News and views
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."
A group of 15 principals from across the city announced this week they will no longer be using results from a controversial new state test as part of their middle and high school admissions criteria.
In a letter to parents, students and school communities, the principals — from Manhattan, Brooklyn and The Bronx — explained their dissatisfaction with the Common Core, which they said did not live up to their expectations.
"Inauthentic tests and test prep are taking away time for quality instruction and authentic learning and testing," the letter stated.
The Department of Education's announcement yesterday that it will accelerate the removal of light fixtures that may be contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs) from more than 730 school buildings by December 2016 is an important victory for New York City school children and their families.
Prompted by a lawsuit brought by parent and advocacy groups, the city agreed to halve the timeline for the PCB removal from flourescent lights.The clean-up was supposed to be done by 2021 but the city will expedite the process to be completed in the next 3.5 years.
The renegotiated timeline is a result of more than two years of litigation brought by New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) on behalf of New York Communities for Change. The advocacy groups sued the DOE in 2011 over its intentions to remove the PCB contaminated fixtures over a ten year period. In March, a federal judge ruled against the city's motion to dismiss the suit, admonishing the city for its "foot-dragging" and "spurious" arguments over the clean-up of school buildings. In a stinging decision, the judge said that he was troubled over the city's dismissive attitude to potential health risks faced by children in schools with PCB-contaminated light fixtures. The settlement will require the DOE to provide semi-annual progress reports and the NYLPI and the court will continue to monitor the city's work until the last light fixture is removed.
Q: So we all read the article in the New York Times last week about waiting lists and the extreme things some applicants do to get noticed and maybe picked. This seems to create an unnecessary amount of stress, since so few colleges take students who are waitlisted. And by May 1, we’re enrolled somewhere anyway. So what’s the point? Why don’t colleges either accept or reject people and get it over with?
A: Over the years, colleges have found the use of a waiting list to be quite helpful – well, helpful to them. On the other side of the question, just ask a student who has enrolled at her #2 college if she’d like a chance to go to her #1 school – most would be thrilled!
As colleges have become increasingly conscious of how their acceptance and enrollment rates are perceived, and how these affect the all-holy rankings, they have come to use the waiting list in a variety of ways. In general, applicants are wailtlisted for one of three reasons:
A group of public school parents and community groups filed a complaint today with the U.S. Office of Civil Rights alleging that New York City’s high school admissions policy discriminates against black and Hispanic students by concentrating them in low-performing schools where they are more likely to fail.
Filed by the Educational Law Center in Newark, N.J., on behalf of 13 parents, the Alliance for Quality Education and several community organizations, the complaint takes aim at the city’s complex system of school choice which assigns students to 386 high schools across the five boroughs.
Excluded from the complaint are the eight specialized high schools, including Stuyvesant, Bronx High School of Science and Brooklyn Tech, which require an entrance exam. Admission to those schools is governed by state law, not city policy. Also excluded from the complaint are “international” schools, which serve new immigrants, and transfer schools, which serve students who have been unsuccessful at traditional schools.
“Of the 386 high schools at issue in this sweeping federal complaint, 242 schools (or 63%) have a student population that is more than 90% African American and Latino. Thirty-seven of the 386 high schools (or 10%) have a student population that is more than 24% white, thus more than double the percentage of white students in the district,” the Alliance for Quality Education said in a press release.
Some scholars, including Bruce Fuller, Richard Elmore and Gary Orfield in their 1996 book "Who Chooses? Who Loses?," have suggested that an unfettered free market of school choice tends to increase racial and economic segregation because the best educated and wealthiest parents are best equipped to navigate a complex admissions process.
The Parthenon Group, a consulting firm hired by DOE to examine its NYC high school admissions, wrote in a 2008 report that concentrating students with high needs in any one school increases the overall chances of student failure and school closure. “Yet, despite this evidence DOE has continued to concentrate the highest-need students in minority schools, creating a vicious cycle that has doomed more minority schools to closure,” the press release said.
The Bloomberg administration dramatically expanded high school choice, closed low-performing schools and created hundreds of new small schools in the hopes that competition would force bad schools to close and allow good schools to flourish. Rather than attending school based on their address, all students must now apply to high school. Some selective or “screened” schools rank the students they want to admit based on their test scores and grades; others schools are assigned students at random. Some popular schools may have 5,000 applicants for 125 seats and attract high-performing students; unpopular schools struggle to fill their seats and get mostly low-performing students
The complaint calls this a “hands-off” approach to school assignment which results in disproportionate numbers of black and Hispanic children being assigned to low-performing schools. “There are, apparently, no controls to ensure a distribution of students that will not overwhelm certain schools with high concentrations of students with high needs,” the complaint states.
As a proposed remedy, the complaint suggests the city could institute a system of "contolled choice" that limits the number of high needs students in any school.
The DOE responded by saying that choice has “empowered” families and suggesting that critics wanted to “turn back the clock.”
"This administration inherited an unequal system-–where zip code often determined a child’s fate,” deputy chancellor Marc Sternberg said in a press release. “Today, because of our nationally recognized high school admissions process, every student has the freedom to apply to any school throughout the city.” Sternberg said that graduation rates had increased for black and Hispanic students during Bloomberg’s tenure.
A copy of the complaint can be downloaded below.
We had a number of questions this week from parents who are confronted with “Promotion in Doubt” letters, or “PIDs” as they are known in DOE lingo. These letters are sent to families of children who are at risk of repeating a grade or who may be failing a course needed to graduate. Here are three recent questions from parents who received a PID letter.
1.Why did I get a promotion in doubt letter, when my daughter's teachers have said that she is doing well and on target for graduation?
2. My kindergartner’s teacher says my son is making good progress according to the terms of his IEP, so why the letter?
3. I never heard this before from my child’s teachers and here it is almost the end of the school year and I'm just now getting the letter?
Here's some advice to these and other parents with similar problems.
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.
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.
A catalogue arrived the other day from Urban Outfitters, the ubiquitous clothing chain that dresses so many U.S. teenagers. Along with hipster uniforms of skinny jeans, chunky jewelry and platform sandals, I saw photographs of long-limbed girls wearing shorts so skimpy they might as well have been bathing suit bottoms.
With so little left to the imagination, I couldn't help asking the teenage boys who reside in my household if this was how girls dress at their New York City public high school.
"All the time,'' was their answer, and I should not have been surprised. Since middle school, I've repeatedly noticed girls coming to school wearing not much at all.
Apparently, I'm not the only one who has taken note. A lot of New York City public school officials aren't terribly happy about the scantily clad students whose desire to shed layers increases as the weather warms up.
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.