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Holidays are upon us! If you are one of the lucky ones to have vacation days along with your kids -- or if you are a high school student used to travelling around the city on your own, here are some ways to enjoy your time.
Catch up on museums! This list of free museum days [PDF] was compiled by The Fund for Public Schools. It includes 28 museums, large and small, in all boroughs.
Here are some special events and exhibits, forwarded to us by District 3 Family Advocate DJ Sheppard:
For the final event of the year at El Museo del Barrio on 1230 Fifth Ave (between 104th and 105th Sts), kids can ring in the holiday season by making a crown for Three Kings Day, listening to stories and taking in a concert by El Sistema. Free for all ages on Saturday 12/21 at 11 am.
The 31st Annual Wreath Exhibition at the Arsenal Gallery in Central Park (at 830 Fifth Ave at 64th Street) is open Monday-Friday, 9 am to 5 pm, except for city holidays.
"The ABC of It: Why Children's Books Matter." The main branch of the New York Public Library displays an exhibit of books from its collection celebrating the rich history of children's literature. Fifth Ave. at 42nd St.
City Harvest Gingerbread Extravaganza at Le Parker Meridien includes gingerbread structures of the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building and Grand Central, on display through Jan. 6, at Le Parker Meridien (119 West 56 Street, between 6th and 7th Avenues). Visit the exhibit for free or submit your vote for the most creative confection for $1. All proceeds will go to City Harvest and all voters will be entered to win a five-night stay at the Parker Palm Springs.
New York Transit Museum's Holiday Train Show in Grand Central Station: Grand Central Station's 12th annual Holiday Train Show includes a 34--foot-long display, festooned with miniature versions of city landmarks such as the Brooklyn Bridge and the Empire State Building. Open through Feb. 23 in the shuttle passage off the main concourse at 42nd Street & Park Ave.
Don't forget city parks. Snow makes its own fun, but there are plenty of other attractions: Ice skating, bird watching, zoos, playgrounds special events and indoor recreation centers as well. The Department of Youth and Community Development lists community centers and other local groups that offer activities for kids during school vacations.
And my favorite: check out the fanciful decorations in department store windows, and on shops and buildings up and down the main street in your borough.
We'll be back in the office and online on Jan. 2, 2014!
Happy holidays to all.
I am concerned about the new kindergarten admissions process in regard to my young child. He has a late December birthday. I know I don't have to send him to kindergarten but what if he is not ready for first grade in the year he turns 6?
December child's mom
Dear December child's mom:
I know that there are lots of parents who are concerned that their children are too young to start kindergarten -- especially those who will still be four years old for the first three months of school.
I am getting concerned about applying to kindergarten. How does the new system work? I like my zoned school, it has a great reputation, but because of that it is very popular and there is always an overflow of kindergarten applications. What happens if it is the only school I choose and my child does not get a place?
Anticipating KG Mom
Dear Anticipating KG Mom,
Under the new Kindergarten Connect system, which is managed by a vendor not the schools themselves, parents rank up to 20 schools in order of preference. You apply between Jan. 13- Feb. 14, filling out an online application, calling 718-935-2400, or visiting a borough enrollment office from 8am-3pm, Monday to Friday. If you go to your zoned school, or any other school, the staff will advise you on how to file the application, but they won’t do it for you.
What do you do if you don't respect your child's teacher? We're having problems with the second grade teacher. Our son is starting to get a negative attitude about school in large part because of constant conflicts about homework – three subjects each night. The teacher is also a strict disciplinarian. We 're having trouble keeping his chin up because we disagree with the teacher’s methods and don't think she is doing a good job. What can we do to get everyone back on the right track?
Dear Queens Dad:
Sad to say, this is not a new problem. Here is what comes to mind:
First, help your son manage the homework schedule so he can get through it without too much resistance. Maybe one subject right after school, one just before dinner and one after dinner. In between, even if there is just a little time, he can do something fun. Other well-used remedies: Turn a play date into a study date so both kids can do a bit of homework before they play; work toward a reward with points for every evening that the homework gets done without drama...a special treat awaits!
I am the proud father of two bright girls in 8th grade. Both have excelled in school overall, especially in math. One of them was provided with 8th grade math Regents this year and the other (who also scored over a 3 on the 7th grade state exam but slightly lower than her sister) did not make it into Regents.
Is it acceptable for the school to use a certain grade on the 7th grade state exam as the sole criteria for Regents class acceptance? If so, what right do I have to know whether the school truly followed this "test score" criteria as the approach for determining acceptance? Is there any way my daughter can still take the Regents without being in a Regents Class? It is my understanding that some NYC schools allow Level 2 students to take the Regents. If so, why not my daughter?
I am the parent of a child in pre-kindergarten and am newly elected to a PTA board in Brooklyn. Our zoned school is a lower performing and not highly sought after school in a district that is overcrowded because of what the other schools offer. I was hoping to work on improving parent involvement, increasing retention at the school and raising funds for enrichment programs at this school. Today we were told that because of decreased enrollment we are losing a teacher. For now I am focusing on the short term crisis of how to either gain 33 students or raise $125,000 in a few weeks. In the long run we need a parent coordinator (ours has been out since 1/2013), and ideas of how parents could work with the administration to make this a school where parents want to send their children. I would really appreciate any guidance on how to proceed!
Dear Pre-K parent,
You have three tasks -- maybe a dozen, but three to start with. You need to build up the school's reputation among parents of young children. You need to raise money. And you need to engage the administration in forging a new perspective. As you noted, these are long term projects -- you won't see results right away but in their pursuit, you will build up a strong stakeholder constituency. In fact, a strong constituency engaging parents, teacher and administrators, as well as the wider community is key to any kind of school improvement effort. See also what I wrote about ways to attract students to a zoned school in a previous column.
For more immediate results try posting a notice on neighborhood parent listservs to let parents know that seats are still available in your school. You can also post notices on supermarket bulletin boards and in local storefronts. I don't know if 33 kids will show up, but it's a start.
The school year is young and some parents are still puzzled by their child's class placement. This week's Ask Judy answers two questions: one about Integrated Co-teaching, and another about bridge classes.
My niece is in 1st grade. Her school sent a letter home yesterday stating that her class is an Integrated Co-teaching class. According to the UFT website "students with disabilities receive instruction alongside their nondisabled peers with special education support." What does this mean? Does this mean my niece has some type of special need? If a school determined that a child has special needs shouldn't parents be notified? Is this the normal that all classes are integrated? Please clarify.
I will be leaving on sabbatical to India next year, Sept and Oct. 2015. My child will be going into 6th grade. I am wondering if I can take her out for these two months and get an educational plan from the DOE, so upon our return, my child will have an easy transition back into her school?
I just read the news on your site about lower NYC ELA and Math standardized test scores. My son is a soon-to-be 8th grader and this news is devastating. I haven't yet seen his score but I know that many screened/selective high school programs require a minimum of 3 on state standardized tests. Will admissions policies change in these schools in recognition that kids were tested on new standards they never learned? What advice do you have in navigating the high school admissions process for those who will begin the process this fall?
Concerned Parent in Brooklyn
Dear Concerned Parent in Brooklyn,
As you know, as of this week parents can access their child's test scores on ARIS. In fact, DOE officials are at city libraries to help parents access the scores and to explain them. If you have questions about your child's test and want to review it, you can ask the principal to set up an appointment for this purpose. You have to fill out a request and a professional will show it to you. This year, only some of the exam questions and answers will be shown. For general information, some of the questions are available online.
Many parents have complained that the percentile range shown on ARIS is too wide to be of use to determine if their kids are eligible for some of the highly selective schools. So far there is no word as to when more specific percentile information will be available.
As of yet,there has been only a little discussion of how the schools will handle these very low scores. We do know that in the spring, just after kids took the state tests, a group of principals distanced themselves, vowing to ignore results of what they saw as faulty and unfair tests.
I'm a parent who'd like to introduce a Peer Mediation Program to my daughter's principal. Can you provide information on any services that might provide training to staff members and students alike and are approved by the NYC DOE.
PSP (Problem solving parent)
If your principal doesn't already know about peer mediation, it's a good job for you to introduce it to him. But principals should know, peer mediation is among several recommended steps under the city's Discipline Code to solve programs without resorting to the most exteme punishments.
With peer mediation, kids work with each other to figure out why a specific problem occurred and how students can solve it. The program not only avoids violence, it develops leadership skills in the children who attend peer mediation training. There are programs which are apt for elementary, middle and high schools.
Like other great additions to a school, it won't just spring into action. If you really want peer mediation in your school, you need to start preparing now. Contact not-for-profit organizations that do peer mediation training, find out what staff they use and how much your school may have to pay. Contact schools with successful programs, to find out what school staff is needed and how they keep the program going.