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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.
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.