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Wednesday, 31 October 2012 17:01

Brooklyn Tech houses 500 Sandy evacuees

Brooklyn Technical High School has been transformed into a shelter for some 500 evacuees, mostly from adult care facilities in the Rockaways and Coney Island. Brooklyn Tech is one of 76 evacuation centers (including many public schools) for victims of super storm Sandy. Classrooms have been turned into dormitories with cots. Department of Education employees are providing meals, but volunteers are welcome to help out.

When we visited this afternoon, some of the evacuees were outdoors smoking, others were seated at old-fashioned desks lining the hallways. Stacks of donated magazines and books were piled up in the lobby and a steady stream of volunteers came in to offer help. Several dozen volunteers, some Brooklyn Tech parents and teachers, all wearing orange vests, were already on the job, accepting donations of towels, which were in short supply, and offers of help. Volunteers are especially needed at mealtime -- from 6-7 p.m. for dinner, and before 9 a.m. for breakfast. 
 
For the Brooklyn Tech custodial and food services staff, it was a normal work day, as they mopped down the hallways and cleaned classrooms. The Education Department's food service workers are busy giving out meals but help is needed to help shepherd people to the 7th floor cafeteria, volunteers said.
 
There was no word as to how long the city's largest high school will be home to evacuees from flooded areas of Brooklyn and Queens and whether teachers and staff will still be sharing the building with them when they arrive back to work on Friday.
 
And, no word yet whether Saturday's specialized high school exam, to be given at Brooklyn Tech, is on or off. We'll post something as soon as we know. As of Wednesday, the DOE hadn't made a decision.
Published in News and views
Wednesday, 31 October 2012 15:16

Schools closed Thursday and Friday

Mayor Mike Bloomberg announced public schools schools will remain closed Thursday and Friday. He asked teachers to report to work on Friday, but students will not report until Monday.

Some schools are still without power, and some are being used as shelters for people evacuated from flooded areas.

Published in News and views
Monday, 22 October 2012 13:44

Gifted or not? G&T info sessions begin

UPDATE: G&T info sessions set for Bronx and Queens on Oct. 29 and 30 have been cancelled. The next one on the calendar is from 9-11 a.m. in the Bronx on Wednesday, Oct. 31 at 1230 Zerega Avenue. See the DOE's website for updates.

Information sessions explaining New York City's elementary gifted and talented program begin tonight in Brooklyn. Parents will learn about the admissions process, the assessments used and what to do to prepare their child for testing which takes place in January and February..

The meetings, led by Education Department officials, will cover the nitty gritty of local admissions, but they won't touch on bigger issues, such as: What makes a child gifted? Can it be determined at age 4?

In New York City, young children are considered eligible for G&T programs, based on the results of two assessments, one verbal, testing a child's ability to follow directions by listening to instructions,  the other nonverbal, in which a child must recognize shapes and patterns and how they fit together.

Elsewhere in the U.S. there is little consensus about what determines a child's giftedness, whether G&T programs are advisable and at what age they should start. There is no national definition for gifted and talented programs and criteria for entrance into such programs varies widely.

Gail Robinson, an Insideschools.org contributor, explores the larger topic of gifted education and what's happening on the national scene in three posts written for GreatSchools. Is your child gifted?  Gifted or Just Privileged? And, Your child is gifted...now what?

Parents who are considering G&T programs for their child might want to give the posts a read.

Published in News and views
Thursday, 18 October 2012 15:41

Park Slope parents see rezoning plans

Close to 200 parents and neighborhood residents heard Carrie Marlin, director of planning for the Education Department, present proposed zoning changes for popular Park Slope schools on Wednesday night at a meeting of the District 15 Community Education Council. Joyce Szuflita of nyc school help was at the meeting. Here's her rundown.

District 15 Community Education Council President Jim Devor said rezoning discussions began two years ago around the collaboration between District 13 and District 15 to build a new and larger building in the Gowanus neighborhood to house PS 133. PS 133 was re-located to a small Catholic school building, St. Thomas Aquinas, while construction is underway on the new building which will open in fall of 2013 and will serve students from both districts.

At the same time, two popular Park Slope schools, PS 107 and PS 321, were becoming overcrowded and conversation began about rezoning those schools.

Published in News and views
Wednesday, 17 October 2012 10:57

Gifted & Talented: What's new in admissions?

Families with four and five-year-olds signing up now for testing for elementary school gifted and talented programs may already know there is going to be a new, harder test for applicants this year. But there are other significant changes as well which affect both new applicants and students already enrolled in G&T programs who may want to make a switch. We spoke to Robin Aronow of School Search NYC who follows the G&T and school admissions scene. Here are some changes she noticed.

  • No guarantees: There is no guarantee of a placement even if you score at the 90th percentile or above. In the past, incoming kindergartners and 1st graders were assured of a spot in a district program providing they scored in the 90th percentile and the family listed all district options on their application. That is no longer the case. High scores will trump low ones and there is a possibility that not all students will get placed.

  • Scoring: Unlike previous years, scores will be issued both in percentiles and in composite scores. There will be many composite scores within a percentile creating greater differentiation. Percentiles will determine eligibility, but composite scores will determine the placement priority. In the past, only percentile scores were considered for both eligibility and priority.

  • Siblings: Sibling priority (meaning an older sibling is enrolled in a particular G&T program at the time the younger one starts) is now
    secondary to the score. In the past all eligible younger siblings got placed first; now only if composite scores are equal, do younger
    siblings get placed before other applicants.

  • Sibling applications: Siblings applying at the same time are considered separately. In the past, if both siblings qualified, the
    higher scoring sibling brought in the lower scoring one. This new procedure applies for twins and other "multiples;"
    now they are considered independently based on each's composite score. If twins have the same score they will be placed together.

  • Transfers: Students already enrolled in a G&T program may apply to transfer from one district G&T program to another, or from one citywide program to another through filing a Placement Exception Request or PER, at an enrollment office. In the past you could not transfer from one district or citywide program to another. Preference will be given to families with a "hardship," such things as a move to a different district, a sibling enrolled at another school, safety or medical issues. There's no guarantee that you'll get a transfer.

  • Openings due to attrition: You can accept an offer at a G&T program and still be considered for a school you ranked higher if it becomes available due to attrition. Last year once you accepted a district program, the process was over for your child.

  • Applying out of district: This year you can apply to programs outside your home district, but priority is given to in-district families. An
    exception is made for people who live in a district that does not offer a G&T program. (There are four of them this year.) In that situation, out-of-district applicants will be given priority in one or more of the programs in a neighboring district.

For more information, check out the handbook online and go to one of five information sessions, beginning Monday, Oct. 22, in Brooklyn. We'll post updates as we get them!

 

Published in News and views
Thursday, 11 October 2012 14:25

City-as-School students launch Lunch Line

What's on your child's school lunch tray this week? Want to improve it?

Check out LUNCH LINE, a mobile app and website which launched this week, created by students at City-as-School High School. LUNCH LINE allows you to post pictures and comment on your school's daily school lunch page and to join or start a school group to organize improvements and advocate for better food.

"It's a tool for parents," said City-as senior Emma Jenney who was one of 12 students in Naima Freitas' biology class last spring who designed the app with the help of an outside programmer and designer. "It's exposing school food in America right now which has been kind of a hidden thing."

As part of the project, students visited elementary school lunchrooms to see what young children eat and how much they throw away, she said. The students compared the average cafeteria meal offerings to those provided at some 30 schools which subscribe to Wellness in the Schools programs. Wellness schools offer alternative menus.  They use the same ingredients as those provided by the Education Department's Office of School Food, but they prepare the meals differently. And they train the kitchen staff on how to cook healthier meals.

Published in News and views
Tuesday, 16 October 2012 11:30

A teacher's POV: I assign homework

There is so much information flying around about whether homework is worthwhile or not, it's hard to know where to start. Just last week, the French president said that one of his educational reforms is to do away with homework because some students get help from parents at home, while others do not. A 2006 Duke University study, based on a review of 60 homework studies, found that homework is most beneficial  for students in 7th-12th grades, especially when there's not too much of it. 

Some schools assign a lot of homework while others don't give any. Some teachers within the same school give more than others. And some parents demand it while others hate it.  Beliefs about what is important differ from school to school, classroom to classroom, household to household. Who is right?  

I always assign homework. Beyond the debatable academic benefits, I think it teaches a life skill: responsibility. Some teachers hand out a packet on Monday that is due Thursday or Friday. I like to give homework each night so my students get used to bringing their work home, completing it and bringing it back the following day.  I might assign some work on Monday that is due on Friday, but for the most part, it's an evening ritual and I stay away from  weekend assignments   Do I assign hours and hours of busy work?  Countless pages? No. Never. As a 1st - 5th grade teacher, I never assign more than an hour, and for younger kids, just enough for them to practice a skill at home.  

Published in News and views
Tuesday, 09 October 2012 10:29

Ask Judy: Applying to middle school

Dear Judy,

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?

Puzzled parent.

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.

Published in News and views
Monday, 01 October 2012 16:33

Many failing schools were on top last year

Nearly a quarter of the elementary and middle schools marked failing on the 2011-12 Progress Reports were top schools last year.

The Education Department released those Progress Reports today and, in a statement, touted stable grades: “86 percent of schools did not change more than one grade from 2011” the DOE said.

But our analysis of the 102 schools that earned D’s or F’s on their Progress Report this year shows that severe instability persists. Of those failing schools, 24 earned A’s and B’s on their 2010-11 Progress Reports. PS 241 in Harlem, for example, went from a C in 2009-10, to a B in 2010-11 to an F this year. 

Even though a school’s progress report scores may wildly fluctuate, the stakes are high -- low grades on Progress Reports can lead the DOE to close a school. Schools that earn D or F on their progress report or schools that earn no better than a C for three years in a row are flagged for possible closure.

Center for New York City Affairs Education Project Director Kim Nauer says elementary and middle schools’ Progress Report grades are more likely to fluctuate than high schools' grades (to be released later this month) because the lower schools are graded on fewer factors. "When you have more indicators it gives you a better picture of the school," says Nauer, who co-authored a report on the DOE's data and accountability methods with Insideschools' Clara Hemphill. 

Published in News and views

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
secretary Donna Coyle, 718-638-3260 x 1300, or parent coordinator Charmaine Derrell-Jacob at 718-638-3260 X 1121 If you'd rather to talk with a current PS 9 parent, you can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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.

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