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Ask Judy
Tuesday, 27 November 2012 11:29

Ask Judy: Don't judge a school by its grade

Dear Judy  

We are researching schools for our child who will be entering kindergarten next year. All the reviews I’ve read have been wonderful; the teachers, the principal, kids, parents, new math program. So I was a bit surprised that it had a low grade on the 2011-12 NYC DOE progress report. Cou you could offer any more insight?

Prospective parent.

Dear Prospective parent,

Your experience confirms ours: don’t judge the school by its letter grade alone. The letter on a school’s report is shorthand for a number of different measures and it helps to have some technical knowledge and persistence to understand it. Your question is a timely one not only for families applying to kindergarten but for 8th graders looking for a high school too. High School Progress Reports for 2011-2012 were released yesterday!

Published in News and views
Tuesday, 20 November 2012 16:30

New charters target wealthier areas

The fifth graders, dressed in white shirts and navy slacks or shirts, sit in neat rows as the teacher offers up some basic principles of division. "How can you divide 0 into 64 pieces?" she asks, before telling them to write a definition in their notebook–taking care to write neatly and use complete sentences.

Down the hall, an English teacher offers explicit directions to another group of children. "If you do not have your written material, wait and put your hand in the air," she says. "Every binder should be zipped and standing next to your desk."

This middle school, Brooklyn Ascend in Brownsville, goes beyond academic basics–students read Shakespeare and study art, Spanish and music. But it smacks of discipline and tradition. The school's founder, Steven Wilson, says such routines avoid wasted time.

"We have a tremendous amount of work to do here to overcome deficiencies" that the school's largely low-income, black students arrive at the school with, Wilson says. "Teachers leading very purposeful activities are the way to allow our students to catch up and make a middle-class life."

For almost a decade, schools such as Brooklyn Ascend have represented the face of charter schools in New York City. Overwhelmingly black and Hispanic, they stress academics and discipline in their efforts to push children in the city's most blighted neighborhoods to excel academically.

Now, though, charter schools in Brooklyn have entered a new phase. Led by Eva Moskowitz, whose Success Academy network is the city's largest and most controversial group of charters, operators have started to open charter schools in more diverse and affluent parts of the city, including Williamsburg, Cobble Hill and Fort Greene. To attract parents in these areas, some schools now stress diversity and a more progressive curriculum...

(Read the rest of this story, "Charters Target Middle Class Brooklyn" on City Limits.)

Published in News and views
Tuesday, 20 November 2012 11:17

Online classes, school days added due to storm

The Department of Education will make up for the five school days and instructional time lost due to Hurricane Sandy, by taking away several vacation days and offering online classes to middle and high school students who have been severely impacted by the storm.

The February President's Day holiday week will be shortened by three days and elementary and middle schools will be in session all day on June 4, previously slated to be a half-day clerical day, the chancellor announced yesterday in a letter to families. 

Today, the chancellor said that middle and high school students who missed even more days of school because they were displaced from their schools or homes, will be offered online courses to help make up for time away from class and to help prevent "learning loss."  Online classes will be offered in English, math, economics, calculus, world history and Spanish, according to a DOE press release. The city's libraries will provide internet access to students who need it. The courses will be taught by teachers in iZone, the DOE's program which provides online tools to many schools, and others experienced in online instruction.

Published in News and views
Thursday, 15 November 2012 11:22

Parents organize citywide charrette

Are you looking to have a voice in deciding policy issues for your child’s education? Have you been concerned about what mayoral control of the schools has done to parent participation and what it will be like under future mayors?

If so, join the conversation and brainstorming at the first Parents’ Charrette on Dec. 8 at PS/IS 276 in Battery Park City, organized by a new advocacy group called NYCpublic.org .

The event will focus on the question: What might REAL “parent engagement” look like in NYC’s public schools?

Organizers Liz Rosenberg, Kemala Karmen and Dionne Grayman -- all mothers from Brooklyn -- are inviting parents from every district to join them in an all day forum called a “charrette”-- defined as an “intensive creative brainstorming session in which a mixed group of stakeholders generate workable ideas and collaborate on an action plan.”

Published in News and views
Wednesday, 14 November 2012 14:55

Child welfare after the storm

The day after Hurricane Sandy blew through the eastern seaboard, a social worker in Manhattan was frantic to track down a little girl on Long Island. The child is 2 years old and lives with her foster mother in a neighborhood that had been slammed by the storm. She had a tracheotomy when she was a baby, and needs a feeding tube to eat and an oxygen machine to breath. No one knew whether the family had been evacuated or where they were.

When the social worker finally reached the foster mother, it turned out she was at home, without heat or electricity. She’d been trekking to a nearby hospital to keep the girl’s medical equipment battery pack charged. “It wasn’t sustainable,” says Arlene Goldsmith, executive director of the child’s foster care agency, New Alternatives for Children. “But we hated the idea of separating her from the foster mother. That’s the last thing you want.” Instead, the agency—which had sent its fleet of seven vans to Connecticut to fill up on gas—was able to get hold of a generator. Once she had power, the foster mother also took in the girl’s brother, who’d been made homeless by the storm.

Even in normal times, child welfare is largely a system of crisis management: The city pays social service agencies not only to find foster homes for kids, but to provide services that prevent families from falling apart, working with parents before they come at risk of losing their children.

(Read the rest of this story, "Child Welfare in the Storm: What Happens to Vulnerable Families after a Disaster? "on the Child Welfare Watch blog)

 

Published in News and views
Monday, 12 November 2012 12:20

Free lunch in November, then price may rise

Breakfast is always free for students in public schools but this month, lunch is free too. The Department of Education announced that free lunch will be available to all students in November, thanks to help from the federal government in the aftermath of the superstorm Sandy.

In separate news over the weekend, the mayor's office released a plan that calls for students to pay more for lunch in 2013.

Students who do not qualify for free or reduced lunches normally pay $1.50 per meal. That price would rise to $2.50 according to a proposal by Mayor Bloomberg which would modify the current Fiscal Year 2013 budget to deal with a shortfall. The higher price would bring in $4.4 million, the New York Times reports. The plan would also do away with reduced price lunches, according to the New York Post.

But for the month of November, students eat for free.

Here's what the Office of School Food says on its website: "School Food is pleased to announce that all school lunches for all students will be free for the whole month of November. Thanks to a special federal waiver, all lunches are free to all New York City students for the whole month. While the City continues to recover from Sandy, we hope you will enjoy our delicious and nutritious lunches at no cost. As always, breakfast is free for all students daily."

Published in News and views
Wednesday, 07 November 2012 15:03

How to help schools in need

There are at least 43 schools still too damaged by Hurricane Sandy to reopen and many others which lost power and needed supplies. If you or your organization can help these schools, the Education Department has set up a way for you to do so.

The DOE posted a survey on its website asking for assistance from individuals and organizations. Those who can assist may simply fill out a survey, detailing what goods or services they can provide and how soon they can do so. The DOE will match the offers of help to the schools that need it.

Sign up here.

 

Published in News and views
Thursday, 08 November 2012 14:00

Parent Academy launches Saturday

Chancellor Dennis Walcott will launch the long-awaited Parent Academy this Saturday at Long Island University (LIU) in Brooklyn, with a focus on aiding families who are victims of the hurricane. But, in the aftermath of the storm, it's not clear how many parents actually know about the event or will be able to attend.

In an email invitation sent to parent leaders on Tuesday morning, Jesse Mojica, head of the DOE's Division of Family and Community Engagement, said that Hurricane Sandy made plain the need for the community to come together at this workshop and, "identify the opportunities and resources for not only student success, but also those outlets for aid in the midst of Hurricane Sandy." 

The workshop begins with an 8:30 a.m. breakfast and is open to public school parents, administrators and staff. The DOE and LIU, a partner in the Parent Academy, will provide guidance to help families apply for FEMA and other sources of disaster aid. Mental health experts will advise teachers and parents on how to deal with students affected by the disaster. Additionally, there will be three sessions at the workshop to tackle specific topics: preparing for parent teacher conferences, supporting better parent-teacher communication and, "how to become a more active and engaged participant in your child’s education,"said Stephanie Browne, a DOE spokesperson.

Published in News and views
Wednesday, 07 November 2012 14:31

G&T event reset, deadline extended

The Nov. 7 Gifted and Talented information session in Queens, cancelled twice due to storms, has been rescheduled.The new date is Wednesday, Nov. 14 at Frances Lewis High School, from 6-8 p.m. The Nov. 8 session at PS 121 in the Bronx is on. Education Department admissions officials will cover the G&T admissions process for students entering kindergarten, 1st, 2nd grade and 3rd grade in the 2013-14 school year.

Families now have until Nov. 16 to sign up for G&T testing for their children; that's a one week extension from the original Nov. 9 deadline. Most parents will submit the request for testing form online, but others may go to the enrollment office.

Parents who miss going to one of the sesions should be reassured that virtually all of the information covered in the sessions by DOE officials is in the G&T handbook (pdf).

One of the few bits of information not covered, that we heard mentioned at the Brooklyn and Manhattan sessions, was that 4-year-olds will not be expected to "bubble in" their responses. In fact, they are strongly encouraged not to do so. Parents who expressed concern that their children might be shy, or reluctant to go in to a room with a stranger, were reassured that all teachers administering the assessments are well-trained and accustomed to working with small children.

For more information, see the DOE's G&T page.

(updated Nov. 8 with new information)

 

Published in News and views
Thursday, 08 November 2012 12:39

Displaced kids don't need papers to enroll

Children staying with friends and relatives or in shelters after Hurricane Sandy have the right to enroll in the school that's closest to their temporary home--and they don't need the usual documents showing where they live, Chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a letter to parents this week.

The Department of Education doesn't know how many children are staying in temporary shelters or doubled up with friends, but the number is certainly in the thousands. Some 26,000 students have been relocated to a different school because their school has structural damage or no power, a spokesman said.

On Thursday night, the chancellor said that students in relocated schools could enroll in schools closer to their homes, rather than travel to their school's temporary location. The chancellor's statement came after DOE enrollment officers told families that "only students whose families were displaced by the storm can enroll in different schools, not students whose schools were displaced by the storm," NY 1 reported. When asked about this by NY 1 reporter Lindsey Christ, Walcott clarified that students in relocated schools could enroll in schools nearer where they live.

Some neighborhood schools are already seeing an influx of displaced students. About seven children from the John Jay High School shelter attended PS 321 in Park Slope on Monday, said Principal Liz Phillips. Five more children who were living with families in the neighborhood also enrolled on Monday. "We’ll probably get a few more kids where families with kids ending up staying in the neighborhood," she said.

"A lot of schools are getting an overflow of kids," said Jennifer Pringle, director of NYS TEACHS, which runs a statewide hotline for schools and families about the educational rights of homeless children. And as some shelters close and families are relocated to other living situations, she said, "You’re looking at kids who are going to transition through several schools."

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