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Updated 5:30 p.m. There will be a strike of the drivers and matrons of yellow school buses beginning on Wedneseday, the head of the union which represents the bus drivers announced late Monday afternoon. Chancellor Dennis Walcott on Sunday issued guidelines for parents on what to do if school buses stopped running. Marni Goltsman, the mom of a child with autism, says the bus drivers and matrons on her son's buses have been unfailingly professional and courteous and don't deserve a pay cut. This post appeared on her blog Capturing Autism.

Since pre-K, my son’s New York City school bus drivers and matrons have always been professional, punctual, and polite. This year, every morning as Brooks boards his yellow minibus, I watch the matron help him with his seat belt, and I know that she and the driver will look out for him because they understand that he can’t always speak up for himself. They both have years of experience with special needs busing, and because of that, my husband and I can wave goodbye to Brooks comforted by the fact that he feels safe and is in good hands.

I could go on indefinitely about the mind-numbing bureaucracy of the Office of Pupil Transportation when it comes to setting up routes and travel times, but our experience of the drivers and matrons in the field has always been positive.

Published in News and views
Tuesday, 08 January 2013 13:03

DOE wants to close 7 more schools

The Department of Education announced Tuesday that it plans to close seven more schools -- mostly elementary and middle -- for poor performance. An additional two schools will lose their middle school grades: PS 156 in Queens and Academy for Social Action: A College Board School in Harlem, where the high school will remain open despite posting an F on its Progress Report.

The announcement brings to 24 the number of closures announced this week. Pending approval by the Panel on Education Policy, the schools will not accept new students, although current students will be allowed to stay until graduation for all except MS 45 and Freedom Academy which will close in June. New schools, with new leadership and new staff, will be housed in the old buildings.

Just four years ago, the Performance School in the South Bronx replaced another failing elementary school. But low test scores and attendance persisted at the school and it will be closed too. Fewer than 15 percent of the students met grade level standards on state math and reading exams in 2012.

About 32 low-performing schools were saved from the ax, including several large, historic high schools: Flushing High School in Queens, George Westinghouse in downtown Brooklyn, Boys and Girls High School in Bed Stuy, and DeWitt Clinton in the Bronx.   Although these schools were threatened with closure, after visits and conversations with school communities this fall, the DOE decided to develop what it calls an "action plan” to improve them instead. There is no guarantee that these schools will continue to survive, however: many of the schools on this year's closure list, last year were on the list to get "targeted action" for improvement.

Published in News and views
Monday, 07 January 2013 17:18

City proposes closing 17 schools

Seventeen schools on a list of 60 targeted as "academically struggling" earlier this fall are now slated for closure, Deputy Schools Chancellor Marc Sternberg said today, with more school closures to be announced tomorrow. If approved, two of the schools would be closed at the end of the school year -- MS 45 in East Harlem and Freedom Academy in downtown Brooklyn --  the others would be phased out more slowly, with current students allowed to stay until graduation.

Three of the 17 schools are elementary schools, six are middle schools, seven are high schools and one, Choir Academy, serves grades 6-12. Most have previously been identified as troubled and at risk of being shut down. A few are large neighborhood high schools, such as Lehman in the Bronx and Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn, but others are small high schools, created as an alternative to huge zoned schools, such as Bread and Roses and Jonathan Levin High School for Media and Communications. All have test scores and graduation rates that are below the city average.

Sternberg said that the decision to close the schools was made after a "rigorous review of academic performance" this fall. "We expect success," he said. "We've listened to the community and provided comprehensive support services to these schools based on their needs. Ultimately, we know we can better serve our students and families with new options and a new start."

Published in News and views
Tuesday, 08 January 2013 16:00

DOE says 2013 CEC elections to be smoother

The Education Department announced the start of the selection process for the city's Community Education Councils and vows to run the bi-annual elections more smoothly this spring. They could hardly be worse than the last elections in 2011, parent leaders say.

Two years ago, the Community Education Council elections were fraught with SNAFUs and confusion. Some qualified candidates’ names were mysteriously left off ballots and parents were unable to log on to a website to vote in the election’s first round.

“It was chaos and total disaster because the DOE didn’t do proper outreach,” said Shino Tanikawa, the president of District 2’s CEC.

The process was such a mess that even schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott admitted it was mismanaged and ordered a do-over.

Published in News and views
Thursday, 03 January 2013 11:44

Future of NYC schools event with Quinn

On Tuesday, Jan. 15, Insideschools and the Center for New York City Affairs will co-host a conversation with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn on the future of schools in New York City.

Quinn will discuss her vision for "building a 21st century school system," including college and career readiness. She will also participate in a Q & A with Insideschools' founder and senior editor, Clara Hemphill. This event is one of a series of events with potential 2013 mayoral candidates sponsored by the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School.  (See a write-up of a 2012 event with mayoral hopeful Tom Allon here.) 

Quinn also spoke about city education policy, along with other potential mayoral candidates, at a GothamSchools event in November. See a rundown of that event here.

The Jan. 15 forum will be at The New School, at 65 West 11th Street, from 8:30 am to 10 am. Tickets are free but you must reserve a seat; RSVP here: http://strongerschools.eventbrite.com/. Do it soon! It's a small venue and seats are going fast.

Published in News and views
Thursday, 20 December 2012 11:09

Free stuff to do over the holidays!

What to do with your children once the presents have been opened, the holidays feasts consumed and the kids -- and you -- have had enough of games and computers? How about a visit to one of New York City's "more than 500 galleries, 375 nonprofit theater companies, 330 dance companies, 150 museums, 96 orchestras, 40 Broadway theaters, 24 performing arts centers, five zoos, five botanical gardens, and an aquarium."

That rundown is from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs which compiled a list of city venues with free or "suggested" admissions, perfect for families looking for something to do over the holidays. (Thanks to DJ Sheppard, District 3 family advocate for forwarding it to us!). Here they are, in alphabetical order.

FREE HOURS AT CULTURAL VENUES

For more events, see the NYCulture Calendar.

And, as always, it's best to call or check online before you visit to confirm the details.

Published in News and views
Tuesday, 18 December 2012 11:40

Applying to middle school with an IEP

All 5th graders will turn in applications for middle school this Friday, Dec. 21. That includes students with special education needs who will fill out the same application as other children.

There is often some confusion about the process, even after the roll-out of the special education reform this year. Now all schools are expected to accept students with special needs, which wasn't the case in the past. Parents say that outreach was poor at some schools last year, with special needs students unaware that they could apply.

To help families of children with special needs better understand their rights when applying to middle school, Advocates for Children put together a list of recommendations and tips. See their suggestions after the jump.

Published in News and views
Monday, 17 December 2012 14:17

How to talk to children about Dec.14 tragedy

All schools should offer a "safe place" for children who wish to talk about last Friday's tragedy at Sandy Hook elementary school, Chancellor Dennis Walcott wrote in a letter to school communities and families today.

The letter, signed also by UFT President Michael Mulgrew and Ernest Logan, president of the principal's union, encouraged teachers to "give solace and support to your colleagues so we can be strong enough to take care of our students."

Included were suggestions of resources that teachers, school staff and families can refer to when helping children try to comprehend Friday's horrific acts such as Resources for Dealing with Traumatic Events in School, published by the University of Maryland's Center for School Mental Health.  

Ever since news of the school shootings in Newtown on Friday, parents have been sharing resources and suggestions on how to speak to their children about what happened. Here are a few resources to consider:

And, after the jump, here are some tips from a social worker accustomed to treating victims of crime. Thanks to Park Slope Parents listeserv for sharing them.

Published in News and views
Tuesday, 11 December 2012 13:05

Ask Judy: I'm being bullied & want to transfer

Hi Judy,

I go to a high school in Brooklyn. I am a freshman. I have been asked by three older student to do drugs. I hate the environment and feel really unsafe going to school every day. I want to transfer but they are saying I need to wait until my year is over. I can't stand the thought of going one more day. I am really scared. I can't sleep anymore.
Worried

Dear Worried,

Drug use in schools is alarming.  Most schools have a program, and specialists known as SAPIS, to combat it, but that is a long term solution and I think that your particular situation should be remedied immediately.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">What you describe is bullying and intimidation. I know it is tough to publicly report the kids involved but here is a way to report confidentially: contact the person who is listed on the Respect for All poster in your school. Respect for All is the city's anti-bullying program. If there is no poster visible at your school, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to get the name of your school's representative.

Published in News and views
Tuesday, 11 December 2012 11:11

Cost is high for convicting teens as adults

A new edition of Child Welfare Watch -- issued by Insideschools.org's colleagues at the Center for New York City Affairs --  reports on the city's youth justice system, looking at what has changed following several years of reform. It reports on new initiatives to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18; to build bridges between communities and the Department of Probation and to house incarcerated juveniles closer to home. And it tells the story of the difficult relationships between the NYPD, young people and other tenants in New York public housing.

Findings include:

  • The number of arrested teens aged 15 and under whose cases have been diverted from court and closed by the city's probation department increased 47 percent between 2009 and last year. This number has more than doubled since 2006. (See "Case Closed.")
  • Public housing residents make up about five percent of the city's population, but from 2006 through 2009, roughly half of all NYPD trespassing stops in the entire city took place in public housing. (See "To Protect and Serve?")
  • New York's policy of trying 16- and 17-year-old nonviolent offenders as adults in criminal court reduces each teen's lifetime earnings potential by more than $60,000. The state loses at least $50 million in foregone wages for each annual cohort that passes through the adult courts—and unknown millions in lost tax revenues. (See "The High Cost of Convicting Teens as Adults.")
  • ACS plans to spend $22 million to provide short term, evidence-based therapies to work with about 3,000 families. This is a targeted effort to reduce the number of children 12 years old and older placed in foster care. (See "Social Workers at the Kitchen Table.")

Child Welfare Watch offers a set of policy recommendations and solutions informed by the research and drafted by a panel of practitioners, experts, parents, young people and others, aimed at helping policymakers continue toward cohesive criminal justice reform.

Read the new edition of Child Welfare Watch here.

Published in News and views