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Department of Education Chancellor Dennis Walcott presented a five-point plan to increase parent engagement on Wednesday night, proposing the creation of "parent academies" in every borough, and the introduction of a system to rate schools' parent involvement efforts. High school Progress Reports released earlier this week showed that many graduates are not prepared to do college-level work. Walcott said on Wednesday that schools alone cannot boost college-readiness and the effort must involve students and families as well.
He delivered his agenda to an invitation-only audience of parents, Tweed officials and school staff with Jesse Mojica, the DOE's director of Family and Community Engagement, at his side. The chancellor, the grandparent of a public school student, promised to improve communication between the DOE and parents and presented a new online hub to distribute information to parents: http://schools.nyc.gov/parentsfamilies.
Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr will join education historian Diane Ravitch, Pedro Noguera and other education policy heavy-hitters at the first-ever Bronx Education Summit, Saturday, Oct. 15 at Lehman College.
Dr. Ravitch will deliver the keynote speech, "Improving Education for the Children of the Bronx," in the morning, followed by break-out sessions for parents and teachers on topics including early childhood, special education and English language learning. Our own education experts Jacqueline Wayans, Insideschools assignment editor, and Kim Nauer, education project director at our parent organization the Center for New York City Affairs, will participate in a panel discussion about parent involvement from 10:45 to 11:45 a.m. In the afternoon, a panel of local education policy experts will discuss education in the Bronx, "from cradle to career."
A full schedule is available on the Bronx Borough President's website, though unfortunately, at this time, it appears that registration is closed. For those looking for advice from Jacqueline Wayans, it's not too late to register for her Oct. 25 workshop at City College, "Choosing the Right School for Your Child."
Sex education classes will start in the spring semester at all of the city's public middle and high schools. When the initiative was announced in August, a poll of Insideschools readers showed that more than 40% of you thought these classes were long overdue, and another 16% thought that schools were already mandated to teach sex ed.
Today Gotham Gazette published an in-depth report, Sex Education in the City, which details the prevalence among city teens of sexually-transmitted diseases and quotes teachers and public health advocates who believe the mandated classes are not comprehensive enough.
All that is required under the plan is that schools offer "sex education lessons during one semester in both middle and high school," reports Gotham Schools, and parents can opt their children out of the classes.
Read also about the history of sex education in NYC schools, and about the mandated HIV/AIDS curriculum in the full report.
We at Insideschools face a mighty task — keeping up with all the city schools.
If we visited one school every school day, it would take us nearly 10 years to get to all 1,700 of them. Increasingly we depend on the Insideschools community — public school parents, students and educators-- to let us know what’s happening. What did we get right, what didn’t we get right? What’s changed since our visit? Our paid staff consists of two full-time editors, plus freelance writers and part-time reporters, and we can't do it alone.
District 3 is holding an elementary school fair to showcase its 21 public elementary schools. On Saturday, Oct. 15, principals, teachers, students and parents will be on hand to talk up their schools and explain the admissions process. District 3 schools include neighborhood schools, schools that have brand new magnet-themed programs to attract students from outside the zone, French and Spanish dual language programs and gifted and talented programs.
The fair is sponsored by the Community Education Council (CEC) and the district President's Council. It runs from 10 am to 1 pm at PS 165, 234 West 109th Street, between Broadway and Amsterdam. It is the first such elementary school fair that we have heard about this year. Any others planned? Post the event on the calendar and share the news through in comments below. Also see the District 3 forum for individual school tours.
A standing-room-only crowd greeted Department of Education presenters at the first of six Gifted & Talented information sessions, held Oct. 5 on the Upper West Side. It was a "friendly, lively and through description of the G&T application process," according to Robin Aronow of School Search NYC, with three DOE representatives speaking for more than an hour, and answering parents' questions for another half-hour.
Virtually all of the information presented is detailed in the G&T Handbook, hardcopies of which were available that night (before they ran out) as well as on the DOE's G&T webpage. The handbook describes the process, includes frequently asked questions, an admissions timeline and a practice OLSAT (Otis-Lennon School Ability Test) by age. The OLSAT is one of two measures that will be administered to children applying for kindergarten through 3rd grade, along with the BSRA (Bracken School Readiness Assessment). The DOE will be looking for a new assessment next year when the current contract with the testing company, Pearson, expires.
There are three G&T sessions remaining: Oct. 11 in Queens, Oct. 12 and 18 in the Bronx and Oct. 18 in Brooklyn. Is it worth attending? Probably not, if you read the handbook carefully, but if you like to hear information directly from the enrollment office or have additional questions, you might benefit.
Parents of prospective kindergartners in some New York City neighborhoods tour elementary schools the way families elsewhere visit colleges, (although they may not bring their 4-year-olds along).
Discovering and keeping track of what schools to visit when can be a challenge. Robin Aronow of SchoolSearchNYC has done preliminary research and compiled information about tours at some Manhattan schools. We've posted those dates on our new District 2 and District 3 pages and we'll add information about schools in other districts if we get it.
The first day of 1st grade typically holds a few unpleasant surprises, and Thursday's start of the school year was no exception. The most serious problem was rain, which at my daughter’s elementary school meant returning students were quickly handed off to unfamiliar adults at the door rather than allowed to gather in classroom groups in the playground.
For me, rain meant no meeting the new teachers, no leisurely mingling with parents, just a quick goodbye to my nervous 5-year-old as she was whisked inside the building. The coddling my daughter and I experienced in kindergarten, when camera-toting parents were allowed to accompany their darlings from a secluded gathering spot to the new classroom, had been replaced by institutional efficiency. The first day of kindergarten is a once-in-a-lifetime moment, but the first day of 1st grade is more like your second wedding: You know a lot more about what awaits, and you don’t get as many presents or take as many photos.
Second unpleasant surprise: After watching my daughter disappear, I walked 10 paces and realized I was still holding her backpack.
Your 5-year-old is guaranteed a seat in kindergarten whenever you register—whether months in advance, the first day of school or even after the school year has begun. However, it’s best to apply early if you hope to enroll in an overcrowded neighborhood school, or if you want to explore other options. Most schools offer tours in January and February, with applications due in March.
In general, your child is guaranteed a seat in your zoned neighborhood school. (Call 311 to find out which school that is.) In recent years, however, some very popular schools have become so overcrowded that they cannot accommodate all the children who live in their zone. In these cases, the schools maintain waiting lists. Many children are eventually admitted off the waiting list (as families who originally enrolled their children move out of the city or opt for private school or gifted programs). However, in some cases, your zoned school may be too crowded. In that case the Office of Student Enrollment may send your child to another school. See how to enroll and who may attend for more information.
Mayor Bloomberg declared an end to tenure as an "automatic right" for New York City teachers, when he announced last week that only 58% of over 5,000 eligible teachers were approved for tenure this year. This number represents a sharp departure from just five years ago, when 99% of eligible teachers earned tenure. The mayor attributed the significantly lower number to a tougher teacher rating policy that went into effect in 2010.
Of the teachers who were not granted tenure, 39% will have their probationary period extended through the coming year, and the remaining 3% were denied tenure, excluding them from working for city schools. According to The New York Times, a similar amount of all New York City teachers received unsatisfactory or "U" ratings this year, "suggesting the percentage of truly bad teachers in the school system may be similar across experience levels."
State law mandates that teachers are eligible for tenure after completing a three year probation and allows districts to determine how tenure will be awarded. In December, the city announced a new four-point rating scale for earning tenure--highly effective, effective, developing, and ineffective. Teachers must rank in one of the top two categories two years in a row to earn tenure. If principals rate teachers still-developing or ineffective, they must give written feedback to teachers on how they may improve. Principals and their supervisors are supposed to weigh test scores, parent feedback, classroom observations and other factors to determine the ratings. (Gothamschools.org has a copy of the "effectiveness framework" rating scale.)
Bloomberg and schools' Chancellor Dennis Walcott say the new system enforces higher standards for teachers and gives teachers clearer guidelines on how to improve. The pair went a step further on Bloomberg's weekly radio show, when the mayor questioned the need for tenure and suggested it's an unnecessary throwback from the McCarthy era. Walcott predicted that the number of teachers denied tenure, or put on probation, will increase next year.
Critics charge that the four-point teacher-effectiveness rating scale is not clear enough and fear that principals may give poor ratings for personal reasons that have little to do with teacher performance. Two teachers writing on GothamSchools.org say school administrators discriminated against them because of union activity.
What do you think? Do you agree with the stricter requirements for teacher tenure? Take our poll!