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G+T Wait: The Beat Goes On, and On, and On

Written by Helen Zelon Friday, 13 June 2008 03:27

Another long week for plenty of New York City parents, waiting for the DOE to deliver on their promise of g+t letters out "this week," per their home page Spotlight a couple of days ago (but now removed).

Many commenters have written in (understandable) frustration, and we and others have had word that letters will either go out today or "as soon as possible" -- which might mean today, and might not. In a DOE committed to accountability, the protracted wait and increasing delays carry a particularly sharp sting. But it also makes sense, given the pre-K experience, that they're taking their time on this round of letters: Wouldn't you?

Still, it's hard to know what to say to parents who plead, 'we met our deadlines -- where's the DOE?' And harder still to be those parents, waiting, checking mail daily, and increasingly doubtful that the process, as established, will work.

DOE Principal Survey II

Written by Helen Zelon Thursday, 12 June 2008 14:27

This past winter, the DOE surveyed the city's 1400 principals. And today, the results of the second principal survey were released, with steady improvements in many measures, including principal satisfaction with DOE support in attaining school goals, school support organizations, and DOE accountability measures. The 1000+ principals who responded (anonymously) also reported a slight decrease in satisfaction with professional development programs offered by the DOE's Department of Teaching and Learning.

The first survey likewise highlighted many strengths -- and identified shortcomings in certain critical areas, like OSEPO's placement of special-education and English Language Learner (ELL) students and OSEPO's response to admissions and placement issues (limited satisfaction, between 50%-53%). The current survey omits any OSEPO questions, making direct comparison from one survey to the next impossible.

The current survey is about a third shorter than the first, because principals objected to its length, according to DOE sources. Why decisions were made to omit certain subject areas, like OSEPO, and include others, related to school management and accountability, for example, isn't quite clear. But given the prominence of OSEPO in the admissions confusion of the past couple of weeks (and ongoing, for plenty of parents), it would have been great to hear from principals, the proverbial leaders in the 'trenches' of academe, just exactly how OSEPO is doing.

Game On

Written by Lindsey Whitton Christ Thursday, 12 June 2008 09:14

I’m Lindsey Whitton Christ, the new Insideschools staff writer. Although I am new to the Insideschools team, I have used both the blog and the website for years, first as a social studies teacher at IS 143 and then as a journalism student at Columbia. I am thrilled to begin contributing! On a visit to PS 183 on the Upper East Side this week, I watched a group of excited fifth graders distress the edges of the paper on their own pioneer diaries, and I was reminded of my favorite computer game as a child, Oregon Trail. The students were undoubtedly so enthusiastic (they were falling all over each other to tell me everything they had learned about westward expansion) because the project let them imagine that they were pioneers experiencing the trail. The computer game had allowed me to do the same thing – although on a clunky 1980s Apple computer it was hardly the degree of computer simulation we are now used to. While computer games can be a distraction, they can also be a great tool for learning. With social studies, computers can help students to model life in the past and understand social history. Sandra Day O’Connor has even gotten in on the game. My seventh graders would have loved to use the website the former justice is helping develop about the American justice system. My sixth graders each spent a short time on computers doing an activity on mummification and then they talked about what they learned for weeks. And I know several, otherwise mature, adults who would never admit that they occasionally stay up late creating civilizations on their computer.During summer vacation when it’s too hot to go outside, which games do you encourage your children to play? And which (be honest) do you like to play with them?

Big Picture: Two New Initiatives

Written by Helen Zelon Thursday, 12 June 2008 04:12

This week marks the launch of two new initiatives that share strikingly similar aims -- improving school outcomes for high-need urban kids.

The first report, produced by a superstar task force at the Economic Policy Institute, aims to address shortfalls of NCLB's test-driven strictures by turning attention to the whole child, especially the socioeconomically challenged. Schools have long stood in loco parentis, despite mixed feelings and lean resources; this project endorses stronger engagement and a bigger investment in children's development (social, emotional, academic, everything) from the earliest years. It's a stance that's hard to argue, and reminds some of Geoffrey Canada's groundbreaking Harlem Childrens Zone.

The second, headed by the unlikely alliance of Chancellor Joel Klein and Brooklyn's own Rev. Al Sharpton, the Educational Equality Project, was announced yesterday in Washington, DC. (A roster of notable participants include Newark mayor Cory Booker and DC Schools Chief Michelle Rhee.)

This effort reframes the guaranteed right to public education as the pressing civil rights issue of the 21st century -- a point made even sharper in the context of vastly different graduation rates for urban students of color, compared with white and Asian peers: Although grad-rate gaps are narrowing slightly, about half of all African-American and Hispanic high school boys in New York City won't graduate.

The end of the school year is always a time for taking stock and planning for the future. Executing those plans, and achieving lofty goals dearly held, is the challenge that awaits.

District 3 Kindergarten Lottery

Written by Helen Zelon Wednesday, 11 June 2008 12:47

Click here for District 3 kindergarten lottery results.

Next steps: If a school is listed next to your child's lottery number, that's where your child will go in September. Register before school lets out this year on June 26th. You'll need to bring the admissions letter from the DOE, which should be in mailboxes this week. (The list and the link aren't enough.)

If you see your child's been matched to a lottery school but you don't have a letter by June 16th, contact OSEPO, at 212-342-8424.

G+T Parents: Some Have News, Many Still Holding

Written by Helen Zelon Wednesday, 11 June 2008 12:19

We've been hearing today from lots of parents who haven't yet had word on their child's g+t kindergarten and first-grade placement. The official word from the DOE is "this week" -- and as it's 'only' Wednesday, more waiting's in order. If we learn more about when news was mailed, we'll let you know -- but our bet is that the folks at OSEPO are plenty eager to get the news out. If you've gotten anything in the afternoon mail, let us know.

For families looking for seats in upper-elementary g+t programs, the application deadline is June 26th, with placements announced in mid-August. Details are also here on the DOE site, but go into the process with your eyes wide open: Comparatively few spots open up for upper-grade students, and competition can be fierce.

Still waiting for news on District 1, District 3, and middle-school snafus in District 15 and elsewhere. Hope for something of substance before too long...

Chancellor Joel Klein and others announced today the Education Equality Project, which will aim to hone the nation’s attention on students with the highest needs and “to focus the presidential candidates on educational equality.” The project said it plans to host forums at both the Democratic and Republican national conventions.

“We need to get serious about giving all children the education they need to succeed,” Klein said at the press conference held in Washington, D.C. “It won't be easy — the status quo has lots of defenders — but it can be done and it is absolutely essential that we do it.”

Klein will serve as co-chairman of the project with the Rev. Al Sharpton. Among the leaders initially joining Klein and Sharpton are Geoffrey Canada of the Harlem Children's Zone and former New York Daily News education reporter Joe Williams of Democrats for Education Reform.

--posted by Tanner Kroeger

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