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Ask Judy
Monday, 14 May 2012 12:17

Must I send my son to summer school?

Dear Judy,

My son’s teacher said he might have to go to summer school so he won’t be left back. Does he have to go to summer school? I want to send him to camp.

Annoyed parent.

Dear Annoyed,

Good news: No one is going to force you to send your son to summer school – attendance used to be required, but now is voluntary. However, they can keep him back from the next grade if his school work does not warrant promotion. It is all covered in Chancellor’s Regulation A-501. More good news, summer school sessions run until August 8th at the latest. So he can go to the last three weeks of camp – most camps have flexible schedules with campers signing on for a few weeks rather than a whole summer.

Published in News and views
Friday, 11 May 2012 14:13

Poll: Should teachers be paid more?

It’s the end of teacher appreciation week: the DOE's number two guy, Shael Suransky, taught a class, Chancellor Walcott has been visiting schoolsMayor Bloomberg and countless others shared some #thankateacher love on Twitter, and maybe a few students brought apples to their teachers. We wonder, how can we best show our teachers appreciation all year round?

There are several politically charged answers to the that question that have been highlighted in the news lately. But, what about better pay? It’s no secret that teachers aren’t in it for the money. Teaching can be a highly rewarding job but it is not a career path paved with financial gold. A public school teacher in New York City with a BA can expect to earn $45,530 his first year, according to the UFT’s salary schedule.

Still, that’s almost 10K more than the national average: $36,502, according to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s most recent survey of education from around the world. But the high cost of living in the Big Apple, eats up much, if not all, of the difference.

After three decades on the job NYC teachers with a Master's degree can make over $100,000. Of course if you luck out and get a job at TEP, The Equity Project Charter School, you'll make $125,000 your first year there. But that's the exception.

Average starting pay for teachers in Finland, Diane Ravitch’s favorite place to learn, is actually lower, $32,692 (of course, the Socialist country has much better government benefits, but that’s a blogpost for another day). Teachers in Japan make $27,995 starting out and $30,522 is first-year pay for teachers in Korea. In Poland, on the other hand, starting salary is $9,186 on average. Luxemborg is one of the best places to teach if you’re after some green, starting teachers there make $51,799. (All these numbers are from OECD.) 

With that perspective, maybe New York’s not so bad! Then again, teachers are some of the most valuable members of society, should we pay them more? What do you think is a fair starting salary? Take our poll!

Published in News and views
Wednesday, 09 May 2012 15:34

More tests, more boycotts

Fed up with multiple errors on state exams (including loudmouthed pineapples), some parents are planning to boycott "field tests" next week that will be used to design future exams. 

Students at more than 1,500 public and parochial schools in the city are among students at more than 4,000 schools statewide who will sit for the exams. The results will not be used to measure student achievement or evaluate schools, city officials said.

Organizers have launched a statewide campaign and are urging other parents to have their children abstain from the tests as well, providing sample letters and a fact sheet.

"Field test" questions were embedded in the math and reading exams students took last month, which was part of the reason the exams were longer.

Although this is not the first time stand-alone field tests have been administered and the exams will only take up a period or two for one day, some parents say they are in no mood to have their children "help" design future tests.

“I was very upset to learn that the DOE has mandated that our children take these field tests,” said Patricia Velotta, who has notified her son’s school that she doesn’t want her eighth grader taking the planned field test in June. “When I heard yesterday, after the relief of the ELA and math tests being over, that now they want to subject our kids to another week of field testing, I felt exasperated. Our children have had enough.”

The Pearson company's $32 million contract to create the new and improved exams has also rankled parents, who have seen school budgets slashed for several years in a row.

PS 321, PS 107 and PS 261, all in brownstone Brooklyn, are test sites and home to parents who have been vociferously opposed to the rising stakes of standardized exams. But the exams will be given in all corners of the city. Third graders at the elite Manhattan school Anderson will be quizzed on math. Sixth and seventh graders at JHS 125 in the Soundview section of the Bronx will take the reading field test. At PS 207 in Howard Beach, 4th graders will sit for the science exam.

The science field tests will be given between May 14 and 18. Students will take the English and math field tests between June 5 and 8.

For more information about the boycott, parents can email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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New York State’s standardized math and English exams for 3rd, 4th and 5th grades are over, except for the scoring and the remaining four years of Pearson’s $32 million contract to provide tests. Here’s a sample question that should be on a state exam but never will be:

Read the following story. At the end, answer four questions.

It was a sunny Monday morning in the Enchanted Forest, and the animal children happily scurried, hopped and slithered to the clearing where Owl taught 4th grade. As usual, Bunny was first to arrive. “I’m so happy, Mr. Owl,” said Bunny. “Monday has music class, so it’s my favorite day.”

Owl looked at Bunny. “We’re not having music class, remember? Today is the annual Enchanted Forest state math test. Instead of singing songs and playing the recorder, you’re going to sit your little cotton tail at a desk for 90 minutes and answer some questions.”

Published in News and views

With middle school acceptance letters due out in mid-May, parents of 5th graders may starting to feel anxious. Middle school, which once seems so far away, is hard at your heels. Will your child get in to where he wants to go?

After say, three different tests, after the tours, after listening to the somehow not reassuring mantra of school officials - 'Most kids get their first choice!' - more than a few times, you are now going to have your answer.

As the parent of a 6th grader I went through this process just one year ago. I can recall my feelings and thoughts pretty clearly. All along I tried to remember that every parent with a child in public school has to go through this same sort of agita. But the question of when those letters where arriving roiled up all my pent-up anxiety.

Published in News and views
Wednesday, 02 May 2012 12:09

New book by Insideschools staffer

Jacqueline Wayans, assignment editor for Insideschools.org and a co-author of New York City's Best Public School Guides, has a new book out -- this one for children.

If you were bright, talented and adored, would you trade it all in for the chance to be greater?

That is the question posed in Ambrose, a fantasy story of the snake in the Garden of Eden The book is designed to help young people understand that they are born with wonderful talents and abilities - but they must value these qualities or risk losing them.

The book that will appeal to many audiences: from parents who can read it to their pre-schoolers  to middle-schoolers who can think – and write about – the questions and quandaries it poses.

Published by Tate Publishing, Ambrose is available on wayanswork.com. You can like it on Facebook, too!

Jacqueline Wayans, assignment editor for Insideschools.org and a co-author of New York City's Best Public School Guides, has a new book out -- this one for children.

If you were bright, talented and adored, would you trade it all in for the chance to be greater? 

That is the question posed in Ambrose, a fantasy story of the snake in the Garden of Eden The book is designed to help young people understand that they are born with wonderful talents and abilities  -  but they must value these attributes or risk losing them.

This is a book that will appeal to parents who can read it to their pre-schoolers, as well as to middle-schoolers who can think – and write about – the questions it poses.

Ambrose is available on  www.wayanswork.com. You can like it on Facebook, too!

Published in News and views
Monday, 30 April 2012 15:06

Will there be pre-k Wild West waitlists?

It's going to be a Wild West waiting game for anxious prospective pre-kindergarten parents this year.

Even though acceptance letters don't go out until June 11, one Brooklyn school has already created an on-line waitlist in an effort to limit the chaos.

"We have not received any guidance from the DOE," said Charmain Derrell, parent coordinator at PS 9 in Prospect Heights. "We are organizing it ourselves so we're not swamped right before school lets out."

Siblings will get preference, and then it is first-come first-serve, Derrell said. But DOE officials warned that waitlists shouldn't be in place before parents know where their children have been accepted. They promised to clarify the process this week.

Published in News and views
Wednesday, 25 April 2012 14:36

Math test question won't count either

A week after a quirky, nonsensical tale on the 8th grade ELA test stumped students and resulted in the New York State discounting questions from the exam, two faulty problems have surfaced on this week's state math tests.

In his weekly letter to principals, Chancellor Dennis Walcott advised schools of errors in the 4th and 8th grade math books. One question has no correct answer, the other has two correct answers.

New York State Education Department chalked one faulty answer up to "a typo" and issued the following instructions for teachers who are proctoring the exams on Wednesday and Thursday:

  • April 25: Grade 8 Book 1, Form C only – question 13 has no correct answer. Students may mark any response; the question will not be scored.
  • April 26: Grade 4, Book 2, all Forms (A, B, C, and D) – question 58 has two correct answers. Credit will be given for either correct answer.
Published in News and views

Anne Stone is Associate Professor of Music at the Graduate Center, CUNY. Jeff Nichols is Associate Professor of Music at Queens College and the Graduate Center. They live in Manhattan with their sons Aaron and Gabriel. As a result of their 3rd-grader's experiences with a test-driven curriculum, they joined with other parents and teachers in Change the Stakes, a committee of the Grassroots Education Movement working on issues related to high-stakes testing in the public schools. They have published two pieces for SchoolBook: "Dear Governor: Lobby to Save a Love of Reading" and "A Lesson on Teaching to the Test from E.B.White". 

When people ask us why we are boycotting the standardized tests this spring, we hardly know where to begin. We find it unconscionable that our son's test results can be used to determine whether his teachers keep their jobs, whether his school stays open, and whether he goes on to the next grade. But the "high-stakes" nature of the tests is just the tip of the pineapple.

Published in News and views
Friday, 20 April 2012 15:17

Too many top-scoring tykes for G&T

A whopping 1,603 incoming kindergartners scored in the 99th percentile on this year's gifted and talented assessments. Out of 14,239 test-takers, 11 percent scored in the top one percent. You'd think this was Lake Wobegon!

The tests are supposedly designed so that one out of every hundred test-takers nationwide scores in the the 99th percentile. So either New Yorkers are 11-times smarter than people elsewhere (or only smart kids are taking the tests) or there is something wrong with the tests.

For the last two years, just over 1,000 kindergartners scored in the 99th percentile. Scoring between the 97th-99th percentile on the G&T assessments means a child is eligible for one of five citywide programs. But there are fewer than 400 seats for incoming kindergartners. And qualifying siblings of current students get first dibs at those seats. At The Anderson School, 16 of the 50 kindergarten seats will go to siblings. At NEST+M, siblings will get about 15 of the 100 seats; at Brooklyn School of Inquiry, there are 12 qualifying siblings and four at STEM in Queens.

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