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There are 22,000 kids living in homeless and domestic violence shelters in NYC, according to Volunteers for America. In addition to the trauma and chaos of a transient life, imagine the feeling of arriving for the first day of school in September, seeing all your friends toting shiny, full backpacks ready to learn, and you have ... nothing.
In 2001, Volunteers of America–Greater New York launched Operation Backpack—a fundraising initiative aimed at providing our city's neediest children with the supplies they need to start the school year right. By filling thousands of backpacks with grade-specific supplies, Operation Backpack relieves stressed families of an impossible financial burden, and most important, they help kids living on the fringes get a fighting chance at a solid education.
There are many ways to get involved. Visit the Operation Backpack website for a list of grade-specific supplies and backpack drop-off locations throughout the city. You can also make a straightforward monetary donation to the project, buy supplies for the foundation's amazon wishlist or donate your time in person. It's a wonderful opportunity to do something real and tangible for NYC education, and to show a struggling child you believe in her.
Perhaps that technology camp you enrolled your nature-loving daughter in just wasn’t quite right, or maybe you’ve noticed your teenager spending too many summer days staring at the wall—or a screen. Luckily, there are still lots of free, engaging summer classes and programs in all five boroughs for kids of all ages. It’s not too late! And don't forget to check out our listing of free educational enrichment programs year-round.
NYC Parks—Free Outdoor Pools
Visit one of New York City's free outdoor pools. Through Sept. 1, NYC Parks’ outdoor pools are offering amenities including free summer swim programs for all ages and abilities and free, healthy summer meals provided by USDA through SchoolFood, a part of the NYC Department of Education for all children 18 years old and under. Download a flyer to find out more about the local pool in your school district. For more information, visit nyc.gov/parks.
Looking for a summer activity for your middle school student? Sign up now—before June 30—for one of the city's free enrichment programs just announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio last week.
Eligible students are between the ages of 11–13. Programs begin the first week of July and go through Aug. 22 and are designed to support children of working families. Most run from 9 am to 6 pm, although hours vary. Daily activities include time for reading, writing and STEM (science, math and technology) as well as theater, music, creative arts and sports. Kids take trips around the city and explore different communities. There are programs in all five boroughs, housed at schools or community organizations. Find a list of programs and sites here (PDF).
Seventh-graders and their families now have a new tool to use for the somewhat daunting high school search process.
Insideschools just launched an updated high school search site, accessible only from mobile phones and devices.
Here are a few ways to use it:
If you know the name of a school, type it in and click "go!" to read our review and check the stats. If you'd rather search by an area of interest—say dance, soccer or AP physics—type that instead.
To narrow your search, add in the borough and subway line(s) most convenient to you.
Want to find out if you qualify for a specific program? Click the grade-point-average (GPA) feature that most closely matches your 7th-grade report card results. Keep in mind, though, that the selective specialized high schools such as Brooklyn Tech or Bronx Science don't look at your grades—they admit students based on the results of a single exam.
To help you understand the admissions lingo, such as "ed opt" or "screened," we've added a glossary of terms.
The best feature? You can carry this search with you wherever you go, unlike the massive high school directory that your middle school guidance counselor will be giving to you this month.
Check it out at: beta.Insideschools.org:8080/sage. Remember, this won't work from a laptop or desktop computer—just from your smart phone or mobile device.
Let us know what you think!
It appears that many New York City public school principals have a great deal to say about this spring's standardized English tests for grades 3–8.
Only they can't, because they are under a gag order.
I wish we could at least informally do the same for students—and parents.
No matter how you feel about standardized testing, I am convinced that it is both bad form and harmful to talk about test scores.
(This story first appeared on DNAInfo.com)
More than 30 public elementary schools — including TriBeCa's top-ranked P.S. 234 and the Upper East Side's P.S. 59 — are set to participate in protests Friday to blast the state's standardized English exams.
The planned protests by schools in Manhattan's District 2 — which also includes Greenwich Village and Chelsea — are part of a growing anti-testing movement in some of the city's most esteemed public schools. Last week, a protest at Park Slope's P.S. 321 drew hundreds of teachers, parents and students who complained about age-inappropriate content and poorly explained multiple-choice questions that seemed to have no one right answer.
Now, the 31 Manhattan elementary schools are planning an even bigger demonstration at each of their schools Friday morning, to demand that the exams be released to the public as soon as they have been graded.
Amid the debate surrounding charter schools in the city, 15 new charter schools will be opening in the fall, adding to the 183 already operating in New York City. The majority of the new schools are part of established charter networks, including Success Academy, Achievement First and Ascend Schools. A few of the new schools are independent “mom and pop” charters that aren’t part of a larger network.
Applications for most charter schools are due by April 1 with admissions lotteries held in early April. Parents may submit applications to multiple schools at once using the online Common Charter School Application on the New York City Charter School Center website. Parents should also contact the schools that they wish to apply to directly to make sure that they understand all the application requirements. Admissions to charter schools is determined by lottery, giving priority to residents of the district where the school is located. Some charters have additional admissions priorities.
In a charter's first year, there is frequently space for out-of-district students, as some families are reluctant to take a chance on a school until it has a track record. All charter schools keep waitlists so even if you miss the application deadline, if you are interested in a school it's worth asking to be put on the waitlist.
A glimmer of hope for 8th graders who were rejected at their high school choices: Insideschools has learned that one-quarter of the kids who appealed their high school placements last year got a seat at one of the schools to which they originally applied.
Of the 3,028 rising 9th-graders who filed appeals last year, 761 were offered a place at one of the high schools listed on their applications, according to data released by the Department of Education in response to our request under the Freedom of Information Act. Another 783 were assigned to an alternative placement, but not a school they requested.
An appeal won't work if you were rejected at one of the specialized high schools, which require an entrance exam. And it probably won't work if you are assigned to a perfectly good, appropriate school that just doesn't happen to be your first choice--if, say, you are assigned to Bard High School Early College and you wanted Beacon.
But let's say you are assigned to a school that doesn't offer chemistry and physics and you want a college prep curriculum. In that case, you may have a shot.
Unhappy with your middle school choices? The Education Department announced 10 new middle schools are opening next September. New applications are going out this week to 5th graders. Families that are interested in applying must fill out and return the application by Wednesday, March 12. It won't affect the application you submitted in the fall as you can be accepted both at a new school and at a school you applied to in December.
While choosing a new school over an established one is risky, several of these new schools look like promising options. The Eagle Academy for Young Men is opening another school, this time in Staten Island, the first single sex school for that borough. PS 84, a popular neighborhood school in Williamsburg is adding on middle school grades. In Manhattan's crowded District 2, two new middle schools are opening, one that offers a selective program for high-achievers. The citywide gifted program in Queens will expand to include middle school called 30th Avenue Academy at a new site.
Most of the schools should be offering information sessions before the application deadline. Check out the Department of Education's new middle school directory for contact information.
Here's a brief rundown.