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Top-scoring, low-income 6th graders may be eligible for the Education Department's DREAM - Specialized High School Institute (SHSI), a nearly two-year-long course which prepares middle school students to take the specialized high school exam in 8th grade. The application process begins this month.
Eligible students should hear now from their principals about whether they qualify for the course beginning in January 2013. To be considered for the SHSI, students must meet income guidelines based on free lunch status, have scored at a Level 3 or 4 on 5th grade state reading and math exams and have at least 90 percent attendance in the 5th grade. The 22-month-long course includes after-school and Saturday classes which begin in the second semester of 6th grade and last until the date of the test, in October of 8th grade. There are summer sessions as well.
The Education Department sent a list of qualified students to public schools enrolled in the Universal School Meals (pdf) last week. Principals must distribute income verification forms to eligible students, along with a letter to parents introducing the program. Other public schools will get a list of eligible 6th-graders in November.
The program takes place in 18 districts around the city and is free. All participants get a metrocard for travel to classes, meals and course materials. In areas where there are more applicants than spaces available, a lottery will be held.
The specialized high school exam has come under increasing scrutiny this fall, after the NAACP filed a complaint last month with the federal government charging that the test effectively discriminated against black and Hispanic students who are under-represented at the schools. A Times editorial today pointed out that many middle schools fail to prepare students adequately for material covered on the exam and that students who gain admission to specialized schools come from families who provide them with prep courses and tutors. Last spring, the DOE said it newly expanded the DREAM program to help bridge that gap.
(updated with new information, Oct. 17)
There is still time to get your four-year-old into a free pre-kindergarten program. Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn yesterday urged parents of children born in 2008 to sign up by Oct. 31 for open seats at public schools or at community organizations which offer half and full day pre-k.
The DOE estimates there are several thousand open seats. Half-day programs last 2.5 hours and full day, 6 hours. Some community centers offer even longer hours for a fee. A district by district listing of schools and CBOs that are likely to have vacancies is updated weekly, on the Education Department's website.
Call the school or CBO directly to find out about openings.
Wednesday, Oct. 10 Friday, Oct. 12 is the deadline for 8th and 9th graders to request a "ticket" to take the Specialized High School Admissions Test or audition for LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. If you haven't done so yet, tell your guidance counselor that you want to take the exam for entrance to one of the eight exam high schools or to the ninth specialized high school, LaGuardia.
This weekend, Oct. 13-14, there will be a high school fair in every borough offering a chance to meet with students and staff from most high schools in each borough. The fairs run from 11 a.m to 3 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.
Brooklyn: Edward R. Murrow High School
Manhattan: Martin Luther King, Jr. High School
Queens: Francis Lewis High School
Staten Island: New Dorp High School
(updated 10/11/2012 with new due date)
My daughter is currently attending a private elementary school in District 2 in Manhattan. We live in Brooklyn, but we want her to go to a public middle school in District 2. And we are also interested in gifted programs. How do I find out about the schools, and the gifted programs, and how do I apply to them?
Dear Puzzled parent,
You have a three pronged problem: applying to middle school from a private school, applying to middle school from outside the district and applying to middle school gifted programs.
Q: I am trying to decide if I should apply to college Early Decision. I visited a few colleges over the summer, and saw three that I really like. I have a GPA of about 91, pretty decent SATs, and Regents scores in the 90s. My counselor says I have a good shot at several SUNY colleges, maybe even honor programs, and some other schools. My question is, will applying Early Decision to the private colleges give me a better chance of admission? A lot of my friends are saying that applying early shows interest, so you have a better shot at getting in.
A: Filing an Early Decision application is a huge commitment. You should do so ONLY if 1) you are absolutely, completely, 100% in love with a particular school, and 2) financial aid is not a priority.
Early Decision acceptances are binding, and under the terms of the decision you will not be allowed to wait and see if you are admitted elsewhere. Neither will you have the opportunity to weigh different financial aid offers. If you are accepted to a school under Early Decision, you are committed to enrolling there.
Some popular elementary schools have to turn students away who live nearby, but PS 9 in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn has spots open this year for kids in kindergarten, 1st, 2nd and 4th grades, including those who don't live in the PS 9 zone. The seats are open because some kids who enrolled didn't show up in September.
For more information, you can check out the PS 9 website. If you're interested in a spot at PS 9, you can call the school
Know any other good schools that still has space for kids from out of zone? Please let us know.
The Education Department has not yet released this year's list of overcrowded schools that are busing zoned students to other schools. If you know a school in that situation, please pass that on too.
The new 2012-2013 middle school directories are online just in time for the district fairs which begin this week for 5th graders and their families. District fairs run from 5:30-7:30 p.m. beginning on Wednesday. All schools are supposed to send representatives.
There will be copies of the guides at the fair, but it's a good idea to go through them before you arrive and make a list of the schools that your child is eligible for and any questions you may have. The fairs can be crowded and a little overwhelming, so arrive prepared. Our video on how to apply to a middle school is here.
The latest middle school Progress Reports are also available online now. These are report cards, complete with grades, that the Education Department gives to each school every year. They are supposed to give a sense of how the school is doing. They are useful to look at, but take the "grades" with a grain of salt. They are mostly based on how much progress kids have made on state exams. So for example, three popular, progressive Manhattan middle schools, Institute for Collaborative Education, School of the Future and IS 289, all received Cs this year, even though on average about 80% of their kids are reading and doing math at grade level. Meanwhile, the Middle School of Marketing and Legal Studies in East Flatbush, Brooklyn got an A, even though less than 40% of the students at the school are reading at grade level.
This weekend, Sept. 29 and 30, is the Department of Education's gigantic high school fair from 10 am to 3 pm at Brooklyn Technical High School. Prepare for a hectic day, where you will meet teachers, students and administrators and find out about their schools.
You can attend information sessions several times during the day, led by staff from the Education Department's enrollment office. This will be helpful especially if you're a newbie to the process (and it will give you a place to sit down and take a breather.)
The NAACP on Thursday will file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, charging that the exam-only admissions policy for New York City's eight specialized high schools is discriminatory against Black and Hispanic students, is not "educationally sound" and has not been proven to be a reliable predictor of student success at the elite schools. They call for "multiple measures" to be considered for entrance to specialized high schools.
Joined by the LatinoJustice PRLDEF and The Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College and other community organizations, the NAACP is challenging the long-standing New York state law which specifies that students are to be admitted to specialized schools on the basis of a single exam. The law gives the city's Department of Education the latitude to create more exam schools and, in the past decade the city added five smaller schools to its roster of specialized schools.
According to the NAACP, the city's Education Department has "never conducted a study to determine whether the test is a valid tool" and whether "there is any relationship between students' test results and learning standards" in those schools. Furthermore, the complaint says that other elite high schools and colleges around the country use "multiple measures" when considering applicants, such as grades, teacher recommendations and the demographics of the schools they attend.
The number of overcrowded special education classes has more than doubled in the last year, according to a new United Federation of Teacher's survey of the city's public schools. As of mid-September, there were 270 overcrowded special education classes -- that's up from 118 last year, the UFT announced Tuesday in a press release. But in some schools, classes for special needs kids are severely under-enrolled, advocates say.
UFT president Michael Mulgrew linked the drastic spike in overcrowded special education classes to a new policy, which demands that schools accept and accomodate most students with special needs.
The reform has had the opposite effect in some schools, according to Maggie Moroff, special education coordinator at Advocates for Children, with neighborhood schools creating self-contained special education classes for just a few students. "Those classes aren't fully populated," says Moroff, and since children must stay in their zones, there is no one else to fill those seats.
While a city contract with the UFT sets class size limits for general education classes at 25 students in kindergarten, 32 in grades 1-6 and 30 to 34 in middle and high school, special education class size depends on the student's Individual Education Program, or IEP. Those class size limits are regulated by the state. Kids with special needs may be in classes of 8, 12 or 15 students in a self-contained (non-mainstream) class. Or they may be placed in a co-taught class with general and special education students and two teachers.
Moroff says the city needs a waiver from the state to have overcrowded special education classes. She encourages families with children in over- or under-enrolled special education classes to contact AFC - it is possible to challenge a child's placement or file a complaint with the state, depending on the issue.
(Ed note: article updated 12:00 pm, 9/27/12)