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Thursday, 07 February 2013 18:47

City schools score "F" in PE

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.

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Thursday, 07 February 2013 12:21

Parents active in planning new 'Slope' school

Kindergarten registration is underway at PS 118, a new District 15 school opening in September, designed to ease overcrowding at a few of the most popular Park Slope schools, including PS 321 and PS 107.

In fact incoming parents and Elizabeth Garroway, who is expected to be named principal, have already jointly decided to name the school after children's author Maurice Sendak, DNAInfo.com reports. It will be the Maurice Sendak Community School.

PS 118 will be moving into a former parochial school building, St. Thomas Aquinas, at 211 Eighth Street. That building has been occupied by PS 133, which will be moving back to its original location, with a newly constructed building, at 4th Avenue and Baltic. PS 118's zone was carved out of the western side of PS 321's zone, roughly comprising the area betweenThird and Fourth avenues and President and Sixth Street

Garroway, who has been an assistant principal at PS 321, is planning a multicultural approach for PS 118 "to prep students for college and the world," DNAInfo reports.

Parents have already started a Facebook page, PS 118 Founding Parents and are organizing to create a new playground and a garden. Families can meet with the principal and register for the school during her office hours at PS 133. Check the Facebook page for details. In addition to two kindergarten classes, PS 118 will get two much-needed pre-kindergarten classes, parents report.

Read more about the plans for PS 118 on DNAInfo.com and on the founding families website.

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Tuesday, 05 February 2013 15:26

Rally for more phys ed in city schools

City public schools with tight budgets and shared buildings struggle to provide adequate physical education, especially in our era of high stakes testing.

But prioritizing test-prep over PE is misguided, say advocates of physical education in schools. Studies show that, "not only does PE help curb obesity, but it also increases test scores and grades," said Amy Schwartz, chairperson of the Physical Education in City Public Schools Task Force, a project of the Womens City Club of New York.

On Thursday at 3 pm, on the steps of City Hall, the Womens City Club will join forces with the American Heart Association and City Council members Melissa Mark-Viverito, Robert Jackson, Letitia James and Gale Brewer to ask the city's Department of Education to right their phys ed wrongs and bring city schools up to state-mandated standards. The Women's City Club will release a new report, which "raises questions about the fairness and equity of PE provisions in City public schools," according to Womens City Club's website. The American Heart Association will  release theresults of its survey of PE classes in city schools.

In 2011, Womens City Club prompted Comptroller John Liu to audit the city's schools, revealing that most do not meet state-mandated PE standards: daily physical educaton for grades K-3, three times a week for 4th-6th graders and 90 minutes a week for older students. This latest report is based on data from the city's Internal Budget Office.

 

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Thursday, 31 January 2013 15:18

Plan now for winter break

Hurricane Sandy did away with the traditional week long winter vacation that celebrates both Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthday’s and conserves schoolhouse energy at the same time. This year all students get is a four day weekend. Here are some suggestions to make the most of it and take the opportunity to explore some free or very low cost -- and lesser-known -- attractions. Most are closed on Mondays, however, so plan those excursions for the weekend or Tuesday. 

Federal Reserve Bank: Act quickly for a chance for older kids (16 plus) to visit the fabled gold depository and learn more about the institution that has been so much in the news since the economy went south. Call  212-720-6130 for immediate information about ticket availability—a 3-4 week wait for tickets is typical but either you’ll be surprised or you can reserve for a future date. Tours last approximately an hour, and begin on the hour from 9:30 am - 3:30 pm daily.

The Wall Street area and the 9/11 memorial, South Street Seaport, and Chinatown all have charms of their own – you can stroll about or make plans to visit museums and landmarks.

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For pre-K families, 2013 is a year of big transitions. Our kids will be saying goodbye to the duck pond of preschool and jumping headfirst into the murky East River of kindergarten. Parents of kids with special needs have another hurdle ahead. The dreaded Turning 5 meeting” determines whether those currently receiving support for developmental delays and learning disorders will continue to get it…or not.

For kids like my son, who are on the border of general education and special needs, the Committee on Special Education (CSE) is a tough sell. And kindergarten, with its larger class sizes and longer days, is a demanding transition. CSE doesn’t make it easier. Now Noodle will have to fit into one of 13 special education categories in order to qualify. Suddenly my quirky, bright, wonderful, often-exasperating child who never really fit any label will have to—if we want him to keep getting help.

The problem is we’re not sure. After two years of PT (physical therapy), OT (occupational therapy) and SEIT (special education itinerant teacher), Noodle is doing great, but the road has often been rocky.

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For the first time ever families in three school districts that no longer have zoned elementary schools may apply to kindergarten online, over the phone or in person at an enrollment offices, the Department of Education said this week.

District 1 on the Lower East Side has long been a "choice" district, with no zoned schools. In November, Community Education Councils (CECs) in two other small districts, District 7 in the South Bronx and District 23 in Brownsville, voted to do away with zoned elementary schools, exercising one of the few real powers that CECs have.

The DOE just centralized the application process in the three districts, making it similar to pre-kindergarten admissions. There is only one application, with parents rankings schools in order of preference. In the city's other 28 districts, parents apply for kindergarten individually at each school, even their zoned school.

"The single application is more convenient for all families," said Gentian Falstrom, director of elementary school enrollment for the DOE. Many children in districts 7 and 23 already attend schools outside their zone. Unlike neighborhoods in the city where the schools are overcrowded, many schools in the South Bronx and Brownsville have extra room for students.

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Tuesday, 15 January 2013 11:15

Quinn: less test prep, more collaboration

Council Speaker Christine Quinn said she would focus less on standardized tests, give parents a stronger advisory role and extend the school day for low-income children if she is elected mayor.

You can watch her entire speech and Q&A session, sponsored by The Center for New York City Affairs (our parent organization) and Insideschools.org at the New School, here.

Without criticizing Mayor Bloomberg, Quinn implied that, if elected, her administration would depart from some of Bloomberg's education policies. While Bloomberg has focused on standardized tests as a way of measuring progress, Quinn said "testing should not be more important than teaching" and should not define schools. While Bloomberg has fostered competition among schools to outperform each other, Quinn said her administration would instead promote more collaboration by identifiying what is working and encouraging schools to share best practices. She pointed to New Dorp High School's literacy program as an example of something that should be expanded to other city schools. 

Charter schools are here to stay, Quinn said, but she suggested she would not expand their numbers significantly. "They're at a good level right now," she said. She pledged support to large high schools like New Dorp or Truman High School. Bloomberg's Education Department has closed dozens of large high schools in the Bronx and Manhattan, breaking them into smaller schools. Quinn said she supports the small schools, but large schools can be successful as well.

On the topic of closing schools, Quinn said she would like to see earlier intervention and mentioned a "red alert" system she would put in place to support "failing schools." "Instead of treating schools closings as a good in and of itself, we will treat it as a last resort," she said.

In another departure from Bloomberg, parents under the Quinn administration would have a stronger advisory role. She would like Community Education Councils to be elevated to the status of Community Boards, which advise city government on land-use. She said she's undecided on the topic of school networks, and welcomes parent input. The Bloomberg administration dismantled school districts based on a geographical area and replaced them with "networks" that may include schools from a number of boroughs. 

Notably absent from her speech were mentions of the teacher's union, except to say both sides should "lower the temperature" on the debate over teacher evaluations. She also was mum on special education, which the city has begun to overhaul.

 

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After weeks of back and forth, the yellow school bus strike will officially begin on Wednesday, Jan. 16, Mayor Bloomberg announced this afternoon in a press release.

Officials from Local 1181 Amalgamated Transit Union, the school bus drivers' union, confirmed that the strike is happening during a press conference, according to Schoolbook.

Yesterday, the city posted information online detailing what to do in the event on a strike and says it will hand out metrocards to all children who normally ride yellow school buses to school. The Mayor's office is also posting fairly up-to-the-minute news via official NYC.gov Twitter account and Tumblr blog. Or call 311.

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Updated 5:30 p.m. There will be a strike of the drivers and matrons of yellow school buses beginning on Wedneseday, the head of the union which represents the bus drivers announced late Monday afternoon. Chancellor Dennis Walcott on Sunday issued guidelines for parents on what to do if school buses stopped running. Marni Goltsman, the mom of a child with autism, says the bus drivers and matrons on her son's buses have been unfailingly professional and courteous and don't deserve a pay cut. This post appeared on her blog Capturing Autism.

Since pre-K, my son’s New York City school bus drivers and matrons have always been professional, punctual, and polite. This year, every morning as Brooks boards his yellow minibus, I watch the matron help him with his seat belt, and I know that she and the driver will look out for him because they understand that he can’t always speak up for himself. They both have years of experience with special needs busing, and because of that, my husband and I can wave goodbye to Brooks comforted by the fact that he feels safe and is in good hands.

I could go on indefinitely about the mind-numbing bureaucracy of the Office of Pupil Transportation when it comes to setting up routes and travel times, but our experience of the drivers and matrons in the field has always been positive.

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Thursday, 10 January 2013 12:29

Applying to kindergarten? Here's what to do

The official kindergarten application period ---  yes, you do need to apply to kindergarten – begins on Jan. 22 and goes through 3 pm on March 1. If you’ve got a child turning five years old in 2013, there are a few things you need to know.

Kindergarten is now required in New York City for children turning five during the calendar year. Parents may opt to keep their child out until 1st grade but schools may not turn away any five year olds. Even if a school is overcrowded, a seat must be found in a nearby school.

Submit an application, even if you are applying to your zoned school. You'll need to submit several documents with proof of where you live. Don't know what your zoned school is? Call 311. You apply individually to each school; there is no centralized application as there is with pre-kindergarten. The exceptions are three districts of "choice" (more on those below).

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