Search News & Views
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)
Gifted and Talented programs only serve about one percent of children nationwide, says the Fordham Institute's Chester E. Finn, who authored a new study of G & T programs in the U.S., and says too many deserving kids don't have access to them. In a must-read New York Times op-ed piece, Finn argues that the nation's high-performing students are being neglected: "Mostly, the system ignores them, with policies and budget priorities that concentrate on raising the floor under low-achieving students. A good and necessary thing to do, yes, but we’ve failed to raise the ceiling for those already well above the floor."
I'm guessing that hundreds of New York City parents whose kindergartners scored in the 99th percentile on G&T exams last spring but failed to score a seat in one of the five citywide G&T program might agree with Finn. What do you think? Do G&T programs deserve more attention (and more of our limited school funds)? Take our poll!
(By the way, this month 4th and 5th graders who applied for G&T seats over the summer will find out whether they scored one of the very few seats available to them. And, a few more offers may be made for K-3 G&T seats, according to a letter sent to principals asking them to report any "attrition-based" openings by Sept. 19.)
Is it Meet The Teacher Night? Back To School Night? Curriculum Night?
Whatever your child’s school calls it, parents generally arrive with high expectations and leave disappointed, feeling that they didn’t get enough time with their teacher or weren't able to ask enough questions because they didn’t know what to anticipate.
Let me explain what you can realistically expect. Your kid’s teacher(s) will introduce themselves and hopefully provide an overview of the year. No, you’re not going be able to drill your teacher about how your child is doing after 10 days in school or why the cafeteria is so loud, but you can anticipate getting a pretty good idea about what is going to happen in the classroom.
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.
Thank you, dear parent, for providing classroom school supplies. But in addition to the paper, felt-tip markers, pencils, tape, baggies, folders, notebooks, Kleenex, toilet tissue, hand sanitizer, bandages, splints, slings, surgical sponges, latex gloves, lice combs, coxsackie detection kits and four bottles of cabernet that we requested for the classroom, we’d like to recommend you stock up on a number of items for your own home.
-- A damn good pencil sharpener: Sure, this seems simple, but this crucial item actually will be difficult to find. The solid, trusty pencil sharpeners with those finger-swallowing rotating blades that you recall from your own school days have gone the way of Atari Pong. In their place are battery-operated bits of cheap plastic that put safety ahead of sharpness. They’re no match for the hardwood in a No. 2 Ticonderoga. To find the Real Deal, we suggest you scour antique stores or salvage yards, or perhaps bring a screwdriver and a sack with you next time you visit your old school during homecoming week.
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.
The beginning of a new school year can be exciting -- and confusing. Some very helpful information is now available for families of students with disabilities. A new fact sheet from Advocates for Children is online in both English and Spanish.
It covers a range of issues that often crop up at the beginning of school, including:
For many children with special needs, the start of school will be a smooth process, but if it's not, you can get in touch with Advocates for Children for advice and assistance. Their help line at (866) 427-6033 is staffed Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.
I know you’re busy. I know you work three jobs, are taking care of an aging parent, are getting a divorce, have health issues, have kids in two different schools and you breathe a sigh of relief when your kid goes to school in the morning and you know someone else is in charge, if only for a little while. I get it. But I do need one thing from you. I need to know you’re there.
It doesn’t need to be much. A signed permission slip, submitted on time. A response to a question or a question sent to me about an assignment, or even a critique. Just something to let me know that there is a living, breathing parent out there that is keeping an eye on their child and their classroom life.
High school students who are new to New York City or who are re-entering city schools after a time away, may register at special enrollment centers opened on Aug. 28 in all boroughs. The centers are open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. through Sept. 14, with the exception of Labor Day.
Elementary and middle school students who have zoned neighborhood schools have to wait until the first day of school, Sept. 6, to register at the school. In areas where there is middle school choice or no zoned schools, families should go to a registration center.
The centers are designed for new students and students who aren't yet assigned to a school but in the past, enrollment staff has been able to help some students who needed a transfer or different school placement.
All special education students who have a current IEP (Individualized Education Plan) may enroll directly at their zoned schools on Sept. 6. Those without an IEP need to go to an enrollment center or to a special education site.
Students must be present to register. And, paperwork, including proof of address is required. See the Department of Education's website for all the details.
See GothamSchools rundown on what's happening at the centers this week as parents rush to register their children before opening day.
Here's a list of the centers:
Theodore Roosevelt Campus
500 East Fordham Road
1301 Zerega Avenue (enter on Parker Street)
Brooklyn Tech High School
29 Fort Greene Place (use the South Elliott Place entrance)
Clara Barton High School
901 Classon Avenue
FDR High School
5800 20th Avenue
A.Philip Randolph High School
443 West 135th Street
The High School for Fashion Industries
225 West 24th Street
Thomas Edison Career & Technical Education High School
165-65 84th Avenue
Long Island City High School
Michael J. Petrides School
715 Ocean Terrace, Building C
The Islamic Circle North America will give away 5,000 backpacks stuffed with school supplies to needy children tomorrow, August 25, in sites around the city. The giveaway is part of a national campaign to distribute 30,000 stuffed backpacks to children in need of any religious faith.