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Q: My son just received an impressive-looking envelope inviting him to participate in the National Student Leadership Conference in Washington, DC. They make it sound like going will be a great thing for him to put on college applications, but will it really count that much? Will it open doors for him? If this is truly a great opportunity, I don't want him to miss out – but it's really expensive! What do you suggest?
A: Would participating in this program be exciting for your son? Probably so. Will participating add a line to his resume that will make a real impact on his college applications? The company organizing the program would like you to think so, but the real answer is: no.
Q: We live in a rental apartment in NYC, and own a home in another state. We had to move to New York for work. We rent the house that's out of state and the income helps to pay for our rent here. We fear that colleges will see the house we own as an investment property or vacation home rather than as a primary residence, which is usually exempt from financial aid calculations. Should we sell the home or take other measures to improve our financial aid standing?
A: College admission does not mean simply being admitted – it also means significant financial commitment. Yours is a complicated question, and actually one that is outside my area of expertise, as I am concerned with the academic aspects of admission. Still, I can point you in the right direction, as well as address the general issue of where to go for college-related financial advice.
But first -- and this is for everyone planning to apply for financial aid – file your FAFSA now, if you have not already done so. The acronym stands for Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It costs nothing to file this form. If you get anything in the mail or see anything on the Internet that charges you for financial aid information, toss or delete! This information is free. An important thing for all parents to remember is this: if a website ends in .gov or .org or .edu the information is free; if a website ends in .com there is cost involved. For FAFSA information, go to the government website: www.fafsa.ed.gov. Another good source: Insideschools and the Center for NYC Affairs published a FAFSA guide. Here's the link.
Hearings began around the city last night regarding the future of 22 schools the Education Department has deemed failing and wants to close. In the midst of protests by students and parents clamoring for their schools to remain open, the DOE held out a carrot to students: they will be allowed to transfer to higher-performing schools.
Saying he felt a "moral imperative" to offer options to students in low-performing schools, Marc Sternberg, a deputy chancellor at the DOE, told reporters about the new policy shortly before school closure hearings began last night. Information about the transfer plan will be distributed to all affected schools and at hearings, he said. The Panel on Educational Policy will vote on the school phaseouts at two meetings in March at Brooklyn Tech. If they are approved, as is likely, affected students will receive an application to transfer in the mail. Families will have about a month to reply and will hear the outcome in late June, at the end of the school year. There is no guarantee that all students will get a transfer; priority will be given to the lowest-performing students, including those with special needs, Sternberg said.
About 16,000 students, from 61 elementary, middle and high schools, will be eligible to transfer. This includes the 22 schools that may begin to phase out this year, and 39 others which have already begun the phaseout process.
My daughter will be entering kindergarten in 2013 and we have been zoned to a brand new school which is still under construction. I am wondering if I should take my chances for the new school, try for an established out-of zone-school or move to a neighborhood with an established school.
KG Mom in Manhattan
Dear KG Mom
New schools are enticing, and a bit scary. You picture a spanking new building with spic and span furniture, up-to-date facilities, bright lights and new technology. But you don't know much about the learning that will go on there. Like other parents, you probably have an idea of what you would like for your daughter. Some parents look for rigorous academics, some care more about the arts, others would like their kids to learn a second language and others look for great special ed programs. (And ideally there are schools that cover all those bases!)
Most parents want small classes and that is usually one of the plusses of a new school. True, in an established school you know what you're getting: usually a seasoned principal, set routines and an active PTA. But, in a new school, working with other families and staff, you will have a hand in developing programs and partnerships that will allow the school to thrive. If the principal is open to it, you can help set the tone and work closely with the school leaders. (Read about how some parents are already doing at PS 118 in Park Slope, which will open in September. They've set up a group called "Founding Families" and have their own Facebook page.) With just one or two grade levels, there will be an intimacy rarely found in a larger school.
Six in ten city schools have physical education classes only once or twice a week for 45 minutes, way below what the state education department mandates, according to a new American Heart Association (AHA) report based on a survey of public and charter schools in all five boroughs.
It's the city's youngest students who are most likely to miss out on vital PE time, says the Women's City Club of New York (WCC), a non-profit civic organization, that advocates for more physical education in all schools. Elementary grades do not have enough teachers citywide to meet state PE regulations, based on WCC's analysis of Independent Budget Office data. Yet, according to New York state regulations, the youngest children are supposed to get the most exercise. The rules call for daily physical educaton for grades K-3, three times a week for 4th-6th graders and 90 minutes a week for older students.
Middle school students have enough gym teachers and high schools, which require students to earn two PE credits in order to graduate, have a surplus of PE teachers, according to the IBO data.
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.
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.
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.
Can they please go back to school already?
Once again this morning, I woke up to a sprawl of sleeping teenagers in my home, their books, music and snowboarding equipment scattered about. They had no school today, due to a "citywide chancellor's conference day for teachers and staff,'' whatever that means.
They had no school last week either. And yet, in the weeks leading up to Regents week, they were buried in finals, while the seniors were simultaneously overwhelmed with essays and college application deadlines.
Not that my gang -- a senior and sophomore -- complained. They were thrilled to have the time off, even if I can't help wondering how once again, how I was caught unprepared for this onslaught of unstructured time.
Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aide (FAFSA) is the first step for students seeking financial support to go to college.
But completing the form is a perennial headache. Even the first step -- finding the right form online -- is confusing because the Web is populated with imposters. That's why the Center for New York City Affairs and Insideschools released FAFSA: The How-To Guide for Students and the Adults Who Help Them. The illustrated guide was designed to help students and families navigate the sometimes confusing federal financial aid process.
FAFSA: The How-To Guide was written in partnership with college guidance and financial aid professionals and funded by the Capital One Foundation. It is particularly relevant to students who are the first in their families to be going to college. The guide explains how to prepare for the form, what kinds of questions will be asked, and why the government needs the information on parents, families and income.
The guide also addresses complicated questions that first generation students might have, such as: how the FAFSA form defines parents and families when students don't live with their parents and how to fill out the FAFSA form if a parent or student is undocumented.
Click here to download a PDF of the guide and visit the Center for New York City Affair's website to order a copy (or copies) for yourself, your family or your students.