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"Hey, ho! Cuomo's plan has got to go"

Written by Brigitte Bürgler Thursday, 12 March 2015 15:16

Hundreds of children, parents, teachers, and school leaders encircled PS 29 in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn before school this morning. Despite the chilly weather, the school community was fired up against Governor Cuomo’s proposed education reform in New York. Many feel it will harm children, teachers and communities—and I am one of them.

Cuomo aims to take teacher evaluation out of the hands of public school leaders and communities and into the hands of computers and outside evaluators. He proposes having teachers’ evaluations consist of: 50 percent student state test–score growth, 35 percent outside evaluators’ observations, and only 15 percent school leader's assessment. Research indicates that the computer calculation that evaluates teachers based on test-score growth has a high error rate (35 percent), because it cannot account for the many other factors in children’s lives. Its accuracy is almost as random as a coin toss. The most reliable evaluators of teachers are experienced educators within schools, who know the context, curriculum and the stakeholders.

The Department of Education released its list of 20 high schools that received the most applications this year, and Townsend Harris High School in Queens, with 5,540 applicants, was at the top. It was one of five high school programs that received more than 5,000 applications from 8th-graders in 2015.

Eleanor Roosevelt High School (ELRO), a small school that limits enrollment to Manhattan's District 2 students, was second most popular with 5,376 applicants. ELRO continues to get thousands of applications from students throughout the city even though those coming from outside of the district have little chance of getting accepted. 

Beacon High School, which moves to a new building in Hell's Kitchen in September, was number three, garnering 5,255 applications for 300 seats. Beacon, like some other popular and very selective schools, still has a few openings for students with special needs. Schools that screen applicants for test scores and grades have been charged with attracting and enrolling more students who require special education services for at least 20 percent of the school day. Many came up short in the first round of high school admissions

If you're a rising 9th or 10-grader who didn't get accepted by any high schools this week—or you want to try again for another school—go to the second round admissions fair next weekend, March 14-15. You'll meet representatives from schools that still have space and you can ask questions about what most interests you.

Where to start? Hundreds of schools have openings, but not all are worth considering. Focus on the same factors you thought about when you applied last fall: How long does it take to get there? Do you prefer big or small? Is there a special school theme? Read through our tips on what to consider.

We've combed through the round 2 list to identify our picks, schools that are proven best bets or seem promising.

Many of the screened schools still have openings for students who receive special education services for upwards of 20 percent of the school day. That includes—but is not limited to—students in Integrated Co-Teaching or small self-contained classes. If you are uncertain as to whether you qualify, ask your guidance counselor to check in the online SEMS (student enrollment management system).

If you have been assigned to a school, you may reapply in this round but be aware that if you are accepted to another school you give up your first round match. Applications are due on March 20


Bronx Collaborative High School, is modeled after the popular and progressive Institute for Collaborative Education (ICE) in Manhattan. Brett Schneider, former ICE assistant principal, is the principal.

Students at the Bronx Early College Academy for Teaching & Learning take college courses for credit at Lehman College.

At Bronx Lab, students enjoy lots of interesting trips and can participate in an internship program.

Bronx Leadership Academy High School serves many struggling learners, and offers lots of support for stronger students.

Bronx River High School provides students with extra guidance and longer school days.

Strong students may consider the Macy’s honors program at Dewitt Clinton High School. It offers challenging academics, though there are some concerns about safety and discipline in the building.

Marble Hill High School for International Studies, which has strong attendance and graduation rates, has seats in its program for English language learners.

At the University Heights Secondary School students enjoy the comfort of a small school with the offerings of a large one.

The honors program at Westchester Square Academy offers Advanced Placement classes starting in 10th-grade.

Though the school has had its share of struggles in recent years, Lehman High School’s honors program, the Anne Hutshinson Academy, provides stronger students the opportunity to do research and take advanced and college-level courses.

The Young Women’s Leadership School of the Bronx is part of a well-regarded network of all-girl schools. It opened in 2012 as a middle school and is expanding to serve high school students starting with a 9th grade in September 2015.

For those interested in arts programs, Celia Cruz High School offers topnotch music instruction. Wings Academy, which has space in both its academic and dance programs, provides lots of academic and social support for its students. The High School for Violin and Dance, which is predominantly female, offers extra support for boys through weekly meetings and special activities.

A few popular schools that have filled all their general education spots still have open seats reserved for students receiving special education services: Bronx Theatre High School, The Cinema School, H.E.R.O. High School, MS/HS 223, Theatre Arts Production Company School (TAPCo).

High school letters out: What to do in Round 2?

Written by Pamela Wheaton Thursday, 05 March 2015 18:46

High school acceptance letters went out last week and the good news is that 92 percent of 8th graders who applied got one of their choices. Of those, 76 percent got one of their top three picks. The bad news? Once again, thousands of kids were disappointed: eight percent of the more than 75,000 applicants didn't get accepted anywhere. That is still better than last year, when 10 percent of applicants received no match.

If you were one of the 5,800 8th graders who wasn't matched to a high school (or if you're unhappy with your match) it's time to look at the list of the schools that still have space (pdf). There is a wide range of large and small schools with available seats, including several good arts programs, but for the first time in more than a decade there are no new schools opening. 

Most of the top performing selective schools have a handful of seats only for students with special needs. This year those seats are reserved for students who receive "special education services for more than 20 percent of the instructional school day," according to the Department of Education.  If you don't know whether you qualify, ask your guidance counselor to check in the online student enrollment system (SEMS).

School representatives will be at the second-round high school fair from 11 am to 2 pm on March 14 and 15 at the Martin Luther King Educational Campus at 66th and Amsterdam in Manhattan. You can also meet with guidance counselors at the fair to help consider your options. 

by Sarah Darville, Chalkbeat New York

Few black and Hispanic students won admission to eight of the city's specialized high schools this year, leaving the schools' diversity figures unlikely to change as their admissions process faces continued scrutiny.

Just 5 percent of offers went to black students, and 7 percent went to Hispanic students — numbers identical to last year's admissions figures — though those two groups make up 70 percent of the city's eighth graders. Asian students won the biggest share of the offers, at 52 percent, while white students claimed 28 percent, according to numbers the Department of Education released Thursday.

Mayor Bill de Blasio, Chancellor Carmen Fariña, and civil-rights advocates have said those figures for black and Hispanic students are unacceptably low. In the past, they have expressed interest in moving away from the current admissions system for those schools, which relies solely on the Specialized High School Admissions Test.

Round 2 high school admissions fair March 14-15

Written by Pamela Wheaton Thursday, 26 February 2015 15:52

Anxious 8th and 9th-graders are still waiting to learn where they will attend high school next fall. [Schools can pick up letters on Thursday, March 5 and will be distributed Thursday or Friday.] The 2nd round high school fair will be held in Manhattan the weekend of March 14-15.

The Round 2 fair is for students who aren't accepted by any schools they listed on their applications submitted last December, those who want to apply to a school other than the one they were matched to and students who did not apply in the first round. At the fair, families can meet representatives from schools that still have seats available and they can talk to DOE admissions representives and guidance counselors about their options.

Insideschools event: The lowdown on pre-k

Written by Insideschools staff Wednesday, 25 February 2015 12:18

If your child turns 4 this year, he or she is eligible for free pre-kindergarten, either in a public school or at a site run by a community organization. You may apply between March 16-April 24. The de Blasio administration gets an A for effort in its rapid expansion of pre-kindergarten, with more than 30,000 new seats last fall and another 20,000 planned for this coming fall. But what is the quality of these new programs?

Even though the city is rapidly expanding free all-day pre-k programs, demand still outstrips supply in many neighborhoods. The staff of Insideschools and a panel of experts will tell you how to find a good program for your child and to navigate the application process. Josh Wallack, chief strategy officer of the Department of Education and an expert in early childhood, will be joining the panel.

Q: I've been denied by two schools already and now I'm waiting for the decisions from my other colleges. One school has asked me for my first-semester grades as well as an essay that explains why my grades have been inconsistent. Is this a good sign, or not? I have such low confidence now, and I'm worried about being admitted anywhere. Am I on the right track?

A: This will come as news to you, but ALL colleges to which students have applied—even colleges to which they have been admitted early—ask high schools to send first-semester grades. They want to be sure that all applicants are keeping up with their academics.

February homework: apply to free summer programs

Written by Laura Zingmond Thursday, 12 February 2015 10:39


February break is the right time to plan what your children will be doing during the warmer, balmy days of summer. Where to start? Check out our guide to free and low cost programs offered throughout the city. Launched last year, our listings highlight more than 100 free and low-cost programs for children and teens, and include summer and school-year programs in math, science, art, humanities, and academic prep.

To help you get started, here's a sampling of free programs you'll find in our guide:

Fariña urges parents to run for CECs

Written by Aimee Sabo Wednesday, 11 February 2015 12:39

Zoning, space-sharing, charters—think you have no say? Since 2004, Community Education Councils (CECs) have offered New York City parents a voice in shaping school policies in their districts and addressing community concerns. Today, Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña urged parents across the city to run for an Education Council seat and take a direct role in the education of their children.

“Education Councils make important contributions to their communities and I want to encourage parents across the city to apply for a seat,” the chancellor said in a Department of Education press release. “We need strong CECs in every district and citywide.”

While few dispute CECs' influence on zoning these days, many of the councils' other roles are advisory and have historically been dependent on how much the mayor and schools chancellor were willing to listen. Laurie Windsor, president of CEC District 20, says things are changing. "It was more difficult with the prior administration," she said. "Parents now are more hopeful than in the past about our place at the table with the DOE."