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I am very concerned about the the direction that kindergarten is going. When will people realize these are babies, who deserve to play and learn at their own pace, mostly out and about in the world? Five year olds should not be taught material that's intended for 6-year-old brains, developmentally. Five year olds should not be asked to sit doing worksheets for hours a day, but that's what most teachers are doing now. Must I send my child to kindergarten? I would prefer to keep her away from all formal schooling until she is 6 or 7 (like the kids in Finland) but I am afraid I would be breaking the law.
Dear Kg concerned,
The last time I explored this with DOE staffers, I was assured that the object of the law was not to "go after" the parents who do not send their child to kindergarten. Their concern is for the kids who were not let into crowded schools because kindergarten was not required. You may keep her out of kindergarten but you must enroll her for 1st grade (unless you decide to homeschool -- more on how to do that below.)
As my eldest son prepares to enter kindergarten this fall, I can think of little else. I’ve entered charter school lotteries, toured our zoned school and the just-out-of-zone schools that we could get bumped to if ours fills up. Anyone I talk to who has a child or even knows a child is sure to hear about my worries: Is Noodle ready for the chaos of our local progressive elementary school? Would team-teaching or gen ed be the better choice? Would the structure of a Success Academy be helpful or would Eva Moskowitz beat all the creativity out of him with her much-vaunted four-inch heels? So the other day when my husband off-handedly asked, “You signed up for kindergarten, right?” I had to shuffle my feet like a nervous preschooler. “Um, no. Not yet.”
I have four days until the DOE application deadline. Considering that I’m the kind of person who has been known to RSVP to parties after they’re over, four days feels like an eternity. Still, I know I’m playing with matches. If something goes wrong and I can't register, Noodle becomes a pawn of the DOE, placed wherever there’s an empty seat. I’ve come close to applying. I really have. But things keep getting in the way. Doctor appointments, school tours and writing are just a few of my excuses.
Just scrambling to find all the paperwork to prove that I live where I say I live has been surprisingly difficult. Who gets Con Ed bills in the mail anymore? Pay stubs on paper? Please. After weeks of killing trees and commiserating with other moms, I finally have my packet ready: birth certificate, a copy of our lease, my husband’s W2, and a not-so-nice letter from the IRS that, though embarrassing, has our address on it. So what’s holding me back?
Quite simply, I’m just not excited. What should be a wondrous rite of passage for my son has become a subject of anxiety and compromised ideals. At the very mention of the word “kindergarten” I let out a large sigh, feel my blood pressure rise and launch into an increasingly well-rehearsed rant. In my quest to ensure that Noodle’s kindergarten experience is perfect, I’ve already made it unbearable.
Parents should submit applications for kindergarten by March 1, particularly if they want to explore options outside their zoned neighborhood school. You may apply directly to as many schools as you like: be sure to bring your child's birth certificate and proof of address. You'll find out in April if your child has a seat.
In most cases, you are guaranteed a seat in your zoned neighborhood school--whether you apply now or later in the spring or summer. But if you want to consider all your options (or if your neighborhood school is so crowded that it has a waitlist) now is the time to get started.
We've researched some neighborhood schools that may have room for children outside the zone, dual language programs and unzoned schools that select via lottery in Brooklyn and Staten Island, the city's largest and smallest boroughs. The city's new elementary school directory is another useful source of information. We'll offer another post on charter school options next month.
District 13: Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, part of Park Slope & Brooklyn Heights
Arts and Letters in Fort Greene is a highly sought after school that holds a lottery for kindergarten admissions. PS 133, a small school in lower Park Slope which was displaced for several years, is moving into a new building in September. It is now unzoned and serves both districts 13 and 15. It offers dual language programs in French and Spanish. PS 11 and PS 20 in Clinton Hill usually have space for out of zone children, even though PS 20 may not let you know until suimmer. PS 9 in Prospect Heights has a dual language program that takes native Spanish speakers from out of zone. PS 307 offers the only Mandarin Chinese dual language program in the district. PS 282 in Park Slope is a traditional K-8 school that is a top pick for many out-of-zone parents.
State math and reading exams will be harder to pass this year, Chancellor Dennis Walcott warned parents, and more children will likely fail. For the first time the state-mandated tests will be aligned with the new Common Core standards and, Walcott says, "will be more difficult to pass." In a break from the past, however, failing -- scoring a level 1 out of 4 - will not mean automatic holdover for children in grades 3 to 8.
Instead, the chancellor said in a letter to parents, the DOE "will look at students' overall scores-how many questions each student got right. Students with the lowest scores will be recommended for summer school."
Since 2004 when Mayor Bloomberg ended so-called "social promotion," all students who scored a 1 on either the reading or math exam were sent to summer school. This year students who score in the bottom 10 percent will be required to go to summer school and retake the exams in August, NY1 reports. The city anticipates that the number of students requiring summer classes to be promoted to the next grade will be about the same as last year.
The yearly high-stakes tests also affect admission to selective middle and high schools. Cut-off scores for acceptance may be lower this year, but Walcott said, "students who earn the highest scores-even if those scores are lower than in past years-will still have access to screened middle and high schools."
Students this year will have to read and respond to longer and more challenging passages than in previous years. Third graders will be expected to read 500-600 word excerpts from books such as Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach or The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles. Eighth graders will read 900-1,000 word passages from classics such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or Richard Wright’s Native Son. Third and 4th graders will have less time to complete the math exams than on previous years' tests. Test guides for every grade's reading and math exams are posted on the state education department's website.
This year's ELA (English Language Arts) exams will be given on April 16-18; math tests will be the following week, April 24-26.
Hearings began around the city last night regarding the future of 22 schools the Education Department has deemed failing and wants to close. In the midst of protests by students and parents clamoring for their schools to remain open, the DOE held out a carrot to students: they will be allowed to transfer to higher-performing schools.
Saying he felt a "moral imperative" to offer options to students in low-performing schools, Marc Sternberg, a deputy chancellor at the DOE, told reporters about the new policy shortly before school closure hearings began last night. Information about the transfer plan will be distributed to all affected schools and at hearings, he said. The Panel on Educational Policy will vote on the school phaseouts at two meetings in March at Brooklyn Tech. If they are approved, as is likely, affected students will receive an application to transfer in the mail. Families will have about a month to reply and will hear the outcome in late June, at the end of the school year. There is no guarantee that all students will get a transfer; priority will be given to the lowest-performing students, including those with special needs, Sternberg said.
About 16,000 students, from 61 elementary, middle and high schools, will be eligible to transfer. This includes the 22 schools that may begin to phase out this year, and 39 others which have already begun the phaseout process.
For four weeks now yellow school buses have not been running and parents of special education students are fed up. They are asking Chancellor Dennis Walcott to intervene and work with Mayor Bloomberg to get the buses running again.
In a letter sent to the chancellor on Monday by the Citywide Council on Special Education -- a parent advisory board -- the CCSE said that what it finds most "appalling about this is that you and the Mayor believe that the DOE has no responsibility in the current bus strike negotiations."
For many students with special needs, transportation is a mandated service stipulated on a students IEP (Individualized Education Plan). Alternative modes of transportation, such as taxicabs and car services, are not working out for many families, the CCSE said.
One out of every four of the most severely disabled students in District 75 is missing school due to the lack of bus service, the letter says. That echoes testimony given at a City Council hearing last Friday by Maggie Moroff of Advocates for Children and the ARISE Coalition. In an editorial in today's Daily News, Moroff writes that some 2,500 District 75 students are missing school every day.
"The city offered no plan for students who needed accessible transportation, no plan for children who needed an adult to accompany them to school and did not have a parent available, no plan for families with more than one child in different schools and no plan for families who could not afford to put out carfare twice a day and wait for reimbursement," Moroff writes.
Parents and administrators at Central Park East I and II say the Education Department undermined their efforts to grow into a middle school, giving away ideal "expansion space to a charter school just months after Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said no space was available," DNAinfo reports.
Central Park East I and II are sister elementary schools that teach hands-on, progressive learning. For the last four years, one or the other has been asking the DOE for space to expand and have been given various reasons why the DOE would not grant them permission.
"Every year it's another excuse," former Central Park East 1 principal Julie Zuckerman told Insideschools this week at Castle Bridge, the progressive, dual language elementary school she founded in 2012 in Washington Heights.
Last year, the DOE told Zuckerman they would not allow an expansion because she was leaving to found Castle Bridge. This year, space is the issue, CPE I and II were told.
But the DOE is phasing out JHS 13, which shares the Jackie Robinson Education Complex with Central Park East 1 and Central Park East High School, opening up ideal space for the progressive elementary schools and high school to expand into middle school grades, parents say. Instead, in a surprise move, the DOE granted JHS 13's coveted space to East Harlem Scholars Academy I & II. East Harlem Scholars Academy I is already sharing the Jackie Robinson building and plans to move into its own building once it's constructed. It will use the extra space in the Jackie Robinson Complex to expand into a middle school: East Harlem Scholars Academy II, according to DNAinfo.
Zuckerman said Upper Manhattan is saturated with charter schools and is seriously lacking progressive school choices. "In Northern Manhattan, there's not a progressive middle school," she said.
CPE II mom Raven Snook said she and other parents are planning to rally in support of CPE I and II growing to include a middle school at the Wednesday, Feb. 27 hearing at the Jackie Robinson Complex about the proposed expansion of East Harlem Scholars Academy. (For more information, download their flyer.)
For more on the story see DNAinfo.
My daughter will be entering kindergarten in 2013 and we have been zoned to a brand new school which is still under construction. I am wondering if I should take my chances for the new school, try for an established out-of zone-school or move to a neighborhood with an established school.
KG Mom in Manhattan
Dear KG Mom
New schools are enticing, and a bit scary. You picture a spanking new building with spic and span furniture, up-to-date facilities, bright lights and new technology. But you don't know much about the learning that will go on there. Like other parents, you probably have an idea of what you would like for your daughter. Some parents look for rigorous academics, some care more about the arts, others would like their kids to learn a second language and others look for great special ed programs. (And ideally there are schools that cover all those bases!)
Most parents want small classes and that is usually one of the plusses of a new school. True, in an established school you know what you're getting: usually a seasoned principal, set routines and an active PTA. But, in a new school, working with other families and staff, you will have a hand in developing programs and partnerships that will allow the school to thrive. If the principal is open to it, you can help set the tone and work closely with the school leaders. (Read about how some parents are already doing at PS 118 in Park Slope, which will open in September. They've set up a group called "Founding Families" and have their own Facebook page.) With just one or two grade levels, there will be an intimacy rarely found in a larger school.
A heads-up to families of kids turning four this year: Applications for public school pre-kindergarten will be available March 4 online, at elementary schools and at Education Department enrollment centers. Families must submit applications by April 5 and will hear about acceptances in early June. Applications for programs located in community based organizations (CBOs), such as Y's, preschools and other childcare centers, are separate and are available at each agency that offers pre-kindergarten. (There is rolling admission for those programs and some fill up quickly).
Any child who was born in 2009 may apply, but seats are not guaranteed. Programs are housed in public schools or at local daycares and pre-schools, and are either half day (2.5 hours), or full day, (6 hours and 20 minutes.) The state mandates that each pre-k class may have a maximum of 18 students with two teachers.
How do you find out which schools offer programs? Early in March directories will be posted online, or you can get paper copies at schools, daycare and Head Start centers and DOE enrollment centers. Directories of which schools are offering pre-kindergarten this year are online at the DOE's website but be aware that programs change from year to year.
Six in ten city schools have physical education classes only once or twice a week for 45 minutes, way below what the state education department mandates, according to a new American Heart Association (AHA) report based on a survey of public and charter schools in all five boroughs.
It's the city's youngest students who are most likely to miss out on vital PE time, says the Women's City Club of New York (WCC), a non-profit civic organization, that advocates for more physical education in all schools. Elementary grades do not have enough teachers citywide to meet state PE regulations, based on WCC's analysis of Independent Budget Office data. Yet, according to New York state regulations, the youngest children are supposed to get the most exercise. The rules call for daily physical educaton for grades K-3, three times a week for 4th-6th graders and 90 minutes a week for older students.
Middle school students have enough gym teachers and high schools, which require students to earn two PE credits in order to graduate, have a surplus of PE teachers, according to the IBO data.