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Ask Judy
Wednesday, 03 April 2013 11:36

Kindergarten countdown: The IEP meeting

As the day of my son’s Turning 5 meeting drew closer, a cloud of anxiety hovered over our New York City apartment. I had braced for a fight several months before, when our school-appointed social worker refused to observe Noodle at pre-K because she was “too busy.”  Just applying to our zoned school had sapped all my strength. The parent coordinator took ill one week before the DOE deadline and had not left anyone in charge.

Thankfully, by the last hour of the last day for applications, a living breathing human was able to take my paperwork and I signed up Noodle for kindergarten. After an in-person meeting and more emails with the social worker, we seemed on better terms. She agreed to visit Noodle at preschool, and gave me the name of a behavior specialist who turned out to be quite wonderful.

So by the time I braved snowfall in late March to reach our IEP meeting, I wasn’t expecting any surprises. Everyone seemed to be on the same page for next year: an ICT classroom (a mix of gen ed and special needs kids with two teachers, one of whom has a special ed degree) and occupational therapy. I’d already waged a war in my own mind: Will ICT be academically challenging enough for my chess-playing 4-year-old? Will being in a class with other struggling kids give him more opportunities to model bad behavior?  But I’d moved past these stereotypes. I’d done my research, spoken to parents of ICT students and talked Noodle’s teachers’ ears off about what was best for him. I was ready for a truce.

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Tuesday, 02 April 2013 11:34

Attend a new high school open house

On April 6 and 7, 8th and 9th graders who did not get a match in the first round of high school admissions -- or are unhappy with the school they were assigned to-- may attend the Round 2 Fair (pdf) at Martin Luther King Jr. Educational Campus in Manhattan from 11 am to 2 pm. Families will meet representatives from the 20 or so new high schools opening in September, plus established schools that still have openings.

Some of the new schools are also holding open houses before (and, in some cases, after) the April 12 application deadline; either in their assigned buildings or at different venues. Here's a listing of the open houses we know about so far. We'll add to it as we get new dates. (Remember that dates may change so confirm with the school's website, or by phone, before heading out.)

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My inbox has been flooded with questions about high school acceptances since 8th graders must decide by April 12 what high school offer to accept, or which school to apply to in Round 2. I've received several questions from families of students who were accepted by specialized high schools in addition to another school; others from parents who wonder why their children did not make the cut. This week I'll answer three of them.

Q: We have a dilemma, my daughter is now in Hunter and can continue there for high school. But she also got into Stuyvesant. Hunter is a long commute, Stuy is close to home; Hunter is smaller, less competitive and she has friends there. Stuy is stronger in Science, which is her strength. It also has a range of extra curricular activities that Hunter cannot match. Would it be folly to leave Hunter for a larger, less personal school?

You have a happy dilemma, and you have certainly laid out the pros and cons. It is really up to you and your daughter to make the decision. Have you been to see Stuyvesant? Did you get a good feeling about the atmosphere , kids, and teachers there? Are there any other kids your daughter knows going too? Keep in mind that students at large schools -- such as Stuyvesant -- often find their own community of frends and supportive faculty that make it seem smaller-- whether in sports, the math club, or SING. Yet, many families in 6-12 schools find it's easier just to stay put!

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Tuesday, 26 March 2013 11:21

Top 10 tips for choosing a charter school

If you’re unhappy with your neighborhood school, you may want to enter a lottery for a charter school. The deadline is April 1--so hurry. In most cases you can submit an application online. Get an application on the New York City Charter School Center website, on the individual schools' websites or at the school. (Some charter schools are open this week, even though the public schools are on Spring break.)

But which school? Here are tips for making your choice.

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For the third year in a row, Baruch College High School had more applicants than any other school in the city, according to the Department of Education.

Nearly 7,500 8th graders applied for 120 seats at Baruch, a selective high school in Gramercy Park that only accepts District 2 students. It had 1,000 more kids apply than in 2012. Two-thirds of Baruch students are Asian. The high school has a 100 percent graduation rate and solid college prep.

Pace High School in Chinatown and Eleanor Roosevelt High School on the Upper East Side were the second and third most popular choices.

Pace, which opened in 2004, accepts students citywide and does not screen its applicants. It had 6,040 students apply for 108 seats. About nine in 10 students graduated from Pace in 2012, and it does well with special education students. The student body is mostly African American and Hispanic. Of the top five most sought-after programs, Pace is the only unscreened school.

Eleanor Roosevelt, a selective school on the Upper East Side with a nearly perfect 2012 graduation rate, received 5,733 applicantsfor 125 seats. ELRO gives preference to students from District 2 and a majority of its students are white. It has a low poverty rate compared to other schools in the city: fewer than 1 in 5 students qualify for free lunch.

Townsend Harris in Queens ranked fourth, with 5,471 applicants for 270 seats, and Beacon High School was 5th, with 5,469 applicants for 330 seats.

Because the DOE released a list of the top 20 high school programs, Midwood High School in Brooklyn appeared twice. Its selective humanities program was the 8th most popular, with 4,361 applicants. And 4,343 kids ranked Midwood's selective medical science institute, making that the 10th most sought-after program.

Every school on the DOE's top ten list last year appeared on the top 20 list this year, and many of those schools were top schools the year before, in 2011

Thirteen of the city's most popular programs are selective high schools, which usually have high graduation rates because they weed out applicants who performed poorly in middle school. And five of the new small high schools opened under Mayor Bloomberg were among the 20 most popular.

One of those new small schools, the perennially popular Food and Finance barely made the "most popular" cut this year. Its unscreened culinary arts program had 1,000 fewer applicants this year than last, dropping it from the 10th most popular program to the 19th most popular with 3,600 8th graders applying for the school's 100 seats. 

Download the DOE's list of top 20 schools here [PDF]. These 20 high school programs received the most applications out of all the 400-plus high schools (and countless programs) in the city excluding the nine specialized high schools. About 28,000 kids took the Specialized High School Admissions Test for a shot at the exam schools, which offered seats to 5,229 incoming freshman for the 2013-14 school year. 

The top 20 list includes the number of 8th graders who listed the schools anywhere on their applications – it doesn't indicate how many students ranked the schools first. The DOE did not release the number of applicants for any other school.

 

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Here are some recommendations for high schools that still have room—either new schools opening in the fall or established schools that haven’t filled their 9th grade seats, according to the Department of Education "Round 2 program list."

Bronx

Westchester Square Academy, housed in Lehman High School, has seats in its new honors program. Founded in 2011 by the former assistant principal of Brooklyn Latin, Westchester Square has lots of good word of mouth.

For strong students, the Macy’s honors program at Dewitt Clinton High School still has seats. Although there are some concerns about safety and discipline in the building, the smaller honors program has challenging academics.

Bronx Design and Construction Academy is a new school that's off to a good start.

Bronx Latin has high expectations and a classical education.

Fannie Lou Hamer, Bronx Guild and Bronx Compass offer progressive, non-traditional education.

Bronx Collaborative High School, a new school housed in Dewitt Clinton High School, is modeled after the popular Institute for Collaborative Education (ICE) in Manhattan. Brett Schneider, former ICE assistant principal, is the new principal.

Brooklyn

Abraham Lincoln High School has a good photography program that still has seats. Overall, the school is better than its reputation and a good place for kids who can handle the huge size.

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Acceptance letters for high school went out today, and 90 percent of students got one of their choices. But if you are one of the 7,225 8th graders who didn’t get matched to a high school (or if you’re unhappy with your match) it’s time to consider one of the 16 new schools opening in the fall of 2013—or one of the established schools that still has space.

You can meet representatives from these schools at the second-round high school fair from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on April 6th and Aprll 7th at the Martin Luther King Educational Campus at 65th and Amsterdam in Manhattan.

Some of the schools will also have their own open houses. We've also compiled some recommendations for high schools that still have room.

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Friday, 08 March 2013 12:57

Ask Judy: Are state exams mandatory?

Dear Judy,

I have daughters in the 4th grade who are supposed to take the state exams this year. I'm told future middle schools will look at these exam results to determine acceptance. The stress my daughters are under during "test prep" is crazy. Is this exam really mandatory?

Fourth grade mother

Dear Fourth Grade Mother,

Yes, the standardized tests are required. Chancellor's Regulation A-501 makes that clear.

Whether or not you think that this system is right, I would advise you to have your daughters take the test.

Fourth grade tests are important because middle schools look at them to decide on admissions. Kids apply to middle school in the fall of 5th grade--before the results of the tests given in the spring of 5th grade are available.

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Q: My son just received an impressive-looking envelope inviting him to participate in the National Student Leadership Conference in Washington, DC. They make it sound like going will be a great thing for him to put on college applications, but will it really count that much? Will it open doors for him? If this is truly a great opportunity, I don't want him to miss out – but it's really expensive! What do you suggest?

A: Would participating in this program be exciting for your son? Probably so. Will participating add a line to his resume that will make a real impact on his college applications? The company organizing the program would like you to think so, but the real answer is: no.

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Parents whose children turn four this year may start applying for pre-kindergarten this week. Applications are available online now and the Education Department will host pre-K info sessions in all five boroughs this week, beginning in Queens tonight. Applications are due April 5.

Pre-K programs are housed in public schools or at local child care centers and community organizations, and are either half day (2.5 hours), or full day, (6 hours and 20 minutes.) The state mandates that each pre-k class may have a maximum of 18 students with two teachers. 

Applying for pre-K gives parents a first taste of New York City's competitive public school admissions process. Any child who was born in 2009 may apply, but admission is not guaranteed: Last year, 30 percent of the kids who applied for pre-K didn't land seats in DOE programs. 

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