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I just read the news on your site about lower NYC ELA and Math standardized test scores. My son is a soon-to-be 8th grader and this news is devastating. I haven't yet seen his score but I know that many screened/selective high school programs require a minimum of 3 on state standardized tests. Will admissions policies change in these schools in recognition that kids were tested on new standards they never learned? What advice do you have in navigating the high school admissions process for those who will begin the process this fall?
Concerned Parent in Brooklyn
Dear Concerned Parent in Brooklyn,
As you know, as of this week parents can access their child's test scores on ARIS. In fact, DOE officials are at city libraries to help parents access the scores and to explain them. If you have questions about your child's test and want to review it, you can ask the principal to set up an appointment for this purpose. You have to fill out a request and a professional will show it to you. This year, only some of the exam questions and answers will be shown. For general information, some of the questions are available online.
Many parents have complained that the percentile range shown on ARIS is too wide to be of use to determine if their kids are eligible for some of the highly selective schools. So far there is no word as to when more specific percentile information will be available.
As of yet,there has been only a little discussion of how the schools will handle these very low scores. We do know that in the spring, just after kids took the state tests, a group of principals distanced themselves, vowing to ignore results of what they saw as faulty and unfair tests.
On the eve of the release of this year's New York state exam scores for 3rd-8th graders, city, state and national education officials attempted to cushion the blow of what is expected to be a significant drop in test scores.
City and state education departments have been warning parents for months that student proficency rates would drop this year, after the state introduced new tests aligned with the Common Core. The Common Core is a set of national education standards that have been adopted by 46 states and are supported by the nation's education secretary, Arne Duncan.
The drop was confirmed today by Duncan, who joined state Education Commissioner John King and city Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky on a conference call with reporters. They said that although test scores will dip, New Yorkers should take a long view and recognize that adopting the Common Core standards will better prepare students for success after high school.
“As a country we’ve had low standards for decades,” Duncan said. “It is the right thing to move forward, it isn’t easy.”
In 2012 about 28,000 students took the Specialized High School Admissions Test and only 5,229 were offered seats at the exam high schools. Up against these odds, hundreds of hopeful rising 8th graders attended the Department of Education’s July 30 specialized high school workshop to learn about the admissions test and the specialized schools.
“I’m not going to kid you, this is not an easy test,” said DOE representative Leonard Tretola, who gave an overview of the admissions process to the crowd at Fashion Industries High School in Manhattan. Trerotola advised that applicants closely review the specialized high school handbook, which “clearly explains everything you need to know about the admissions and testing process.”
There’s no downside to taking the exam, known as SHSAT. Trerotola suggested reading to prepare for the exam, but parents concur that your chances of acceptance are slim without doing test prep. Trerotola also covered the timeline for the specialized high school admissions process, which can be found here.
I'm a parent who'd like to introduce a Peer Mediation Program to my daughter's principal. Can you provide information on any services that might provide training to staff members and students alike and are approved by the NYC DOE.
PSP (Problem solving parent)
If your principal doesn't already know about peer mediation, it's a good job for you to introduce it to him. But principals should know, peer mediation is among several recommended steps under the city's Discipline Code to solve programs without resorting to the most exteme punishments.
With peer mediation, kids work with each other to figure out why a specific problem occurred and how students can solve it. The program not only avoids violence, it develops leadership skills in the children who attend peer mediation training. There are programs which are apt for elementary, middle and high schools.
Like other great additions to a school, it won't just spring into action. If you really want peer mediation in your school, you need to start preparing now. Contact not-for-profit organizations that do peer mediation training, find out what staff they use and how much your school may have to pay. Contact schools with successful programs, to find out what school staff is needed and how they keep the program going.
Mexicans are both the fastest growing and youngest major ethnic group in New York City, with nearly half under the age of 25. Yet only 37 percent of the city's Mexican population, ages 16-24, are enrolled in school, according to a new report by Feet in Two Worlds, at the New School's Center for New York City Affairs. Foreign-born Mexican-Americans have a particularly high dropout rate, as do young men.
A new podcast explores the high dropout rate among Mexican youth and reports on efforts by schools and community groups to reverse the trend. It finds that poverty and a lack of English language proficiency are major contributing factors. In addition, some undocumented students say they are given erroneous information by school guidance counselors.
Listen to the podcast on Fi2W.org.
The next mayor must ensure fair funding for underserved schools and reduce focus on standardized tests, according to A+ NYC, a coalition of education reform organizations. Yesterday A+ NYC released the PS 2013 Education Roadmap, a proposal for the next mayor's first 100 days in office.
Rather than view students simply as test-takers, the next mayor needs to look at the "whole child," who needs to be mentally and physically healthy, and develop social skills, they said.
A+ NYC held a highly attended July 24 event at Brooklyn Borough Hall to promote its proposal. Natasha Capers from the Coalition for Educational Justice (CEJ) spoke to hundreds of parents, highlighting the proposal's "whole child" philosophy. "Optimal learning cannot happen without healthy bodies and safe spaces...we know this from research," Capers said.
Capers cited cuts to the arts and after school programs and rising class sizes as damaging to students' education from the "whole child" perspective. She also noted that the number of police personnel in schools is 70 percent higher than the number of guidance counselors, a statistic she believes needs to change.
On July 16, the Education Department held the first in a series of summer high school workshops for rising 8th graders and their families. The DOE hosts these workshops every summer to help 8th graders and their families prepare for the complicated high school admissions process.
Hundreds of parents, guardians and students attended the 90-minute session at Prospect Heights Educational Campus; many left saying they felt better prepared for the high school search. The workshop "gives you a starting point to look at the madness and see what you need to be doing," said Khen P. Brady, the parent of an 8th grader.
The DOE's Maurice Frumkin led the presentation, walking students through the phone book-sized high school directory and highlighting a few key recommendations for choosing a high school.
It's summertime and many families are on the move. Whether moving from one borough to another, from the city to the suburbs or to New York City from another state, which school a child will attend is a huge factor in family plans. This week’s inbox was full of questions from families on the move. Here are a few of them.
Can I still go to my charter school?
Q: We are moving to Yonkers in the summer and were wondering if our son can continue attending the Bronx charter school that he has been going to since 1st grade.
A: Yes, your son may continue to attend the city charter school. Here is what the Department of Education Office of Charter Schools told me in an email:
"If a family moves out of the five boroughs, but wants to continue sending their child to a charter school in the city, then the charter school would bill that district the cost of the per-pupil allocation of that school.
Similarly, if a child moves to the city, but chooses to continue attending a charter school outside of the city, then the charter school would bill the district of residence for the allocation for that student"
There is a big BUT:
"If a student moves out of the state, then the family would have to pay tuition and the school would not receive per pupil dollars."
Wondering what it might cost to get your kids to help make the world a better place? Parents willing to fund volunteer work might find promises like these:
“An unforgettable summer! Kayaking! Horseback riding! Service and Surf!”
Over the years, there have been plenty of articles about the price of tagging turtles or monitoring zebras – and how little it will help with college admission. I remember reading about one such trip to Fiji a few years back where a student spent more than $3,295 to work – and enjoyed the infinity pool and view of the ocean.
None of this was what I had in mind when we first started contemplating New York City public high schools a few years back. At the time, I was particularly impressed by schools like Beacon, where community service is part of the program. In some parts of the U.S., a minimum of 20 hours of service is required for graduation, so the volunteer work is all part of the curriculum. Some city high schools require it, others simply suggest it.
Evening workshops about the high school admissions process for 8th graders and their families begin this week. Enrollment officials from the Department of Education wll lead information sessions and answer questions about the types of high school programs offered and how to apply. All sessions run from 6:30-8 p.m. Insideschools will be there too!
The first workshop is Tuesday, July 16 at Prospect Heights High School in Brooklyn; on Wednesday, July 17, there will be a workshop at New Dorp High School on Staten Island and on Thursday, July 18, the Manhattan info session will be held at Fashion Industries High School.
Workshops about the city's nine specialized high schools, which admit students based on an exam or audition, also begin next week. The first session is at Staten Island Tech on Wednesday, July 24, followed by Brooklyn, at Prospect Heights, on Thursday, July 25. The following week, the specialized workshops will be at Fashion Industries onTuesday, July 30; Francis Lewis in Queens on July 31 and the final one at Lehman High School on Thursday, Aug. 1.
Summer specialized high school test sign up & prep
Specialized high school handbooks, including a sample test, will be available at the information sessions. Most students do some prep work or take a course before sitting for the 2 hour and 30 minutes test, which is given in October to 8th and 9th graders.
Some community organizations offer free test prep. One such group is La Casa Azul Bookstore in East Harlem, which is working with a local tutoring company to offer a 20 hour preparatory course, according to the DOE. For more information, email info.lacasaazul@gmail.
Incoming 9th and 10th graders who moved to New York City after last fall's specialized high school exam may sign up for the August 26 SHSAT exam, and the audition for LaGuardia High School, beginning on July 15 at enrollment offices. The last date to sign up is Aug. 21. See more information here.
Wondering where/how to begin your high school search? Check out our "how to apply to high school" video series.