NYS does not have this information.

    1. Lila, thank you for your question. For every school, we calculate the average score for schools with the same income profile. We call this the “expected” score, but “expected” could easily be replaced by “average”. We rank schools by the difference between the average score and the actual score of the school. A 30% rise means the gap between the average score and your school’s actual score increased by 30%. We hope that answers the question! The SchoolSparrow Team

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