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Ask Judy
Judy Baum

Judy Baum

Ask Insideschools a Question

Judy Baum, Insideschools' longtime advice columnist, passed away on Dec. 20, 2013. Her columns are archived here, under Ask Judy. Insideschools will continue to answer readers' school-related questions. Email us at info@insideschools.org.

By Judy Baum

Dear Judy,

I'm in 10th grade going into 11th and i would REALLY like to transfer out my school. The school isn't challenging enough, there are a lot of gangs involved, and the curriculum is horrible. There have been MANY deaths in my school. So I would like to know if it's possible i can transfer out before school starts and if so, what do I need to make it happen.

Y

Dear Y,

First, I have to tell you, it is not easy to get a transfer. You will need to be very persistent. Keep in mind the saying: "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again." You must apply for a transfer at the nearest enrollment office.

According to an email from the central enrollment office at Tweed: "Families can visit an enrollment office over the summer to speak with a counselor about a high school transfer (through August 23). They do not have to wait to visit a temporary registration center at the end of August."

You need a very good reason for the change-- usually health, safety or travel hardships. You said there is violence and there were deaths at your school, so that would seem to be a safety concern, but usually they want a person to be the victim of crime in order to grant a safety transfer. However, you should try. Also explain your need for a better more challenging curriculum -- that might get their attention. Chancellors Regulation A-101 covers transfers on pages 7-9

Wednesday, 01 August 2012 16:28

Turnaround tales: Dewey to remain Dewey

The fate of 24 "turnaround schools” keeps turning around. Now the Department of Education says they will keep their original names. This is probably good news for neighborhoods used to Herbert H. Lehman High School (did anyone ever say the H part?) or John Dewey High School. They are now spared mouthfuls like Throggs Neck High School at the Lehman Campus or Shorefront High School of Arts and Science at John Dewey Campus.   Remember what Skip Card had to say back in May?

But it is confusing news for those using the current Directory of NYC High Schools for their high school search and applications. It’s the new names that appear there. Insideschools has a solution: if you type in the new name on our school search feature, the old one will show up! (And here's an idea: what about limiting school monikers to three words or less the next time around? What's wrong with naming a school after a respected public leader?)

More guidance for the affected schools will be forthcoming. According to a letter to principals from Elaine Gorman, the DOE official in charge of the initiative: "In regard to the High School Directory, please know that you will receive further direction on next steps. We will work closely with you and the Office of Student Enrollment to ensure that information about your school is accurate and distributed appropriately."

We're not convinced that students won't be confused!

Read all about the current status of the 24 schools in GothamSchools.

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.

New York State Education Department today released the results of the April 2012 grade 3-8 math and English Language Arts (ELA) assessments, showing that students in New York City improved by about three percentage points: 46.9 percent of city students met or exceeded the reading (ELA) standard (up from 43.9 percent last year), and 60 percent met or exceeded the math standard (up from 57.3 percent last year). The gap in performance between black and Hispanic students and their white and Asian peers persists although all groups posted slight improvements.

Scores, and keys to interpreting test results are on the State Education website, but parents will have to wait to see their own child’s results, which the DOE says will be posted the week of July 30 in ARIS. Watch for the announcement.

According to the state Education Department, the average scale scores on this year’s exams in both ELA and math are slightly higher than 2011 in most grades, and there is a small increase in the percentage of students across the state who met or exceeded the standard on both exams, meaning they scored a 3 or 4 on a four-point scale. 

Statewide, 55 percent of  students met or exceeded the reading standard (an increase from 52.8 percent last year); 64.8 percent met or exceeded the standard in math (up from 63.3 last year).

Friday, 13 July 2012 12:44

Summertime answers to: "I'm bored!"

Summer is underway, but some kids remain at loose ends. There is still time to put some fun and structure into July and August with a variety of free city programs that are just getting started!

Reading every day is the bottom line recommendation to keep kids skills up-to-date and incidentally to enjoy the wonders of new worlds and ideas. The three NYC public library systems feature reading challenge programs, story hours and craft activities. And it's fun to browse through the stacks and pick a week's worth of reading. Check out summer reading in your branch library in Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island; Queens Library or Brooklyn Public Library.

Two great resources for finding the right book for your child's age or grade are Oprah's list and the American Library Association.

Practice Makes Perfect has a small but innovative program for students about to enter 5th grade who are in need of support. They get help from high-achieving 9th graders who are, in turn, mentored by college students. Down and up the scale, kids benefit from extra study and advice and friendship. Contact Jahn Jaramillo (347) 371-0904, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..%20">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Tuesday, 10 July 2012 11:49

Ask Judy: Can newcomers take SHSAT?

Dear Judy,

We're moving into NYC from out of state with entering 9th and 10th graders. Can they take exams for specialized high schools or is that gate closed?
Newcomers

Dear Newcomers,

Welcome to NYC! Yes – as newcomers to NYC your kids may take the Specialized High School Admission Test (SHSAT) – or audition for LaGuardia High School, provided they meet the following conditions:

  • They were not New York City residents before November 1, 2011,
  • They entered 8th or 9th grade for the first time in September, 2011,
  • They did not take the test when it was given in 2011,
  • You will have a New York City residence by August 22.

This last condition is crucial because you must register in person between July 9 and August 22. When you arrive, go to any borough enrollment office. The test for the specialized high schools is on August 27, the auditions for LaGuardia are on August 30. 

Dear Judy,

My daughter took a Regents exam as an 8th grader. She said that during the test, the teacher accused two students of cheating, escorted them out of the room, and took their papers. My daughter said that she had noticed them cheating, The assistant principal was called in, and she returned the test papers to the kids, and let them continue taking the test. Why were those students allowed to continue the exam? My daughter said, "If they do not punish those cheating, then everyone will start cheating because there are no consequences." She is right. Why did the school allow this to happen?

Very upset mom

Dear very upset mom,

Cheating is not fair to anyone – it harms kids who are not cheating and kids who received the information even though they did not want it. There are a variety of consequences for students who cheat which are spelled out in the Education Department's Discipline Code. This week an incident of cheating on the Regents exams involved up to 90 students at Stuyvesant High School. The DOE said it was working with the school to come up with the "correct disciplinary action."

According to a DOE spokesperson, New York City schools follow the state policy outlined in the 2012 Edition of the School Administrator's Manual, Secondary Level Examinations. Surprisingly, what your daughter describes as happening, turns out to be more or less what the state regulations call for. Here is an excerpt:

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.

Wednesday, 06 June 2012 13:04

Will proposed changes to CECs help or hurt?

Elections of community and citywide education council members face big changes if the Panel on Education Policy votes on June 26 to approve amendments to several chancellor's regulations. The most dramatic change is in Chancellor's Regulation D-140, which does away with the parent advisory vote. That is the straw poll that is supposed to inform the actual electors, the president, secretary and treasurer of each school's Parents Association. A recent report of a special task force to remedy the problems with CEC elections recommended that change. As administered, the report concluded,  the parent advisory vote was not advisory at all: results were not made public and even if the electors were informed of parent choices, there was no way to know if they were honored. In 35-page report, there were  two other important recommendations linked to removal of the advisory vote: Take the election out of the hands of the Department of Education and seek state legislation to allow every parent with a child in the system to vote directly for CEC members.

By all accounts, the disastrous 2011 election was characterized by administrative errors, lack of information, very low voter turnout and overall confusion -- ultimately leading to a do-over.  Fed up, CEC members and president's councils called for action. The public advocate and borough presidents of the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens responded by setting up a task force which held meetings all over the city seeking input from CEC members and parents.

Parent leaders who were engaged in the process are discouraged by the DOE's response. "It's nibbling along the edges of the elections," said Noah Gotbaum, CEC 3 member. He echoed what I heard from others, that the DOE is not sincere in its motives to engage parents and that real change can only come from parent and advocate pressure to change the law itself.   

But here's the rub, considering the constricted powers of the CECs and the perception that they don't really count: few parents are now engaged with them. Will removing the parent advisory vote in the absence of any other fundamental reform take away whatever parent voice is left? Will the legislature pay attention to the CECs or see them as powerless withering bodies?

You can read all the DOE's proposed changes to the nomination and election procedures in Chancellor's Regulations D-140 elections to CECs; D150, elections to citywide special education council and the District 75 special education council; D-160, elections to high school councils; and D-170 elections to the Citywide Council of English Language Learners.

Also up for a vote is a brand new regulation Chancellor's Regulation D-125, a proposed ethics code for all voting members of and nominees to the  CEC's, Citywide Councils on Special Education, High Schools, English Language Learners, and District 75.

Chancellor's Regulation D-120 sets forth financial disclosure requirements for certain DOE employees, Panel for Education Policy members, community education council ("CEC") members, citywide council members, and CEC and citywide council nominees. The regulation is being amended to update who must file financial disclosure, the type of disclosure required, and the proper procedures for filing. The amendments clarify existing law and DOE practices.

Dear Judy,

My daughter is an 8th grader who has been on the honor roll since grammar school. I find it appalling that a child of her intelligence did not get accepted into a program of her choice, because it was decided that the schools were better off being run by lottery. My daughter is made to feel like she doesn't add up and is in some way a failure, because her name was not picked from a computer. There is something wrong when a student who has always received grades averaging 90 is not accepted, yet another student who received a final grade of 55 in Language Arts makes it in and does not even want to attend the school. Please help me to get her in to the school that she so wants to attend. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Up in Arms

Dear Up in Arms

Your first job is to help your daughter feel better about not getting into the high school program of her choice. If I were you, I would keep emphasizing that she was not personally rejected—it is the random choice of a faceless computer that is to blame.

I assume that you went through the appeals process and are also keeping your eye on the wait list, if there is one at the school. And I suspect you have already engaged the guidance counselor to help your daughter. Of course, there are other avenues of redress. Send your letter to Bonnie Gross, director of Queens high school enrollment. You can call her as well (212) 374-0291. Be sure to send a copy to Leonard Treretola, Director of High School Enrollment; Robert Sanft, Director of Enrollment; and the Chancellor, Dennis Walcott. All are at 52 Chambers Street, New York, NY, 10007. Some districts have district family advocates who work with high school issues only. Check with your district to see if this is another option.

Meanwhile, try to emphasize the good features of the school in which she was placed. If there are simply none, and your appeal did not work out, use the end of August high school enrollment center (not yet announced where and when) as a last ditch effort. Who knows what spaces may be available then.

Good luck and remind your daughter that as a smart, hardworking person, she will be a success wherever she goes to school.

Judy