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Ask Judy
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.

 

Published in News and views
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.

Published in News and views
Monday, 28 January 2013 20:33

Ask Judy: How do 8th graders get HS news?

Dear Judy,

Can you tell me when the high school placement results will come out? How does the school tell the kids the news?

8th grade Mom

Dear 8th grade Mom,

Results of the high school applications are due out March 15 (alas, for some parents, that date is later than when private schools let their applicants know.) The placement results, in sealed envelopes, are picked up by each middle school from their local enrollment office. Along with the letters comes a list of all applicants and, in some cases, the schools use this list to determine how the letters are distributed.

Schools vary in the way they distribute the letters and the news, so you'll need to ask your 8th grade guidance counselor how your school handles it.

Published in News and views
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.

 

Published in News and views

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.

Published in News and views

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.

Published in News and views
Tuesday, 08 January 2013 13:03

DOE wants to close 7 more schools

The Department of Education announced Tuesday that it plans to close seven more schools -- mostly elementary and middle -- for poor performance. An additional two schools will lose their middle school grades: PS 156 in Queens and Academy for Social Action: A College Board School in Harlem, where the high school will remain open despite posting an F on its Progress Report.

The announcement brings to 24 the number of closures announced this week. Pending approval by the Panel on Education Policy, the schools will not accept new students, although current students will be allowed to stay until graduation for all except MS 45 and Freedom Academy which will close in June. New schools, with new leadership and new staff, will be housed in the old buildings.

Just four years ago, the Performance School in the South Bronx replaced another failing elementary school. But low test scores and attendance persisted at the school and it will be closed too. Fewer than 15 percent of the students met grade level standards on state math and reading exams in 2012.

About 32 low-performing schools were saved from the ax, including several large, historic high schools: Flushing High School in Queens, George Westinghouse in downtown Brooklyn, Boys and Girls High School in Bed Stuy, and DeWitt Clinton in the Bronx.   Although these schools were threatened with closure, after visits and conversations with school communities this fall, the DOE decided to develop what it calls an "action plan” to improve them instead. There is no guarantee that these schools will continue to survive, however: many of the schools on this year's closure list, last year were on the list to get "targeted action" for improvement.

Published in News and views
Monday, 07 January 2013 17:18

City proposes closing 17 schools

Seventeen schools on a list of 60 targeted as "academically struggling" earlier this fall are now slated for closure, Deputy Schools Chancellor Marc Sternberg said today, with more school closures to be announced tomorrow. If approved, two of the schools would be closed at the end of the school year -- MS 45 in East Harlem and Freedom Academy in downtown Brooklyn --  the others would be phased out more slowly, with current students allowed to stay until graduation.

Three of the 17 schools are elementary schools, six are middle schools, seven are high schools and one, Choir Academy, serves grades 6-12. Most have previously been identified as troubled and at risk of being shut down. A few are large neighborhood high schools, such as Lehman in the Bronx and Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, but others are small high schools, created as an alternative to huge zoned schools, such as Bread and Roses and Jonathan Levin High School for Media and Communications. All have test scores and graduation rates that are below the city average.

Sternberg said that the decision to close the schools was made after a "rigorous review of academic performance" this fall. "We expect success," he said. "We've listened to the community and provided comprehensive support services to these schools based on their needs. Ultimately, we know we can better serve our students and families with new options and a new start."

Published in News and views
Tuesday, 08 January 2013 16:00

DOE says 2013 CEC elections to be smoother

The Education Department announced the start of the selection process for the city's Community Education Councils and vows to run the bi-annual elections more smoothly this spring. They could hardly be worse than the last elections in 2011, parent leaders say.

Two years ago, the Community Education Council elections were fraught with SNAFUs and confusion. Some qualified candidates’ names were mysteriously left off ballots and parents were unable to log on to a website to vote in the election’s first round.

“It was chaos and total disaster because the DOE didn’t do proper outreach,” said Shino Tanikawa, the president of District 2’s CEC.

The process was such a mess that even schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott admitted it was mismanaged and ordered a do-over.

Published in News and views
Thursday, 03 January 2013 11:44

Future of NYC schools event with Quinn

On Tuesday, Jan. 15, Insideschools and the Center for New York City Affairs will co-host a conversation with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn on the future of schools in New York City.

Quinn will discuss her vision for "building a 21st century school system," including college and career readiness. She will also participate in a Q & A with Insideschools' founder and senior editor, Clara Hemphill. This event is one of a series of events with potential 2013 mayoral candidates sponsored by the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School.  (See a write-up of a 2012 event with mayoral hopeful Tom Allon here.) 

Quinn also spoke about city education policy, along with other potential mayoral candidates, at a GothamSchools event in November. See a rundown of that event here.

The Jan. 15 forum will be at The New School, at 65 West 11th Street, from 8:30 am to 10 am. Tickets are free but you must reserve a seat; RSVP here: http://strongerschools.eventbrite.com/. Do it soon! It's a small venue and seats are going fast.

Published in News and views