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Pamela Wheaton

Pamela Wheaton

Pamela Wheaton is one of the founding members of Insideschools. Since 2002 she has served as deputy director, project director and managing editor. She edits the blog, reviews schools, leads workshops about school choice and oversees editorial content. She collaborated with Clara Hemphill on a series of guides to New York City’s best public schools. Previously Wheaton was a producer of PBS television programs and a reporter and editor at the Buenos Aires Herald. Her two daughters graduated from New York City public schools.

Thursday, 21 March 2013 16:41

School opens on September 9 in 2013

Classes won't begin until a week after Labor Day next fall, giving students a few extra days of summer vacation. According to the 2013-2014 calendar posted by the Education Departments, classes will begin on Monday, Sept. 9. Students customarily return to school during the first week of September but because Rosh Hashanah falls early this year, the start of classes is delayed until the following week.

Teachers are expected to return on Tuesday, Sept. 3 to prepare their classrooms, and to attend mandatory professional development on Sept. 4. All schools will be closed on Thursday and Friday, Sept. 5-6, for Rosh Hashanah.

The first two days will be shorter for children in pre-kindergarten.

The last day of school is June 26, 2014. See the calendar, including holidays, here.


Monday, 04 March 2013 16:00

Apply now to new middle schools

Unhappy with your middle school choices? The Education Department plans to open 16 new middle schools next September. While choosing a new school over an established one is risky, at least two of these new schools look like promising options: School of the Future in Manhattan will open a sister school in East New York and the Eagle Academy for Young Men is opening another school in Harlem, in District 5.

Many of these new schools have yet to be approved by the Panel for Educational Policy (PEP) which will meet to vote on school closings and openings at its March 11 meeting. A few are screened programs but most are unscreened, giving preference to students who attend an open house or info session. Students who are eligible to attend the new middle schools will receive application information from their elementary schools, according to the DOE. Or you can contact the new schools to find out when their info sessions are being held.

Applications are due on March 6, a week before the PEP meeting. Kids who apply and are accepted to one of the new schools may choose between the new school and the middle school they originally applied to, according to the DOE.

Monday, 04 March 2013 06:00

Kicked out of a charter? Here's help.

In one recent week, Advocates for Children got four calls from families whose children had been suspended from the same charter elementary school (Hyde Leadership Charter). A parent from another charter school called to say that her son had been suspended three times for "yelling." Is suspension the usual appropriate response to yelling, the parent wondered, and if not, what recourse did she and her son have?

Advocates for Children has produced a guide to Charter School Discipline (pdf) to help answer questions like these.

"Parents are not sure what schools can do and can’t do," said Paulina Davis, an attorney at AFC. "The point of the guide is to bring a little bit of clarity to parents."

AFC receives frequent complaints from charter school parents whose children are expelled, suspended, or counseled to leave the school because it is not an "appropriate fit." Unlike ordinary public schools, charter schools can make their own rules about discipline--within certain limits. But parents may have more rights than they realize, Davis said.

For example, students may be suspended for behavior that is disruptive or endangers others, but they may not be suspended for being absent, coming to school late, or failing to follow school policy.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013 13:49

Apply now for K: Our Brooklyn & SI picks

Parents should submit applications for kindergarten by March 1, particularly if they want to explore options outside their zoned neighborhood school. You may apply directly to as many schools as you like: be sure to bring your child's birth certificate and proof of address. You'll find out in April if your child has a seat.

In most cases, you are guaranteed a seat in your zoned neighborhood school--whether you apply now or later in the spring or summer. But if you want to consider all your options (or if your neighborhood school is so crowded that it has a waitlist) now is the time to get started.

We've researched some neighborhood schools that may have room for children outside the zone, dual language programs and unzoned schools that select via lottery in Brooklyn and Staten Island, the city's largest and smallest boroughs. The city's new elementary school directory is another useful source of information. We'll offer another post on charter school options next month.

District 13: Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Prospect Heights, part of Park Slope & Brooklyn Heights

Arts and Letters in Fort Greene is a highly sought after school that holds a lottery for kindergarten admissions. PS 133, a small school in lower Park Slope which was displaced for several years, is moving into a new building in September. It is now unzoned and serves both districts 13 and 15. It offers dual language programs in French and Spanish. PS 11 and PS 20 in Clinton Hill usually have space for out of zone children, even though PS 20 may not let you know until suimmer.  PS 9 in Prospect Heights has a dual language program that takes native Spanish speakers from out of zone. PS 307 offers the only Mandarin Chinese dual language program in the district. PS 282 in Park Slope is a traditional K-8 school that is a top pick for many out-of-zone parents.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013 10:18

April state tests will be harder, Walcott says

State math and reading exams will be harder to pass this year, Chancellor Dennis Walcott warned parents, and more children will likely fail. For the first time the state-mandated tests will be aligned with the new Common Core standards and, Walcott says, "will be more difficult to pass." In a break from the past, however, failing -- scoring a level 1 out of 4 - will not mean automatic holdover for children in grades 3 to 8.

Instead, the chancellor said in a letter to parents, 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."

Since 2004 when Mayor Bloomberg ended so-called "social promotion," all students who scored a 1 on either the reading or math exam were sent to summer school. This year students who score in the bottom 10 percent will be required to go to summer school and retake the exams in August, NY1 reports.  The city anticipates that the number of students requiring summer classes to be promoted to the next grade will be about the same as last year.

The yearly high-stakes tests also affect admission to selective middle and high schools. Cut-off scores for acceptance may be lower this year, but Walcott said, "students who earn the highest scores-even if those scores are lower than in past years-will still have access to screened middle and high schools."

Students this year will have to read and respond to longer and more challenging passages than in previous years. Third graders will be expected to read 500-600 word excerpts from books such as Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach or The Story of Ruby Bridges  by Robert Coles.  Eighth graders will read 900-1,000 word passages from classics such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer or Richard Wright’s Native Son. Third and 4th graders will have less time to complete the math exams than on previous years' tests. Test guides for every grade's reading and math exams are posted on the state education department's website.

This year's  ELA (English Language Arts) exams will be given on April 16-18; math tests will be the following week, April 24-26.






we will look at students' overall scores-how many questions each
student got right. Students with the lowest scores will be recommended for
summer school.
Friday, 15 February 2013 10:53

Downtown schools will have K waitlists again

PS 234 and PS 276, two popular downtown elementary schools, will face kindergarten waitlists again this year, DNAinfo reports.

The due date for kindergarten applications is March 1 and already PS 234 has 166 kindergarten applicants, well over the 125 student limit,  Magda Lenski, the school's parent coordinator, told DNAinfo. At PS 276, more than 130 kids have applied. The school was designed for 75 kindergartners.

When more children apply than there are slots available, a lottery is held and students who aren't chosen are placed on a waitlist. There is always movement on the waitlists as families move or choose to go to private schools or gifted and talented programs. Last year the waitlisted students at PS 234 and PS 276 all got seats by June, largely because both schools opened additional kindergarten classes. That can't continue to happen, the schools say. At PS 276, parents petitioned the Education Department to find additional schools for kindergartners. Principal Terri Ruyter suggested that the school may need to lose its two pre-kindergarten classrooms to make space, DNAinfo reports.  

The good news for parents is that other downtown schools do have space. The new Peck Slip School, temporarily housed in Tweed, has only 13 kindergarten applications so far and plans to take in 50 students. The Spruce Street School has 50 applicants so far for 50 spots and PS 89 has 62 applicants for 75 spots, according to DNAinfo. Families may also apply to PS 150, an unzoned school in Tribeca which gives priority to students from downtown neighborhoods.


Thursday, 14 February 2013 10:06

Students in closing schools may transfer

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.

Read a full report about the new policy on GothamSchools. See NY1 for coverage about last night's hearing at Jonathan Levin High School in the Bronx.  Upcoming hearings are listed here.


Wednesday, 13 February 2013 12:51

Get buses running, parents tell Walcott

For four weeks now yellow school buses have not been running and parents of special education students are fed up. They are asking Chancellor Dennis Walcott to intervene and work with Mayor Bloomberg to get the buses running again.

In a letter sent to the chancellor on Monday by the Citywide Council on Special Education -- a parent advisory board -- the CCSE said that what it finds most "appalling about this is that you and the Mayor believe that the DOE has no responsibility in the current bus strike negotiations."

For many students with special needs, transportation is a mandated service stipulated on a students IEP (Individualized Education Plan). Alternative modes of transportation, such as taxicabs and car services, are not working out for many families, the CCSE said.

One out of every four of the most severely disabled students in District 75 is missing school due to the lack of bus service, the letter says. That echoes testimony given at a City Council hearing last Friday by Maggie Moroff of Advocates for Children and the ARISE Coalition. In an editorial in today's Daily News, Moroff writes that some 2,500 District 75 students are missing school every day.

"The city offered no plan for students who needed accessible transportation, no plan for children who needed an adult to accompany them to school and did not have a parent available, no plan for families with more than one child in different schools and no plan for families who could not afford to put out carfare twice a day and wait for reimbursement," Moroff writes.

For more on the bus strike, see Gotham School's round up and Advocates for Children. Read the Daily News editorial here and see the CCSE's letter after the jump.

Monday, 11 February 2013 10:57

Apply for pre-k beginning March 4

A heads-up to families of kids turning four this year: Applications for public school pre-kindergarten will be available March 4 online, at elementary schools and at Education Department enrollment centers. Families must submit applications by April 5 and will hear about acceptances in early June. Applications for programs located in community based organizations (CBOs), such as Y's, preschools and other childcare centers, are separate and are available at each agency that offers pre-kindergarten. (There is rolling admission for those programs and some fill up quickly).

Any child who was born in 2009 may apply, but seats are not guaranteed. Programs are housed in public schools or at local daycares and pre-schools, and are either half day (2.5 hours), or full day, (6 hours and 20 minutes.) The state mandates that each pre-k class may have a maximum of 18 students with two teachers.

How do you find out which schools offer programs? Early in March directories will be posted online, or you can get paper copies at schools, daycare and Head Start centers and DOE enrollment centers. Directories of which schools are offering pre-kindergarten this year are online at the DOE's website but be aware that programs change from year to year.

Thursday, 07 February 2013 12:21

Parents active in planning new 'Slope' school

Kindergarten registration is underway at PS 118, a new District 15 school opening in September, designed to ease overcrowding at a few of the most popular Park Slope schools, including PS 321 and PS 107.

In fact incoming parents and Elizabeth Garroway, who is expected to be named principal, have already jointly decided to name the school after children's author Maurice Sendak, reports. It will be the Maurice Sendak Community School.

PS 118 will be moving into a former parochial school building, St. Thomas Aquinas, at 211 Eighth Street. That building has been occupied by PS 133, which will be moving back to its original location, with a newly constructed building, at 4th Avenue and Baltic. PS 118's zone was carved out of the western side of PS 321's zone, roughly comprising the area betweenThird and Fourth avenues and President and Sixth Street

Garroway, who has been an assistant principal at PS 321, is planning a multicultural approach for PS 118 "to prep students for college and the world," DNAInfo reports.

Parents have already started a Facebook page, PS 118 Founding Parents and are organizing to create a new playground and a garden. Families can meet with the principal and register for the school during her office hours at PS 133. Check the Facebook page for details. In addition to two kindergarten classes, PS 118 will get two much-needed pre-kindergarten classes, parents report.

Read more about the plans for PS 118 on and on the founding families website.