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All schools should offer a "safe place" for children who wish to talk about last Friday's tragedy at Sandy Hook elementary school, Chancellor Dennis Walcott wrote in a letter to school communities and families today.
The letter, signed also by UFT President Michael Mulgrew and Ernest Logan, president of the principal's union, encouraged teachers to "give solace and support to your colleagues so we can be strong enough to take care of our students."
Included were suggestions of resources that teachers, school staff and families can refer to when helping children try to comprehend Friday's horrific acts such as Resources for Dealing with Traumatic Events in School, published by the University of Maryland's Center for School Mental Health.
Ever since news of the school shootings in Newtown on Friday, parents have been sharing resources and suggestions on how to speak to their children about what happened. Here are a few resources to consider:
- The National Association of School Psychologists -- Talking to Children About Violence: Tips for Parents and Teachers
- American Psychological Association - Helping Your Children Manage Distress in the Aftermath of a Shooting
- American Academy of Pediatrics - Resources to Help Parents, Children and Others Cope in the Aftermath of School Shootings
- The National Association of School Psychologists -- A National Tragedy: Helping Children Cope
- American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry - Children and Grief
- Massachusetts General Hospital for Children - Talking To Children About A Shooting
- Child Mind Institute - Caring For Kids After A School Shooting
- NYU Child Study Center: Talking with Children About Difficult Subjects: Illness, Death, Violence and DisasterHow can parents talk to children about community tragedies?
- American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry: Children: Firearms, Grief and Violence
And, after the jump, here are some tips from a social worker accustomed to treating victims of crime. Thanks to Park Slope Parents listeserv for sharing them.
Children who are five years old will now be required to attend kindergarten in New York City public schools, if an amendment to the city's admissions regulation is approved by the Panel for Educational Policy later this month. However, in keeping with the state law signed by Governor Cuomo in July, there are two exceptions: parents may choose to wait and enroll their child in 1st grade the year they turn six, and children who are home-schooled or in private school won't have to enroll in kindergarten when they are five.
Although this change does not exactly make kindergarten mandatory for all five-year-olds, advocates say it sends a message to schools that they can no longer refuse to admit five-year-olds.
"We have seen families turned away from schools with the explanation that kindergarten is not mandatory," said Randi Levine, project director for early childhood education at Advocates for Children. "Although children currently have the right to attend to attend kindergarten this change would make it very clear that schools are required to serve kindergarten students and are not permitted to turn them away."
We are researching schools for our child who will be entering kindergarten next year. All the reviews I’ve read have been wonderful; the teachers, the principal, kids, parents, new math program. So I was a bit surprised that it had a low grade on the 2011-12 NYC DOE progress report. Cou you could offer any more insight?
Dear Prospective parent,
Your experience confirms ours: don’t judge the school by its letter grade alone. The letter on a school’s report is shorthand for a number of different measures and it helps to have some technical knowledge and persistence to understand it. Your question is a timely one not only for families applying to kindergarten but for 8th graders looking for a high school too. High School Progress Reports for 2011-2012 were released yesterday!
The Nov. 7 Gifted and Talented information session in Queens, cancelled twice due to storms, has been rescheduled.The new date is Wednesday, Nov. 14 at Frances Lewis High School, from 6-8 p.m. The Nov. 8 session at PS 121 in the Bronx is on. Education Department admissions officials will cover the G&T admissions process for students entering kindergarten, 1st, 2nd grade and 3rd grade in the 2013-14 school year.
Families now have until Nov. 16 to sign up for G&T testing for their children; that's a one week extension from the original Nov. 9 deadline. Most parents will submit the request for testing form online, but others may go to the enrollment office.
Parents who miss going to one of the sesions should be reassured that virtually all of the information covered in the sessions by DOE officials is in the G&T handbook (pdf).
One of the few bits of information not covered, that we heard mentioned at the Brooklyn and Manhattan sessions, was that 4-year-olds will not be expected to "bubble in" their responses. In fact, they are strongly encouraged not to do so. Parents who expressed concern that their children might be shy, or reluctant to go in to a room with a stranger, were reassured that all teachers administering the assessments are well-trained and accustomed to working with small children.
For more information, see the DOE's G&T page.
(updated Nov. 8 with new information)
Information sessions about the admissions process for elementary school Gifted and Talented programs originally scheduled for this week will be held next week, the Education Department announced this afternoon.
In Queens, the information session will be held on Wednesday, Nov. 7 at Francis Lewis High School.
In the Bronx, the info session will be held on Thursday, Nov. 8 at PS 121.
Both sessions will go from 6-8 p.m. Applications for testing are due on Nov. 9. Parents should be reassured that virtually all of the information covered in the sessions by DOE officials is in the G&T handbook (pdf).
One of the few bits of information not covered in the handbook, that we heard mentioned at the Brooklyn and Manhattan sessions, was that 4-year-olds will not be expected to "bubble in" their responses. In fact, they are strongly encouraged not to do so. Parents who expressed concern that their children might be shy, or reluctant to go in to a room with a stranger, were reassured that all teachers administering the assessments are well-trained and accustomed to working with small children.
For more information, see the DOE's G&T page.
UPDATE: G&T info sessions set for Bronx and Queens on Oct. 29 and 30 have been cancelled. The next one on the calendar is from 9-11 a.m. in the Bronx on Wednesday, Oct. 31 at 1230 Zerega Avenue. See the DOE's website for updates.
Information sessions explaining New York City's elementary gifted and talented program begin tonight in Brooklyn. Parents will learn about the admissions process, the assessments used and what to do to prepare their child for testing which takes place in January and February..
The meetings, led by Education Department officials, will cover the nitty gritty of local admissions, but they won't touch on bigger issues, such as: What makes a child gifted? Can it be determined at age 4?
In New York City, young children are considered eligible for G&T programs, based on the results of two assessments, one verbal, testing a child's ability to follow directions by listening to instructions, the other nonverbal, in which a child must recognize shapes and patterns and how they fit together.
Elsewhere in the U.S. there is little consensus about what determines a child's giftedness, whether G&T programs are advisable and at what age they should start. There is no national definition for gifted and talented programs and criteria for entrance into such programs varies widely.
Gail Robinson, an Insideschools.org contributor, explores the larger topic of gifted education and what's happening on the national scene in three posts written for GreatSchools. Is your child gifted? Gifted or Just Privileged? And, Your child is gifted...now what?
Parents who are considering G&T programs for their child might want to give the posts a read.
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.
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.
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
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)