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Meredith Kolodner

Meredith Kolodner

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

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 new 2012-2013 middle school directories are online just in time for the district fairs which begin this week for 5th graders and their families. District fairs run from 5:30-7:30 p.m. beginning on Wednesday. All schools are supposed to send representatives.

There will be copies of the guides at the fair, but it's a good idea to go through them before you arrive and make a list of the schools that your child is eligible for and any questions you may have. The fairs can be crowded and a little overwhelming, so arrive prepared. Our video on how to apply to a middle school is here.

The latest middle school Progress Reports are also available online now. These are report cards, complete with grades, that the Education Department gives to each school every year. They are supposed to give a sense of how the school is doing. They are useful to look at, but take the "grades" with a grain of salt. They are mostly based on how much progress kids have made on state exams. So for example, three popular, progressive Manhattan middle schools, Institute for Collaborative Education, School of the Future and IS 289, all received Cs this year, even though on average about 80% of their kids are reading and doing math at grade level. Meanwhile, the Middle School of Marketing and Legal Studies in East Flatbush, Brooklyn got an A, even though less than 40% of the students at the school are reading at grade level.

Friday, 14 September 2012 15:43

Start looking for middle schools now

Believe it or not, 5th grade parents, it's time to start checking out your middle school options – the first middle school fairs begin October 3.

Different middle schools -- and districts -- have different application processes. There are schools you have to apply to in person, others that you list on an application provided by your elementary school and still others that require auditions and special tests. Sounds intimidating, but it can be mastered.

This month, you should figure out what schools your kid is eligible for so you can make sure to hit the district fair, sign up for a tour or request a test.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012 15:32

Special ed seats go unfilled at elite school

There are more students with special needs than ever attending Brooklyn's highly sought-after Christa McAuliffe middle school, but poor outreach has left one-third of the available seats unfilled.

The empty seats will not be filled this year, Education Department officials said.

The school let several general education teachers go in preparation for the creation of two Integrated Co-Teaching classes, in which general and special education students learn side by side with two teachers, one of whom is licensed to teach special education students. There were only enough special ed students to create one of the ICT classes. Nonetheless, the school is not offering Spanish to 6th graders this year and some art classes have been cut, parents said.

The problem was not a lack of interest among families of children with disabilities. Students applying to Christa McAuliffe, also known as IS 187, must take the OLSAT exam, which was administered in December. But parents were not informed of the special needs enrollment option until January. As a result, the school had fewer applications from special education students than the 25-30 seats that the DOE targeted. It got 4,000 applications for just 300 general education seats in 2010.

Monday, 10 September 2012 10:40

NYC teachers rally for Chicago strike

TUESDAY UPDATE: About 200 people were at the Monday rally. The city's teachers union approved a $10,000 donation to the Chicago teachers' strike fund. GothamSchools says the UFT isn't likely to follow Chicago's lead, but you can check out their upcoming explanation of why the strike still matters for our city.

MONDAY: Some New York City teachers are rallying to support the Chicago teachers who were on the picket lines Monday morning. Chicago's Democratic Mayor Rham Emanuel says the city has made a generous offer that would raise teachers' salaries. But leaders of the reform-led Chicago Teachers Union say the strike is not just about money -- they want improvements made to Chicago's schools, including smaller class sizes, and a nurse and a social worker in every school. They also note that the proposed raises would be offset by a hike in health care costs.

If you're with the Chicago teachers, you can join NYC teachers and Occupy Wall Street at Union Square at 5pm.

NYC connection: Chicago schools superintendent J.C. Brizard was a teacher and principal of Westinghouse High School before going to the high school division at Tweed. He left to become head of schools in Rochester, NY and then was off to Chicago.

Wednesday, 05 September 2012 14:03

Will new G&T exam cut down test prep?

A heads-up to parents eager to have their four and five year-olds take a test to enter one of the city's more than 70 elementary gifted and talented programs: One of the exams to qualify for the city's district and citywide G&T classrooms will be different this year. The Department of Education will administer the OLSAT, as usual, but this year kids will also take the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test (NNAT2) instead of the Bracken School Readiness Assessment. Results of previous G&T exams have been skewed in favor of upper-income students. The hope is that using the NNAT2 will level the playing field.

In the Bracken, children identify shapes and colors. The Naglieri emphasizes cognitive ability and children must identify patterns and sequences.

"I give the DOE credit for trying to make the process more equitable by going to a new test that apparently is less easy to prep for," said Robin Aronow, who heads up SchoolSearchNYC.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012 14:05

Here's help for special ed parents

The beginning of a new school year can be exciting -- and confusing. Some very helpful information is now available for families of students with disabilities. A new fact sheet from Advocates for Children is online in both English and Spanish.

It covers a range of issues that often crop up at the beginning of school, including:

* What to do if your child does not yet have a school
* What to do if your child's school says it cannot serve your child's needs
* What to bring with you if you are enrolling your child in a new school
* What to do if you need specialized bus service, but nothing is in place

For many children with special needs, the start of school will be a smooth process, but if it's not, you can get in touch with Advocates for Children for advice and assistance. Their help line at (866) 427-6033 is staffed Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.


Monday, 11 June 2012 09:39

How to get on a pre-k waitlist

Pre-k acceptance letters are going out today via email and regular mail, and pre-registration runs from June 12 - 22. Getting a seat in a full-day program can save thousands of dollars in child care costs. It can also provide a great mix of play and learning. If you didn't get into the program you wanted - or any program - you have some options.

The first step is to call the school on June 18 and ask to be placed on the pre-k waitlist. If they say they don't have one, keep calling or email All schools should keep waitlists starting June 18.

As spots open up, they will be given out through a lottery, with preference first to zoned students with a sibling in the school, then to zoned students and then to students with a sibling who lives in the district.

Not only are the state tests confusing for the kids. Now teachers say they can't figure out how to score them.

Long-time principals and teachers say they have never witnessed the level of confusion that has broken out in scoring sessions for the state math and English tests this year. Principals have received several emails with corrections to the scoring guide created by the testing company Pearson. More than 5,000 city teachers have been pulled out of their classes to grade the exams, a job which is scheduled to wrap up Wednesday.

Wednesday, 09 May 2012 15:34

More tests, more boycotts

Fed up with multiple errors on state exams (including loudmouthed pineapples), some parents are planning to boycott "field tests" next week that will be used to design future exams. 

Students at more than 1,500 public and parochial schools in the city are among students at more than 4,000 schools statewide who will sit for the exams. The results will not be used to measure student achievement or evaluate schools, city officials said.

Organizers have launched a statewide campaign and are urging other parents to have their children abstain from the tests as well, providing sample letters and a fact sheet.

"Field test" questions were embedded in the math and reading exams students took last month, which was part of the reason the exams were longer.

Although this is not the first time stand-alone field tests have been administered and the exams will only take up a period or two for one day, some parents say they are in no mood to have their children "help" design future tests.

“I was very upset to learn that the DOE has mandated that our children take these field tests,” said Patricia Velotta, who has notified her son’s school that she doesn’t want her eighth grader taking the planned field test in June. “When I heard yesterday, after the relief of the ELA and math tests being over, that now they want to subject our kids to another week of field testing, I felt exasperated. Our children have had enough.”

The Pearson company's $32 million contract to create the new and improved exams has also rankled parents, who have seen school budgets slashed for several years in a row.

PS 321, PS 107 and PS 261, all in brownstone Brooklyn, are test sites and home to parents who have been vociferously opposed to the rising stakes of standardized exams. But the exams will be given in all corners of the city. Third graders at the elite Manhattan school Anderson will be quizzed on math. Sixth and seventh graders at JHS 125 in the Soundview section of the Bronx will take the reading field test. At PS 207 in Howard Beach, 4th graders will sit for the science exam.

The science field tests will be given between May 14 and 18. Students will take the English and math field tests between June 5 and 8.

For more information about the boycott, parents can email or

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