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Ask Judy
Tuesday, 24 July 2012 12:00

Ask Judy: Is kindergarten mandatory now?

Dear Judy,

Hi, I saw there was a bill passed to make kindergarten mandatory in NY, but never heard if it was signed into law. It also appeared to move the K cutoff date to December 1 from December 31, which could be a wonderful thing for my December boy. Is it happening?

Kaye

Dear Kaye,

The mandatory kindergarten legislation you were referring to, Assembly A9861 (and its counterpart in the Senate S7051) was signed last week by Governor Cuomo. When it gets published, it will be found in Chapter 157 of the laws of 2012, but you can read it in the legislation form until then.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn’s office championed this initiative and, according to her office, a better description of the legislation is that it, “lowers the compulsory age for school to five.” That’s the simple part. The more complicated parts of implementation have to do with some still unresolved issues: The cut-off date for entry to kindergarten, and an “opt-out” provision.

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No graduation ceremony was held when my daughter’s class finished 1st grade, so I was not invited to give the commencement address. But if I had been the featured speaker, I would have said something like this:

Thank you, Chancellor Walcott, for that kind introduction. Parents, principals, teachers, classmates, janitors, Mayor Bloomberg, thank you all for coming today. Most of all, to you graduating 1st-graders: Congratulations! Job well done! Most of you probably recognize me, because I’m the father of — yes, that’s right! But let’s not shout. Always raise your hands, because — OK, that was a mistake, because now all of your hands are up. Instead, let’s put on our listening ears, sit down, and let me say something really important.

The completion of 1st grade is truly a historic moment in your academic career. When you look back, you’ll realize that kindergarten, which seemed seriously important only last year, was just a warm-up for the grade you just completed. In kindergarten, teachers had to reinforce basic ideas such as “Share” and “Take turns” and “No ankle biting” and “Don’t laugh when another kid burps loudly in class.” First grade marked the start of REAL education — as I’m sure you realize, because you faced homework every weeknight. You learned to read and write. You learned basic addition. And you learned that, if a kid actually does burp loudly in class, it is OK to think it is funny so long as you don’t actually laugh out loud. These lessons will serve you well in the future.

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Tuesday, 12 June 2012 10:26

Ask Judy: I'm moving to NYC

Dear Judy,

My husband and I will be moving to Manhattan sometime this fall or winter (probably just after Christmas). Our oldest child will start kindergarten this fall. However, he was born in August 2006, so he will be six. The cutoff where we live is September 1 but they allow holding back if parents choose to do it. Can he continue in kindergarten, or will the Department of Education be inflexible and require that as a six year old he has to go to first grade? Also, what choices do we have as new arrivals in the middle of the school year?

Out-of-towner

Dear Out-of-towner,

For New York City kids, there is a rather inflexible rule: You must enter kindergarten in the year you turn five and you must enter first grade in the year you turn six. However, when out-of-towners show up their kids are placed in the last grade in which they were registered. You have to submit school records to verify the grade – but then you need those records as part of your registration.

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I'll be one of the speakers at a workshop at New York University, Tuesday, June 5, from 12 to 1:30 p.m. to help parents figure out their elementary school options. The event at the Kimmel Center, 60 Washington Square South, Room, 803, is designed for NYU staff, but others may come as well. Maggie Moroff from Advocates for Children will talk about special education and Terri Decker of Smart City Kids will talk about gifted programs.


The workshop is free, but you must register: http://www.nyu.edu/rsvp/event.php?e_id=4192. Call 212-998-9085 for more information


We'll give you information about how to register your child, how to apply to schools outside your zone, and what you should look for on school visits. There will be time for questions and answers as well.


Can't come? Look at our pages on how to apply to elementary school and our YouTube video on what to look for in an elementary school.


 



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Friday, 11 May 2012 14:13

Poll: Should teachers be paid more?

It’s the end of teacher appreciation week: the DOE's number two guy, Shael Suransky, taught a class, Chancellor Walcott has been visiting schoolsMayor Bloomberg and countless others shared some #thankateacher love on Twitter, and maybe a few students brought apples to their teachers. We wonder, how can we best show our teachers appreciation all year round?

There are several politically charged answers to the that question that have been highlighted in the news lately. But, what about better pay? It’s no secret that teachers aren’t in it for the money. Teaching can be a highly rewarding job but it is not a career path paved with financial gold. A public school teacher in New York City with a BA can expect to earn $45,530 his first year, according to the UFT’s salary schedule.

Still, that’s almost 10K more than the national average: $36,502, according to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s most recent survey of education from around the world. But the high cost of living in the Big Apple, eats up much, if not all, of the difference.

After three decades on the job NYC teachers with a Master's degree can make over $100,000. Of course if you luck out and get a job at TEP, The Equity Project Charter School, you'll make $125,000 your first year there. But that's the exception.

Average starting pay for teachers in Finland, Diane Ravitch’s favorite place to learn, is actually lower, $32,692 (of course, the Socialist country has much better government benefits, but that’s a blogpost for another day). Teachers in Japan make $27,995 starting out and $30,522 is first-year pay for teachers in Korea. In Poland, on the other hand, starting salary is $9,186 on average. Luxemborg is one of the best places to teach if you’re after some green, starting teachers there make $51,799. (All these numbers are from OECD.) 

With that perspective, maybe New York’s not so bad! Then again, teachers are some of the most valuable members of society, should we pay them more? What do you think is a fair starting salary? Take our poll!

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Tuesday, 17 April 2012 12:07

Ask Judy: Your G&T queries answered

Gifted and talented results letters were sent to families last week, and since then our inbox has been full of G&T queries from parents of prospective kindergartners who must apply by April 20. Here are four questions that we answered.

  • My 4-year-old is a smart guy. His teacher says he is ahead of the other kids in his pre-kindergarten class, but he got a really low score on the G&T test. He took it on a very cold day and he is rather shy. Can he retake the test? .

The short answer: not this year. There are no re-dos. If your child was ill on the test date, or if there was a problem with the administration of the exam, you had 48 hours to report the problem. He can test again next year when he is in kindergarten. Note, next year it will be it will be a different test mix. The OLSAT will be kept but the Bracken will be replaced by the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test [NNAT].

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The good news for this year's gifted and talented kindergarten test-takers? More kids scored high enough to qualify for a citywide G&T program. The bad news? Eligible students have about a 1 in 7 chance of scoring one of those citywide seats.

Of the 14,249 children who tested for the city's gifted and talented programs, 2,656 -- 18% --  qualified for one of five citywide programs. But there are only about 381 citywide seats.  The number of eligible students continues to rise -- about 1000 students scored in the 99th percentile in the last two years. But the number of citywide seats has not risen to meet the demand.

To qualify for the more selective citywide program, children must score between the 97th and 99th percentile on two assessments; for district programs they must score between the 90 to 96th percentile. Fifteen percent of this year's kindergarten test-takers - 2,256 - qualified for district programs.

Some 35% of the kindergarten test-takers -- 4,912 -- are eligible for a G&T program. In 2010 and 2011, 28% qualified.

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Friday, 06 April 2012 15:10

125 schools have kindergarten waitlists

In a bumper year for public school kindergarten applications, more than 2,400 children are on waitlists at their zoned school. That is 200 fewer than last year at this time, according to data the Education Department released on Friday afternoon.

Three schools have more than 100 zoned families waiting for a slot. Topping the list again is gigantic PS 169 in Sunset Park, with 113 waitlisted zoned kindergartners at a school with 1450 students. Last year it had 95 children waitlisted in March after the first registration period. Nearby PS 94, another large school where more than half of the students are English language Learners, has 111 students on its waitlist.  PS 307 in Corona which opened in 2008, has 109 students on a waitlist.

More than 62,280 kindergarten applications were received in 2012 (as compared to 61,600 in 2011) and 125 schools have a waitlist for children living in their zone (the same number as last year.)  The DOE did not release the number of out-of-zone siblings of current students who have not been given seats. (Last year there were 553.) This year schools must get permission from the enrollment office before admitting students from outside the zone.

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Wednesday, 28 March 2012 16:28

24 charter schools opening, apply by April

Two dozen new charter schools will be opening next fall, adding to the 136 charters now operating in New York City. Applications for most schools are due by April 1, although several have later dates. Parents may apply online using a common application for some of them. Check the New York City Charter School Center website for details.

There's a mix of elementary, middle, high school and transfer schools, with the majority in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Manhattan. Admission is by lottery, giving priority to residents of the community school district where the school is located. A few have additional admission's priorities. Some locations have been hotly contested by community schools and not all new schools have an address yet, or even a confirmed district. Some, like the three new Success Academies and Icahn or Explore charters, are part of an existing network of schools; others are so-called "mom and pop" charters, without a big organization behind them.

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Friday, 23 March 2012 13:27

Poll: How many schools did you apply to?

Kindergarten registration begins March 26 after families learn this week where their children got accepted. Schools sent out notification letters via email and regular mail by March 23.

While the majority of public school children attend their zoned elementary schools, other families apply to schools the way 18-year-olds apply to college. They visit many, work out the odds of admission and may even have a list of "safetys," and "reaches".

The Education Department's system of choice allows parents to apply virtually anywhere, even though priority in admissions goes to students in the school's zone and district. The odds of getting accepted at a school outside of your neighborhood or district can be slim.

Because of overcrowding some zoned schools can't accommodate all their students, so parents in the know begin early to look and apply elsewhere. (The Education Department will assign students to another district school if there is no space at the zoned school.)

In addition to zoned schools, families may apply to magnet or dual language programs, unzoned schools and charter schools, which are public but independent of the DOE.  Since there is no central application, parents go from school to school to apply. In mid-April, children who qualify for gifted and talented programs will apply to another school, or several schools.

We're wondering, how many schools did you apply to for your 5-year-old? And, although it's not in the poll, we're curious to know how many acceptances you get! Take our poll and comment below!

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