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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)
My daughter just started as a freshman at a specialized high school and came home the first day convinced that she will never like this school or be comfortable with the fit. She is interested in transferring to a smaller school that fosters creative and analytic thinking, community, and independence. My question is: How and when can a parent "know" that her child and the child's school are not well-matched? How would you advise proceeding?
Her father and I are concerned that if we wait too long to explore other options, any transfer spots for which she might qualify will be filled, that we will let he in for serious misery, and that she will just refuse to go to school (which she has threatened to do). On the other hand, it seems premature to conclude after a very short trial (today was her 4th day here), that we are dealing with a square peg/found hole situation, and not just an advanced case of what my mother would have called "the jitters."
I would also like to hear from other parents in this situation. My guess is that there are quite a few of us!
Sincerely, Freshman Mom
Dear Freshman Mom,
I put your question to a number of people – the mother of a high school student who did transfer after freshman year, a mother of two graduates of specialized high schools, a mother of an 8th grader who is researching schools right now, and the 8th grader himself. Here’s what the student had to say: “No one is going to like school the first day.” That is more or less what the others had to say as well. It takes time to adjust to any new situation and 9th grade especially is a huge change in a kid's life.
Believe it or not, 5th grade parents, it's time to start checking out your middle school options – the first middle school fairs begin October 3.
Different middle schools -- and districts -- have different application processes. There are schools you have to apply to in person, others that you list on an application provided by your elementary school and still others that require auditions and special tests. Sounds intimidating, but it can be mastered.
This month, you should figure out what schools your kid is eligible for so you can make sure to hit the district fair, sign up for a tour or request a test.
There are more students with special needs than ever attending Brooklyn's highly sought-after Christa McAuliffe middle school, but poor outreach has left one-third of the available seats unfilled.
The empty seats will not be filled this year, Education Department officials said.
The school let several general education teachers go in preparation for the creation of two Integrated Co-Teaching classes, in which general and special education students learn side by side with two teachers, one of whom is licensed to teach special education students. There were only enough special ed students to create one of the ICT classes. Nonetheless, the school is not offering Spanish to 6th graders this year and some art classes have been cut, parents said.
The problem was not a lack of interest among families of children with disabilities. Students applying to Christa McAuliffe, also known as IS 187, must take the OLSAT exam, which was administered in December. But parents were not informed of the special needs enrollment option until January. As a result, the school had fewer applications from special education students than the 25-30 seats that the DOE targeted. It got 4,000 applications for just 300 general education seats in 2010.
High School Goal Weekend – that’s what the Department of Education, Agency for Children’s Services and New Yorkers for Children are calling an extra effort to give a leg-up in the high school admission process to kids in foster families. The weekend coincides with the High School Fair, September 29 and 30 at Brooklyn Technical High school, in Fort Greene. AFCS is seeking volunteers, 21 years of older, to guide 7th and 8th graders through the choice of high schools and the application process.
It's only the second week of school but 8th grade parents in the know are already signing up to tour popular high schools.
One enterprising dad began emailing parent coordinators before school started and found out that he and his daughter snagged one of the last spots on a September tour of a large Brooklyn school.
Other parents waited by their computers at noon on the day after Labor Day to register for the Bard High School Early College tours and assessments in Manhattan and Queens. Registration began promptly at 12:01 pm.
How do you sign up for the tours and visits? Unfortunately every school does things a bit differently. The giant high school directory has an "Open House Information" section. Some schools like Bayside High School in Queens and Curtis High School on Staten Island give dates and times, but many do not. They simply say to contact the school.
Q: I am a senior in high school and I feel like I am way behind when it comes to applying to college. What should I do?
A: If you are just beginning your senior year, you have already been told how busy you are going to be. Do not get stressed! As far as the college planning part of your schedule goes, you have plenty of time -- you just need to prioritize your tasks and get going.
Here is my suggested “to-do” list for the next few weeks:
My granddaughter is three years old and my son and daughter-in-law are beginning to hunt for a pre-kindergarten for September, 2013 when he will be four years old. Can you offer any suggestions?
Your family is lucky to have an involved grandparent – I can see you are ready to research the field. There are a few steps that will lead you to the program that is right for your granddaughter and there is plenty of time to carry them out. However, be forewarned: Not all four-year-olds actually get a slot in a public school pre-kindergarten. Last spring 30 percent of the applicants were without a seat after pre-kindergarten acceptance letters went out. Although some seats opened up and parents could continue to apply over the summer, there are no guarantees.
Pre-k applications are last on the admissions line. In 2012 applications were due April 10 for programs located in public schools. The 2013 admissions calendar is not yet set but you can sign up on the Education Department's website for updates. As long as you meet the deadline, acceptance does not depend on when the application was submitted. For pre-kindergarten in community organizations such as Y's or Head Start programs, admission is on a rolling basis. You apply directly to the CBO and there may be additional requirements and in some cases, fees.