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Tuesday, 04 March 2014 15:27

Apply by March 12 for new middle schools

Unhappy with your middle school choices? The Education Department announced 10 new middle schools are opening next September. New applications are going out this week to 5th graders. Families that are interested in applying must fill out and return the application by Wednesday, March 12. It won't affect the application you submitted in the fall as you can be accepted both at a new school and at a school you applied to in December.

While choosing a new school over an established one is risky, several of these new schools look like promising options. The Eagle Academy for Young Men is opening another school, this time in Staten Island, the first single sex school for that borough. PS 84, a popular neighborhood school in Williamsburg is adding on middle school grades. In Manhattan's crowded District 2, two new middle schools are opening, one that offers a selective program for high-achievers. The citywide gifted program in Queens will expand to include middle school called 30th Avenue Academy at a new site.

Most of the schools should be offering information sessions before the application deadline. Check out the Department of Education's new middle school directory for contact information.

Here's a brief rundown.

Published in News and views
Wednesday, 26 February 2014 12:14

How to handle high school letter day March 10

by Joyce Szuflita

Sometime during the week of March 10 8th-graders will get a letter telling them where they have been accepted to high school.

Here's what normally happens: The kids at public schools are given sealed envelopes in school that hold the results of their SHSAT tests, whether they have been offered a seat at one of the specialized high schools and their match - if any - from their main 1-12 application. The kids are instructed to wait to open the letters when they get home. Yeah, right.

They are dismissed, and the second that they get outside the school building, they rip open the letters and there on the sidewalk in front of school, the full range of human emotion is played out in public; tragedy, euphoria, jealousy, hatred and deception all bathed in a river of tears.

High School Hustle columnist Liz Willen wrote about this several years ago -- in Choice and Crying Teens --  and the problem still persists. It is ugly and it is up to you to stop it. You must either convince your child NOT to open the letter in public (good luck) or you must be there to whisk them away to a safe place to celebrate or commiserate in private.

Published in News and views
Friday, 21 February 2014 16:17

68,000 families apply to kindergarten

Some 68,000 parents of children born in 2009 used the new Kindergarten Connect system between Jan. 13 and Feb. 20 to apply to kindergarten for fall 2014, the Department of Education announced on Friday afternoon. This year approximately 74,000 five-year-olds are enrolled in kindergarten.

Of those applicants, 70 percent submitted online applications, 17 percent applied over the phone and 13 percent went in person to an enrollment office.

Nearly one-fourth of the phone applicants used a translation service for 10 different languages. That was the only way for non-English-speakers to apply because online applications were only in English. Earlier this month, DNAInfo reported that some non-English-speaking parents -- and those without emails or computers -- were finding it difficult to access the system. The DOE pushed back the application deadline by nearly a week to allow more time for families to apply.

Families who missed applying online may still apply in person at an enrollment center or by calling 718-935-2009. They will get their offers in May, a month later than earlier applicants.

Charter schools have a different application and timeline. You can apply online using a common application or each's charter school's application. Those are not due until April 1.

Read the DOE's press release here.

 

Published in News and views
Wednesday, 12 February 2014 15:15

DOE extends Kindergarten Connect deadline

With the Friday, Feb. 14 deadline looming for parents of kids born in 2009 to apply online to kindergarten, the Department of Education extended the Kindergarten Connect deadline to the following Thursday, Feb. 20.

The decision to give parents additional time to register was announced Feb. 12 by schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña. 

In a press release, the DOE said that the new Kindergarten Connect application process has been "hugely successful: 85 percent of parents responding to our application survey have described the process as easy or very easy." 

But the new application system has its detractors -- particularly for families who don't speak English or don't have computers or email addresses. In a report earlier this week, DNAInfo.com wrote about problems some parents are having accessing and understanding Kindergarten Connect. ""The DOE has tried to make [the process] more equitable, but actually it's isolated the families who can't keep up with all of this," Upper West Side parent Jennifer Friedman, told DNAInfo.

While parents have almost a whole week more to consider their options and fill out an application, what they won't have is more time to tour schools. All schools will be on break next week for President's Week.

How can you find out about schools? Read the profiles on Insideschools and check out our new InsideStats data on every elementary school page. Be sure to read the school comments. Our Q&A about applying is here. The DOE has directories for each borough, listing every school. Check it out online or pick one up at an enrollment office.

Enrollment offices will be open to receive kinderggarten applications from 8 am to 3 pm, Monday through Friday. Or call 718-935-2400. (Make sure you know the list of schools you wish to apply to before you call.) Apply online here.

Published in News and views

Friday, Feb. 14 is the last day for parents of incoming kindergartners to apply to schools online via Kindergarten Connect. But parents who don't speak English, or don't have an email address, are finding it hard to connect, DNAInfo found.

(This story first appeared on DNAInfo.com; by Amy Zimmer and Gustavo Solis)

Maribel Vega doesn't own a computer, has no email address and speaks only Spanish — all of which made it extremely difficult to sign up her 5-year-old daughter, Ashley, for kindergarten this year.

That's because in order to use the city's Kindergarten Connect system, which went live in January and has open enrollment through Feb. 14, Vega needed to be digitally savvy, and be able to read and fill out an English-only application. Thankfully for her, she found workers at the Upper West Side's Bloomingdale Family Head Start Program to help walk her through every step of the process.

"They helped with everything," said Vega, 25, who moved to the Bronx from Mexico six years ago. "I don't know where we would have found another computer to use.

Published in News and views
Thursday, 06 February 2014 09:30

InsideStats give lowdown on K-5 schools

If you're looking for an elementary school for your child, you want to know: Do most parents and teachers recommend the school? Is it welcoming? How many students are in a kindergarten class? Is the atmosphere calm or rowdy? How do children do on standardized tests?

Now, just in time for the Feb.14 deadline to apply to kindergarten, we've got the answers to those questions for 735 public elementary schools, including charters. Our new feature, called Insidestats, presents easy-to-read data on elementary schools on each school's profile page. For example, you can see that at popular PS 321 in Park Slope, 97 percent of the teachers think the principal is a good manager.
 
Data is drawn from the Department of Education's parent and teacher surveys as well as the results of standardized tests and other DOE statistics. (We'll have stats for schools with grades K-8 posted soon!) The new feature is similar to Insidestats for high schools and middle schools, but for elementary schools, we include information about what parents think of the school. 

Published in News and views
Monday, 03 February 2014 11:50

Applying to kindergarten? Here's how!

Two weeks into the city's new online application system for children entering kindergarten in September, there is some confusion about how it works. We don't have all the answers to parents' questions, but here's what we know so far. 

Q: My child is turning five years old in 2014. How do I sign him up for school? 

This year the city began a new kindergarten application system called Kindergarten Connect. Between Jan. 13 and Feb. 14 you may apply online, by telephone at 718-935-2400 from 8 am to 6 pm Monday-Friday or in person at a Department of Education enrollment office. There is one application and you may list up to 20 schools.

Published in News and views
Tuesday, 28 January 2014 17:24

College Counselor: Negotiating for more aid

Q: My two sons applied to the same college Early Action, and they have both been accepted. Since they were EA applicants, they are not obligated to enroll at that college, and they have also applied to other schools. They don't know yet where they want to go, and will probably take a while to decide, before the May 1st deadline.

But I am concerned about the amount of merit aid they have been awarded. For some reason, one of my sons received an award of $40,000 merit aid, while the other one, who had a slightly higher GPA and slightly higher SATs, received $0. Unfortunately, it's this second son who is more interested in the school. At what point do I approach the school, and ask them if they will review their merit aid? Do I wait until he's sure he wants to go there? If it's in April, will that be too late?

A: I don't have enough information to know why one of your sons was made a generous offer, while the other has been offered nothing. It sounds like you have no idea, either. Does one son have stronger courses than the other? Or a special talent – such as in athletics or music -- that has been rewarded? You deserve to know the answer.

Published in News and views
Monday, 16 December 2013 13:51

Pol still fighting to fill G&T seats

Politicians and parents in November petitioned the Education Department to let qualified children fill Gifted & Talented seats that remained empty after the October enrollment deadline. In a reply last week, the DOE refused the request, saying it would be "extremely disruptive" to schools and families to allow children to enroll now.

"Office of Student Enrollment (OSE) conducted multiple rounds of waitlist offers for available seats at G&T programs citywide," wrote a DOE official in a response to Councilwoman Gail Brewer and Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell's November letter requesting the DOE allow qualified students access to empty G&T seats at two Upper West Side schools.

The DOE said that they had conducted "multiple rounds" of waitlist offers after too few families accepted offers to fill seats at PS 163 and PS 165. 

O'Donnell disputes the DOE's explanation. "I have heard from students who scored as high as the 96th to 99th percentiles on the test, and were still given no offer, although they ranked PS 165 and PS 163 as top choices in the initial process," he wrote in response to the DOE's letter.  

O'Donnell will continue to press the DOE to open up seats. He says that schools and families do not find the post-October 31st enrollment disruptive. 

Karen Alicea-Dunn has been trying to get her son, Dylan, who scored in the 96th percentile on the G&T exam, into PS 163's G&T program for two months. In November, the school told Dunn that Dylan could enroll in the general education program -- but not the G&T. Dunn isn't worried about switching elementary school programs mid-year. "I'm ready," she said.

In late November, WNYC reported that at least 24 schools citywide still have room for more kids in their G&T programs.

Download a copy of the DOE's letter response to Brewer & O'Donnell here [PDF].

Download a copy of O'Donnell's letter here [PDF].

Published in News and views
Monday, 09 December 2013 11:36

Insidestats: Help choosing middle schools

If you're a parent choosing a middle school, you want to know: Do the academics prepare kids for high school? Do the teachers recommend the school? Kids want to know: Does the school require uniforms? Are the other kids nice?

Now, just in time for this week's Dec. 13 application deadline, Insideschools has launched Insidestats for middle schools. Similar to Insidestats for high school, we have comprehensive data on 430 middle and secondary schools, including charter schools. You can see at a glance how big the classes are, whether kids think there are enough interesting programs and whether 8th graders take and pass Regents math and science exams.

A couple of years ago, we criticized the Department of Education's school Progress Reports for oversimplifying the strengths and weaknesses of each school with a single "A" to "F" grade. (Apparently Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio agrees with us, having said he'll do away with the simplistic letter grades.)

With Insidestats, we offer a more nuanced picture, because different schools are good at different things. Some schools take high-achieving kids and push them to ever greater heights. But others do a particularly good job with kids who need special education or English language instruction. Insidestats shows you the difference.

Take Mark Twain in Coney Island, which is open to students citywide. Everyone knows it's a terrific school that sends more graduates to specialized high schools than almost any other middle school. But maybe you didn't know that its students with special needs also fare better than the average city school. Or that 100 percent of the teachers say they recommend the school to parents. On the downside, students have to contend with larger-than-average class size.

Compare that with another popular citywide school: New Explorations into Science, Technology and Math (NEST). Class size here is lower, just about average for the city, but fewer teachers--82 percent --say they would recommend the school and only 28 percent think the principal is a good manager.

We hope Insidestats will help those of you still wondering which schools to rank on your middle school applications.

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