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Admissions Catch-Up

Written by Helen Zelon Wednesday, 11 June 2008 04:12

With news reaching parents on g+t kindergarten placement and middle schools, some of the furor of the past week or so seems to have fizzled. But confusion persists in some quarters -- the News reported that some students have gotten letters meant for other children, and we've heard that up to 50 rising 6th graders at Manhattan's coveted Anderson School received middle school placements at other schools-- even though they didn't apply for seats outside their home school, which continues to grade 8.

We're hoping for follow-ups from the DOE today on lotteries in Districts 1 and 3 -- and for additional illumination on the District 15 middle school placements, where overwhelming demand appears to have cost some students their first-round seats (or seats at the schools of their choice). It's great news that so many strong, local schools generate such robust demand -- but worrisome that the same schools can't absorb the entirely predictable flow of in-district fifth-graders seeking seats.

Checking In

Written by Helen Zelon Tuesday, 10 June 2008 04:53

One more sweltering day, with a welcome break in sight. Articles and opinions debate how best to weather this brutal weather, as a new UFT member poll weighs the Klein effect -- its own kind of weather system -- on the practice of teaching.

High pressure, in the form of high demand, cost some District 15 fifth-graders middle school seats, according to the DOE, which says that students who didn't get seats or who were placed at schools not on their lists had applied to extremely popular schools. We're trying to find out which six or so schools drew prohibitively large waves of applications -- and also trying to learn what the DOE will do to prepare for next year, when a similar student tsunami may roll in.

Stay tuned -- and stay cool. News to follow when we have it.

Hot enough for you?

Written by Monday, 09 June 2008 13:20

UFT president Randi Weingarten is urging the DOE to to consider protocols to protect students and teachers in schools without air conditioning from the extreme heat.

Weigh in through the Insideschools poll...

posted by Tanner Kroeger

After-School Activism: Remember the Budget?

Written by Helen Zelon Monday, 09 June 2008 08:01

If your kids aren't booked solid after school with dance, baseball, Kumon and Kaplan -- and especially if you're a family that relies on after-school programs for enrichment, homework help, clubs, teams and more, the Kids Protest Project wants you, to speak out against budget cuts that may threaten the out-of-school extras that so many kids enjoy -- and so many parents count on, every day.

Join students and parents from PS 75M, Central Park East II, PS 9/The Anderson School, Manhattan School for Children, Stuyvesant High School, Edward R. Murrow High School, the Computer School, and PS 59 as they deliver mail daily to Chancellor Klein's office at the DOE. Better yet, organize a campaign at your school, and add your community's voice to the fray.

G+T Placements Out Soon

Written by Helen Zelon Monday, 09 June 2008 06:57

From the DOE, "All parents will receive their G&T placements later this week," in line with their planned early-June timeline.

Parents concerned that their child's application may not have been received can call OSEPO or their local borough enrollment office to inquire, but expect voicemail and be prepared to follow up.

Unscrambling the OSEPO Omelette

Written by Helen Zelon Monday, 09 June 2008 05:19

After a long wait for news from the DOE, it seems that some parents are beginning to hear about pre-K appeals and kindergarten gifted and talented placement. Some are getting good news, others, not so much. But if OSEPO has moved into a more responsive mode, parents can hope that many of the past weeks' nagging questions just might be resolved.

Of course, some of the responses we've heard about raise yet more questions, like the comment from MaruG, who said that a polite, cooperative OSEPO rep gave her a mid-August placement date for g+t kindergarten, because her child's application had gone awry. (We're checking on this one.)

Think of this post as a wide net: If you've had word on admissions or appeals from the DOE or OSEPO, please let us know, especially if you have questions or if, as Bronx Shrink mentioned, information you've gotten verbally from OSEPO (by phone) doesn't square with written communications.

Middle School Mess: DOE, Fix This Process Now!

Written by Liz Willen Monday, 09 June 2008 04:40

Delays, confusion and misinformation have marked the middle school choice process this year, and it is simply unacceptable. This is a perfect example of the Department of Education putting children last. Principals and guidance counselors in the elementary and middle schools have tried to be patient and reassuring and worked hard to get answers that either keep changing -- or apparently do not exist.

This year was confusing from start to finish. We couldn't schedule tours in the fall, then -- suddenly -- we could! Parents who got the information somehow signed up, others found themselves shut out, only to have tours open again in December in January.

The deadlines for notification kept changing as well, leaving kids and parents on edge for way too long. Last week, in one Brooklyn school where the kids were becoming unbearably antsy, the school just typed up their own letter from the list they got from the DOE and handed them out in class -- not the best strategy for kids who got disappointing news.

Imagine telling your 10 or 11-year-old child, who for months has been waiting to hear from one of the five carefully chosen middle schools they selected after endless touring, that they did not get into ANY of them.

That has happened to several families I know in Manhattan, and it's an issue in Brooklyn as well, with children being assigned to middle schools that they did not apply to -- or left without a middle school altogether, and directed to a second admissions round.

Are these kids with troubled records or academic difficulties? ABSOLUTELY NOT. In the cases I'm aware of, these are great kids, with solid test scores and the kinds of families who organize special events and field trips, volunteer endlessly and make it clear in everything they say and do that they support public education in New York City.

There are no pat answers or explanations either, because no one knows with much certainty how decisions were made, especially for the highly valued ones that are overwhelmed with applications.

It is not okay to simply accept that in any choice-based process, some children will get left out. That is not an outcome that we must simply live with. It's too early to say how the appeals process will work in these cases, but in the meantime kids and families are suffering unecessary anxiety and pain.

It is not okay to promise answers by early May, and deliver them six weeks later with no explanation at all. If Schools Chancellor Joel Klein's idea was to equalize the process, where is he now with the explanation, the apology and a plan to fix the problems?

The fault lies in the idea that the DOE decided at some point to "centralize,'' both pre-k and middle school choice this year, perhaps to make life easier for administrators. That's the only explanation I've seen in the New York Times last week.

The New York Daily News has also tried to get answers: The explanation? First time the DOE had coordinated the processes in different districts.

That's not good enough. And it simply doesn't resonate with kids and families who are spending this month trying to get answers -- and trying to reassure their children that indeed, everything will work out, when they really can't say those words with much confidence.

Two years ago when my older son went through middle school choice and the district was in charge, the tours ran on time, notification came by April and questions asked were answered.

Let's get some answers now.

Turn Up the Heat

Written by Helen Zelon Sunday, 08 June 2008 04:44

Rally today at 1pm at City Hall, organized by Council Member David Weprin of Queens and joined by Council colleagues and parents citywide to protest pre-K admissions -- and omissions.

Bring kids, signs, and lots of water -- and plan on extra travel time, especially if you're coming from uptown, as the Puerto Rican Day Parade celebrates on Fifth.

Eyes and ears on the ground, let us know what you see and hear.

First Week

Written by Helen Zelon Friday, 06 June 2008 15:00

It's been a full week since Philissa passed along the coordination of the InsideSchools blog -- and like so many other weeks in the world of New York City public education, there's been no shortage of news to report and ponder. But it wouldn't be right to close up shop for the week without a proper thanks to Philissa, whose hard work and astonishing dedication served as the blog's (virtual and actual) foundation. Salut!

As we move forward, we'll continue to hear from familiar voices, like Liz Willen, who'll be writing about high schools, and Jennifer Freeman, who'll be covering Community Education Councils. We'll also welcome a new writer from the nycstudents blog, as our previous contributor, Seth Pearce, heads up to Harvard, and hope to add additional voices to the mix.It's an honor and a challenge to be part of this thoughtful, provocative community. Thanks to all for their thoughts, inspirations, frustrations and wee-hours obsessions -- for the willingness to take that leap of faith, and connect.

Appeals Update from DOE

Written by Helen Zelon Friday, 06 June 2008 09:22

As plenty of parents can attest, talk has been swirling about pre-K and middle-school appeals, and second round applications for pre-K. Here's the latest:

Appeals for pre-K
are due to the DOE by next Friday, June 13. These appeals are meant to address clerical/record-keeping issues, like address changes, name misspellings, etc. These are NOT for parents who wish to appeal their child's exclusion from pre-K.

If you feel your child was wrongly placed or simply excluded from your zoned school, write the DOE's OSEPO office at Tweed pronto, if you haven't already. There is no hard deadline for these letters, but their aim is to resolve all open queries before the round-two pre-K apps begin on June 23d.

To participate in the second round of pre-K admissions, get hold of an application from your borough OSEPO office. Parents seeking sibling priority seats should receive them by mail from the DOE. (Be good enough, readers, to let us know if and when the 2nd round applications arrive -- thanks.) The second round begins on June 23d; there is no deadline yet set for that process, although one will be decided soon (says the DOE) and posted here, of course, and on their site.

Caveat emptor, parents: If you elect to participate in round two and are granted a pre-K seat, you are obliged to accept that seat for your child. In other words, you can't hold on to a first-round placement in hopes of another, somehow better second placement. If your bid's in the ring, you have to accept the outcome. Fair's fair.

On middle schools, elementary schools in districts with appeals processes have, apparently, distributed appeals information. (Help us out again, here, readers: What's in your child's backpack?)

If your 5th-grader applied to a middle school in another district, contact the out-of-district school's guidance counselor for appeals particulars. If you're still unable to resolve your concerns, contact your borough OSEPO office -- be patient, be prepared for some phone tag, but be persistent, too. Remember, not all districts have formal appeals processes. (In this case, fair's not exactly fair.)

Parents in Brooklyn and elsewhere say some of their fifth-graders didn't get any place at all in middle school, or got placed at schools they didn't include on their applications. If this is true for your child, let us know -- getting a sense of the scope of the challenge is the first step.