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Wednesday, Oct. 10 Friday, Oct. 12 is the deadline for 8th and 9th graders to request a "ticket" to take the Specialized High School Admissions Test or audition for LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts. If you haven't done so yet, tell your guidance counselor that you want to take the exam for entrance to one of the eight exam high schools or to the ninth specialized high school, LaGuardia.
This weekend, Oct. 13-14, there will be a high school fair in every borough offering a chance to meet with students and staff from most high schools in each borough. The fairs run from 11 a.m to 3 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.
Brooklyn: Edward R. Murrow High School
Manhattan: Martin Luther King, Jr. High School
Queens: Francis Lewis High School
Staten Island: New Dorp High School
(updated 10/11/2012 with new due date)
This weekend, Sept. 29 and 30, is the Department of Education's gigantic high school fair from 10 am to 3 pm at Brooklyn Technical High School. Prepare for a hectic day, where you will meet teachers, students and administrators and find out about their schools.
You can attend information sessions several times during the day, led by staff from the Education Department's enrollment office. This will be helpful especially if you're a newbie to the process (and it will give you a place to sit down and take a breather.)
The NAACP on Thursday will file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education Office of Civil Rights, charging that the exam-only admissions policy for New York City's eight specialized high schools is discriminatory against Black and Hispanic students, is not "educationally sound" and has not been proven to be a reliable predictor of student success at the elite schools. They call for "multiple measures" to be considered for entrance to specialized high schools.
Joined by the LatinoJustice PRLDEF and The Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College and other community organizations, the NAACP is challenging the long-standing New York state law which specifies that students are to be admitted to specialized schools on the basis of a single exam. The law gives the city's Department of Education the latitude to create more exam schools and, in the past decade the city added five smaller schools to its roster of specialized schools.
According to the NAACP, the city's Education Department has "never conducted a study to determine whether the test is a valid tool" and whether "there is any relationship between students' test results and learning standards" in those schools. Furthermore, the complaint says that other elite high schools and colleges around the country use "multiple measures" when considering applicants, such as grades, teacher recommendations and the demographics of the schools they attend.
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)
Gifted and Talented programs only serve about one percent of children nationwide, says the Fordham Institute's Chester E. Finn, who authored a new study of G & T programs in the U.S., and says too many deserving kids don't have access to them. In a must-read New York Times op-ed piece, Finn argues that the nation's high-performing students are being neglected: "Mostly, the system ignores them, with policies and budget priorities that concentrate on raising the floor under low-achieving students. A good and necessary thing to do, yes, but we’ve failed to raise the ceiling for those already well above the floor."
I'm guessing that hundreds of New York City parents whose kindergartners scored in the 99th percentile on G&T exams last spring but failed to score a seat in one of the five citywide G&T program might agree with Finn. What do you think? Do G&T programs deserve more attention (and more of our limited school funds)? Take our poll!
(By the way, this month 4th and 5th graders who applied for G&T seats over the summer will find out whether they scored one of the very few seats available to them. And, a few more offers may be made for K-3 G&T seats, according to a letter sent to principals asking them to report any "attrition-based" openings by Sept. 19.)
I took one look at my high school freshman last year – sprawled out on a sofa, soccer cleats still on, papers and books everywhere – and knew there was only one solution to helping him survive in a large and sometimes overwhelming New York City public high school.
Her name was Danielle, and she just happened to be on her way over.
I have enormous empathy for bewildered freshmen and their parents. That’s why everyone needs a Danielle, or a friend or older sibling with proven strategies for success and superior organization skills.
My daughter just started as a freshman at a specialized high school and came home the first day convinced that she will never like this school or be comfortable with the fit. She is interested in transferring to a smaller school that fosters creative and analytic thinking, community, and independence. My question is: How and when can a parent "know" that her child and the child's school are not well-matched? How would you advise proceeding?
Her father and I are concerned that if we wait too long to explore other options, any transfer spots for which she might qualify will be filled, that we will let he in for serious misery, and that she will just refuse to go to school (which she has threatened to do). On the other hand, it seems premature to conclude after a very short trial (today was her 4th day here), that we are dealing with a square peg/found hole situation, and not just an advanced case of what my mother would have called "the jitters."
I would also like to hear from other parents in this situation. My guess is that there are quite a few of us!
Sincerely, Freshman Mom
Dear Freshman Mom,
I put your question to a number of people – the mother of a high school student who did transfer after freshman year, a mother of two graduates of specialized high schools, a mother of an 8th grader who is researching schools right now, and the 8th grader himself. Here’s what the student had to say: “No one is going to like school the first day.” That is more or less what the others had to say as well. It takes time to adjust to any new situation and 9th grade especially is a huge change in a kid's life.
Q. I am the mom of an 11th grader. I grew up and went to school outside of the United States, so it is very challenging for me to understand the whole U.S. higher education system. Would you please explain to me what the SAT and ACT are? What is the difference between those two? Which one does my daughter need to take in order to apply to a 4-year college?
A: Most colleges and universities in the United States require either the SAT or ACT (with writing) for admission as a first-year student. These are nationally administered examinations, each one about three hours long, which provide a general assessment of a student’s skills in mathematics, reading and vocabulary, and writing. The tests are structured differently and scored differently.
The SAT comes from the Educational Testing Service, headquartered in New Jersey, while the ACT comes from a company in Iowa. Originally, most students on the East Coast took the SAT, while in the Midwest and West the ACT was the preferred exam. It was merely a matter of geographic preference. But now that all information is online, students in all areas are trying both tests.
There are numerous differences between the tests. The ACT includes a section of questions related to science, but it is really about interpreting data. The ACT is also more straightforward in its knowledge-based approach. I suggest that you and your daughter look at the websites of each exam and try the sample questions. Some students simply feel more comfortable with one format than the other. Your daughter could also take both tests, and then compare her results. Colleges truly do not care which test an applicant takes! You can find complete information, plus practice questions, at the SAT and ACT websites.
High School Goal Weekend – that’s what the Department of Education, Agency for Children’s Services and New Yorkers for Children are calling an extra effort to give a leg-up in the high school admission process to kids in foster families. The weekend coincides with the High School Fair, September 29 and 30 at Brooklyn Technical High school, in Fort Greene. AFCS is seeking volunteers, 21 years of older, to guide 7th and 8th graders through the choice of high schools and the application process.
For the last five years, my son’s schedule has been packed to the max. His extra hours were filled with extracurricular activities so that he could be that well-rounded, competitive person that top colleges seek. His every hour was accounted for, calculated, manipulated – by me.
I first noticed, and was nervous about, the competition that my son would face when I reviewed resumes for internship positions for a white-glove firm I used to work with. One student wrote a paper for NASA when he was 21, another, was a double math and chemistry major in college at age 17, and yet another, a high school senior finalist in the Intel competition who was doing research at Cooper Union. The achievements were endless and impressive. I thought to myself, how will my boy compete with that?
The tiger mom within me roared, and I threw my son into all types of activities to see which would stick. It started with my dreams of him becoming an Olympic ping-pong player. He trained, heavily and expensively, with a professional coach and entered competitions until Chinese kids half his height and age began to beat him. Then he tried basketball where he chipped a tooth. I once even claimed that he was Hispanic (he is half Chinese and half Italian) so that he could compete for a minority music scholarship at Juilliard. We backed out of the audition right before his turn, when I became ashamed of my dishonesty.
Yeah, I know, overboard. My son informed me the same.