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Insideschools.org Blog commenting now open to all

Written by Admin Thursday, 07 February 2008 09:10

I want to let you know that it's now easier than ever to comment on this blog  you no longer have to be a registered Google user. Check out the latest news and also the archives, which go back to last June there's plenty here that could benefit from your comments!

Student Thought: Depression Cheese

Written by Admin Thursday, 07 February 2008 04:14

I've been a bit depressed lately. After learning about the new budget cuts, I had to begin talking about how to work around the cuts with my school's School Leadership Team. It's a scary situation for principals, teachers, students and just about everyone else in our school communities.

Last Monday, Bloomberg proposed a cut of of $324 million from NYC's education budget. He claimed that he was doing this as a healthy management exercise. He believes that it will force principals to examine the effectiveness of their programs and cut out the ones that aren't succeeding. Unfortunately because of the cuts, many principals are being forced to cut programs that work.

This comes on the heels of a cut by Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who said he was giving city schools $100 million less than planned because of the economic problems we have been facing and will continue to face in the coming months.

As much as the Bloomberg-Klein Complex has been proven guilty of some shady motives, I think this decision might make some (albeit terrifying) sense. Combine the Spitzer cuts and the threat of recession and you have yourself a sizable cut.

As I've been learning in economics class, recession is somewhat of a self-fulfilling prophecy and by not admitting that that is the real reason for the cuts, Bloomberg is fighting the recession. Maybe I'm giving him too much credit, but if the man knows anything, it's money. In addition, his statement about the cuts struck me to be a little phony, like he's hiding something.

This leads me to believe that an important part of of the edu-activist's work in the troubling times ahead is to look for solutions that are non-fiscal and maybe even non-political. We need a change in how we look at education issues, as I discussed in my post about the student's role in society, and how we can further improve relationships between the different constituent groups of our education system.

A good place to start is Queens student Ashu Kapoor's post on how her biology teacher effectively dealt with preparing students for the Regents. Check it out.

Cross-posted on the
NYC Students Blog

Chancellor to principals: "Money isn't everything"

Written by Admin Wednesday, 06 February 2008 12:51

Chancellor Klein understands that principals are furious about the mid-year budget cuts. That's why he emailed them on Monday to tell them how much he wants to help them (through their Integrated Service Centers, of course) and to explain that the city has shielded schools from budget cuts for years and is making cuts now reluctantly and "in such a way that respects principals' decisions." He wrote:

More money is always welcome in education. Everyone in our City -- from principals to parents to the Mayor and me -- always wants to see budgets increase. But we also know that money isn't everything. Some schools in our City are literally doing more with less. They were shortchanged in the past -- but [are now] achieving better results for kids.

No excuses, right? View the whole letter on the Class Size Matters' yahoo message board.

We just added a dozen more principal responses to our compendium of what schools are cutting as a result of last week's budget cuts. The most frequent things to go: After school programs, extra tutoring, and per diem personnel. Principals say classes will be more crowded and students who need extra help won't get it -- not quite the "no impact whatsoever" that the mayor promised.

Principals, teachers, and parents aren't going to take the cuts without a fight. Tonight, parents are getting together in Park Slope to rally against the budget cuts. (6:30 p.m., John Jay building. Map) Tomorrow, UFT President Randi Weingarten and local union leaders are holding an emergency meeting to discuss the cuts. Visit the Insideschools calendar for details on how to RSVP.

At least New Yorkers don't have it this bad, right?

Written by Admin Wednesday, 06 February 2008 05:13

The Times reports today from India:

This year, admissions for prekindergarten seats in Delhi begin for children as young as 3, and what school they get into now is widely felt to make or break their educational fate.

And so it was that a businessman, having applied to 15 private schools for his 4-year-old son, rushed to the gates of a prestigious South Delhi academy one morning last week to see if his child’s name had been shortlisted for admissions.

Alas, it had not, and walking back to his car, the fretful father wondered if it would not be better for Indian couples to have a child only after being assured a seat in school. “You have a kid and you don’t have a school to send your kid to!” he cried. “It’s crazy. You can’t sleep at night.”

Charter schools have never sounded like a better idea than they do now — at the same time that regular public schools are being forced to cut essential services like tutoring and counseling, a new charter school is planning to offer unprecedented levels of social support. According to the Sun, Mott Haven Academy Charter School, opening this fall in the Bronx, will offer not only academic instruction but also a full-service welfare agency running tutoring, counseling, and activities for kids.

The Sun reports, "The result, the school's founders say, could be to revolutionize the way the government tackles poverty, giving the public better results for the same buck." I'm not sure the situation outlined in the Sun article is quite revolutionary, but it sure does make sense. Poverty, not teachers' lack of skill or dedication, is the greatest hindrance to student achievement. Greater coordination between city agencies will be necessary
to help kids learn and want to learn — and that's something that the founders of Mott Haven Academy Charter School seem already to understand.

Two questions I wish the DOE would address

Written by Admin Tuesday, 05 February 2008 04:56

1. If the DOE is using state test scores to judge students, schools, teachers, and principals, how can it stomach forcing schools to cut extra tutoring (among other programs and services) just six weeks before the state math exam?

2. Assuming that the DOE understands that it's in the city's best interests to keep middle-class families here and attending public schools, why is it that the two new enrollment initiatives — for pre-K and kindergarten and gifted and talented programs — are designed to push families into zoned schools they've sought to avoid?

The cynic in me already has answers to both of these questions, but I'd love to know what others think.

Vote today in contested presidential primaries

Written by Admin Tuesday, 05 February 2008 04:05

Today is Super Tuesday — and in an unusual circumstance, New Yorkers will cast their ballots in a presidential race that has not yet been whittled to two opponents. Vote early or late, or on your way to celebrate the Giants' Super Bowl win, but do make time to vote at your local polling place. Polls will close at 9 p.m.

Schools have never been closed on primary days, so they are open to students today — but some parents are concerned about having a record number of strangers in school buildings, the Times reports. Chancellor Klein says the schools will keep kids safe and notes that schools might use the opportunity to offer a lesson about democracy — a lesson not tested on standardized tests but one, apparently, worth learning nonetheless.

Principals fume over mid-year budget cuts

Written by Admin Monday, 04 February 2008 12:55

On Friday, Insideschools asked principals to tell us how they're dealing with the mid-year budget cuts, and our record of their responses is up now. We'll be continuing to add to this as we principals get in touch with us, so tell your principal to email us now.

Robin Aronow reports from Manhattan pre-K hearing

Written by Admin Monday, 04 February 2008 04:12

Robin Aronow, a consultant who advises parents on school choice, wrote with additional information from last week's Manhattan pre-K proposal hearing. It sounds like most of the issues raised there are similar to those raised in Brooklyn, which I reported on last week. Parents want more preference for siblings, and they don't want their kids to be forced to switch schools after pre-K because there will be no automatic admission to kindergarten in the same school; they are especially concerned about kids having to leave dual-language programs, where enrollment shifts are disruptive for both students and the school. (There has never been automatic admission, but many principals have used their discretion to admit out-of-zone pre-K children to their kindergarten.)

One thing Robin heard was very different from what I understood to be the plan. She writes, "As for the uniform kindergarten policy for next year, [DOE officials] are still working out many factors, including whether zoned schools will be part of the uniform application process or remain a separate option." At the Brooklyn hearing, DOE officials made it crystal clear that zoned schools would be part of the same application process. Has the DOE realized that requiring parents to apply to zoned schools will greatly limit school choice, or did someone misspeak in Manhattan?

Other new information:

  • In order to be on the same timeline as other school choice processes, the District 3 kindergarten lottery has been pushed back for this year. Applications will now be available at the beginning of March and notifications of placements will happen in May, around the same time as the Gifted & Talented notifications arrive.
  • The DOE has said that community-based organizations will use the same admissions timeline as the DOE, but parents noted that many of the CBO pre-K programs are already filled for next year.
  • Above kindergarten, applicants will have to go through the OSEPO and request a Placement Exception Request, the new name for a variance, to attend a school other than their zoned school.

Finally, Robin notes that in some overcrowded zones, being zoned for a particular school is not always a guarantee that you can attend it — so getting into those schools from out of the zone will be almost impossible. She writes, "For anyone planning to move to a new school zone, I strongly encourage you to do this sooner [rather] than later, and no later than the close of school in June prior to the year your child will attend."

For more on the anxiety parents are starting to feel over the proposed changes, check out Neil deMause's report in the Village Voice. The pre-K hearing in Queens is tonight; hearings in Staten Island and the Bronx will be next week. Let us know what you hear in your borough.