Mary Otero was not going to make the same mistake with her 11-year-old, Aaliyah, that she had made with her two grown children. They had both gone to Dewey — the neighborhood school, Charles O. Dewey Intermediate School 136 in Brooklyn — and it was all downhill after that.
“A lot of kids at Dewey cut class, hang out on the street,” Ms. Otero said. “Kids get jumped in the park.”
She worried that enrolling her daughter in a low-performing middle school like Dewey would relegate Aaliyah to a low-performing high school and then — well, both her older children had dropped out.
So last year when Aaliyah started fifth grade at Public School 24, Ms. Otero, a freelance graphic artist and a single mother, practically memorized the Education Department’s guide to middle schools. She attended the middle school fair for her district, District 15, and visited schools considered to be among the best.