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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.
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 youngersiblings 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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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 AskaPS9parent@gmail.com.
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.
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.