Parents are learning this week whether their children will be sent to summer school based on their performance on 2013 state reading and math exams for grades 3-8. The initial good news that the numbers of students recommended for summer school is not higher than usual, according to principals.
"I'm imagining that we'll have the same number of students [attending summer school] as in previous years," said Christina Fuentes, principal of PS 24 in Brooklyn. "Other principals I've talked to said they did feel that the cut scores were adjusted [for the harder exams]."
This year there have been widespreads concern about the harder exams, which for the first time were aligned with the new Common Core standards. Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott tried to alleviate those concerns in a letter to parents before exams were administered in April. He acknowledged that tests would be harder, but, he said, scoring a level 1 out of 4, would not mean automatic holdover for children as it has in previous years. Instead, he wrote, the DOE "will look at students' overall scores-how many questions each student got right. Students with the lowest scores will be recommended for summer school."
Students who applied in the second round of high school admissions will learn on Friday, June 7, where they were matched, according to middle school guidance counselors, who will distribute the responses at school. In some cases, students have already gotten letters from high schools directly, letting them know they have been admitted and alerting them of open house dates.
Students who are not happy with their assignment may appeal for another school. Appeal forms will be available on June 7 from guidance counselors and must be filled out and submitted by June 14.
Unlike previous years, the appeal results will not be available by the end of the school year, June 26, but instead will be sent by mail to families sometime in July. The high school admissions process was delayed this year by Hurricane Sandy when thousands of students were displaced from school and the enrollment office was scrambling to find places for them.
Although this year's appeal forms are not yet available, in past years the main reasons appeals are granted are for safety, travel distance from school, health concerns or administrative errors on the student's application. In addition, students can fill in other reasons. The DOE does not say how many students file appeals and how many are granted.
In 2012, 75,690 8th graders applied to high school and 68,465 got one of their choices. That left about 10 percent of students without a spot and they entered the second admissions round. Other students who wanted to apply to a new school, or to a different school, also entered Round 2.
The NYCDOE will mail decision letters for public school pre-kindergarten (pre-k) applicants this week and families who were matched to a pre-k program may register at schools from June 5 to June 19.
Families who applied online will receive email notification as well as letters in the mail. Parents should contact the school to arrange a time to register.
To register, bring your child and these required documents:
Valerie Watnick, who blogs for Insideschools.org on environmental issues affecting schools, released a new book this month: This Sh!t May Kill You: 52 Ways to Make Smarter Decisions and Protect Your Family from Everyday Environmental Toxins.
The book contains 52 action items to help safeguard your family from environmental toxins, including a section dedicated to schools. Professor Watnick is the chair of the Law Department at Baruch College, where she teaches environmental law and business law.
Watnick, a public school parent, is a former co-president of the PTA at PS 199, one of the first city schools that was found to have light fixtures contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs) in 2008. She has subsequently written about efforts to rid the schools of the contaminated fixtures, including a lawsuit brought by New York Lawyers for the Public Interest that accused the Department of Education of "dragging its feet" to remove suspect fixtures from more than 730 schools. Last week, a settlement was reached and the DOE announced it would accelerate the removal process, completing it by 2016.
On Wednesday, a 12-year-old middle school student in Queens hanged herself, leaving behind a note saying she had been harassed by classmates at school and bullied online. What can be done to prevent tragedies in the future? One issue may be that teachers are unaware when students are being bullied, especially when there is cyber-bullying. According to the Learning Environment Survey at IS 109, the school Gabrielle Molina attended, 80 percent of the students said there was bullying; but only 15 percent of teachers said students were bullied.
About 30 percent of IS 109's students said they felt unsafe at the school, although all the teachers reported feeling safe.
The tragedy occured just two days after Chancellor Dennis Walcott joined City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in asking schools to step up antii-bullying efforts before the end of the school year.
Walcott mentioned the latest anti-bullying initiative at a Town Hall meeting in Bedford Stuyvesant on Monday night, telling parents that bullying was still "very prevalent" in city schools. Just two days later, according to the Daily News, he was comforting the family of Gabrielle Molina, a student at IS 109 Jean Nuzzi Middle School, who was found dead that afternoon.
"Any child that takes his life or her life is something that deeply concerns me and hurts me as a parent and not just as a chancellor,” Walcott told the Daily News on Thursday. "Bullying is something that I feel very strongly about. We are always looking at new ways to work on the issue."
Fifth-graders around the city should find out today or tomorrow where they have been accepted to middle school. That's several days earlier than the May 20 date posted on the Department of Education's calendar.
Public elementary schools are picking up the letters at the enrollment offices on Thursday and will distribute them to children. If you don't get a letter today or tomorrow, contact your parent coordinator. Private school students should get their school assignments in the mail; if you don't receive a letter, go to the nearest enrollment office for help.
Unlilke the citywide high school application process, middle school admission varies by district. Some districts have zoned schools where children are assigned to middle school based on their address. Other districts have school choice and no zoned schools. A few, such as District 2, offer both zoned and unzoned schools. All students are guaranteed a seat at a school in their district. Those who apply to citywide, charter or other non-district choice schools may be accepted at several schools.
If you're not happy with the school to which you have been matched, you can appeal. Public school students should ask their elementary school guidance counselor for an appeal form; private school students may get one at the enrollment center. Wednesday, May 29 is the deadline to appeal.
Insideschools would like to hear from families who have appealed their middle school assignments in the past. Parents would like to know how the process works and whether appeals are generally successful. This is information that the Department of Education does not make public...at least they have not done so in the past.
You can't make this stuff up. The Department of Education discovered still more errors on the scoring of this year's gifted and talented exams and may fire Pearson, the company that administers the tests, it announced Friday afternoon.
Chancellor Dennis Walcott called Pearson's repeated errors "deeply disturbing" and said he was "reviewing a variety of options, including terminating Pearson's contract."
More than 300 young test-takers are affected, mostly incoming kindergartners: 82 additional students now qualify for district G&T programs (scoring at or above the 90th percentile) and 64 more children scored above the 97th percentile and now qualify for citywide programs, according to a DOE statement.
If you've got a child entering public school kindergarten in September 2013, you may want to attend one of this month's "Getting Ready for Kindergarten" workshops led by the Department of Education's Office of Early Childhood. The evening workshops will be held in every borough from May 16-30 in public schools and libraries.
The goal is to give parents an introduction to "who's who" in elementary schools, what to expect in kindergarten and how to become involved in your child's school. Childcare will be provided, as will snacks and activities for kids. The DOE will also provide information about local library and summer programs.
All workshops are from 6-8 p.m. See a flier on the DOE's website [pdf] for dates and locations. Call 212-374-0351 for more information.
If you are between the ages of 14 and 24, you may apply by May 10 for the New York City Summer Youth Employment program.
Participants work up to 25 hours a week for seven weeks, earning $7.25 per hour. Job sites include government agencies, hospitals, summer camps, nonprofits, small businesses, and retailers. See the NYC Department of Youth & Community Development website for more information and an application.
Still looking for a free summer program for your teen? The Long Island University campus in Brooklyn has several programs that still have space, including one for budding accountants, another on college readiness, a third for artistic kids who will learn to draw and paint from professional artists and a fourth for coursework and class trips on writing, speaking, critical thinking, research and creativity. The Fort Greene-Clinton Hill Patch gives a rundown, including contact information for each program. Deadlines have been extended until June.
After an outcry by parents, the Education Department changed its plan about where to move The STEM Academy, the citywide gifted and talented program in Queens. Last week, in a meeting with parents, DOE officials said that the school would be "split-sited" at two locations, the lower grades going to PS 76, the upper grades to IS 126.
Parents were upset, not only about the two different locations, but also because PS 76 is located far from public transportation and already houses a program for autistic children. Parents said the G&T program would take space from the program for special needs children, a prospect that made them uncomfortable. Instead, STEM families proposed that the school move to PS 17, which has room for more students and is closer to the subway.
Yesterday, the DOE agreed, presenting a new proposal to parents and principals at the affected schools. Under the new plan, the school would still be located at two different schools, but grades K-4 would go to PS 17, not PS 76. Grades 5-8 would still go to IS 126.
"We’ve worked extremely hard over the past several months to identify space to extend and create a stand alone citywide STEM program," the DOE press office said in a statement. "We always try to incorporate feedback from school communities, and we’re glad we can accommodate a K-8 program in Queens with this proposal."
"We are not thrilled with the split site but unfortunately there is not a lot of room in district 30," STEM parent Michal Melamed wrote in an email to Insideschools. "We are thrilled with how quickly the DOE changed its mind."
The plan to move and expand the STEM program, now housed at PS 85, will have to be approved by the Panel for Educational Policy. In January, Chancellor Dennis Walcott gave the go-ahead for STEM to become a K-8 school with its own administration. Since then the DOE and parents have been looking for a location.