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There is so much information flying around about whether homework is worthwhile or not, it's hard to know where to start. Just last week, the French president said that one of his educational reforms is to do away with homework because some students get help from parents at home, while others do not. A 2006 Duke University study, based on a review of 60 homework studies, found that homework is most beneficial for students in 7th-12th grades, especially when there's not too much of it.
Some schools assign a lot of homework while others don't give any. Some teachers within the same school give more than others. And some parents demand it while others hate it. Beliefs about what is important differ from school to school, classroom to classroom, household to household. Who is right?
I always assign homework. Beyond the debatable academic benefits, I think it teaches a life skill: responsibility. Some teachers hand out a packet on Monday that is due Thursday or Friday. I like to give homework each night so my students get used to bringing their work home, completing it and bringing it back the following day. I might assign some work on Monday that is due on Friday, but for the most part, it's an evening ritual and I stay away from weekend assignments Do I assign hours and hours of busy work? Countless pages? No. Never. As a 1st - 5th grade teacher, I never assign more than an hour, and for younger kids, just enough for them to practice a skill at home.
Some popular elementary schools have to turn students away who live nearby, but PS 9 in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn has spots open this year for kids in kindergarten, 1st, 2nd and 4th grades, including those who don't live in the PS 9 zone. The seats are open because some kids who enrolled didn't show up in September.
For more information, you can check out the PS 9 website. If you're interested in a spot at PS 9, you can call the school
secretary Donna Coyle, 718-638-3260 x 1300, or parent coordinator Charmaine Derrell-Jacob at 718-638-3260 X 1121 If you'd rather to talk with a current PS 9 parent, you can email AskaPS9parent@gmail.com.
Know any other good schools that still has space for kids from out of zone? Please let us know.
The Education Department has not yet released this year's list of overcrowded schools that are busing zoned students to other schools. If you know a school in that situation, please pass that on too.
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.)
Is it Meet The Teacher Night? Back To School Night? Curriculum Night?
Whatever your child’s school calls it, parents generally arrive with high expectations and leave disappointed, feeling that they didn’t get enough time with their teacher or weren't able to ask enough questions because they didn’t know what to anticipate.
Let me explain what you can realistically expect. Your kid’s teacher(s) will introduce themselves and hopefully provide an overview of the year. No, you’re not going be able to drill your teacher about how your child is doing after 10 days in school or why the cafeteria is so loud, but you can anticipate getting a pretty good idea about what is going to happen in the classroom.
I know you’re busy. I know you work three jobs, are taking care of an aging parent, are getting a divorce, have health issues, have kids in two different schools and you breathe a sigh of relief when your kid goes to school in the morning and you know someone else is in charge, if only for a little while. I get it. But I do need one thing from you. I need to know you’re there.
It doesn’t need to be much. A signed permission slip, submitted on time. A response to a question or a question sent to me about an assignment, or even a critique. Just something to let me know that there is a living, breathing parent out there that is keeping an eye on their child and their classroom life.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.