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Louise Crawford over at Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn has school on the brain after delivering her daughter to PS 321 for 5th grade. Although she admits that she didn't read New York City 's Best Public Middle Schools on the beach over the summer, she is quickly bringing herself up to speed on middle school options and how to investigate them. She used Insideschools to generate a list of schools to look at more closely, and, on behalf of a friend, she asks her readers for more information about Brooklyn Latin, the new specialized high school in East Williamsburg.
Crawford also notes with alarm that to reserve space on middle school tours, "the time to call the schools is NOW"; a friend of hers reports being number 89 on MS 51's reservation list â€” and the school hasn't even scheduled dates yet! It's good advice to start calling schools early, but don't panic. Many schools are still getting settled in for this year and aren't yet taking calls about next year's enrollment. Insideschools will launch its annual open house database this week.
The first NYC Student Union meeting of the school year will be held on Monday at 5 p.m. at the UFT (United Federation of Teachers) offices at 50 Broadway (between Exchange and Morris), on the 2nd Floor, in Room B. (Map) If you want to learn more about the union, check out this post from last week.
A report released today by Advocates for Children takes aim at the DOE's approach to preparing special education students for life after they finish school. The report, titled "Transitioning to Nowhere: An Analysis of the Planning and Provision of Transition Services to Students with Disabilities in New York City," finds that the Individualized Education Plans of the more than 13,000 students with disabilities who leave the city's public schools every year don't always address how the students will begin to live and work independently.
AFC reviewed IEPs for more than 250 transition-age kids (transition begins at 15 and ends at 21, when kids are no longer eligible for public education) and found that 26 percent had no evidence of any transition planning at all. In addition, AFC found that students were involved in crafting their own plans only 30 percent of the time, and parents were involved only 70 percent of the time. Community organizations and outside agencies, who are required by law to be a part of the transition planning process, were used in only 4 percent of the IEPs reviewed. The DOE agrees that it needs to work on complying with IEP requirements in general.
AFC recommends that the DOE actually start planning kids' transitions when they're 15 and reevaluating the plans yearly to make sure kids are making clear progress toward measurable goals, something that often isn't done for kids in special education. The report also calls for better tracking of what students do once they leave public school and for better vocational training programs to prepare kids to work once they've transitioned out of school. Following these recommendations would make a world of difference for kids with special needs, but better tracking efforts and improved vocational offerings would also be terrific for kids in general education.
Sad news today that Madeleine L'Engle, author of many novels including the classic A Wrinkle in Time, has died. In the age of Harry Potter, do kids still read L'Engle? They should. Her characters are inspirational, especially for girls, and no less magical than Harry and his friends. A Wrinkle in Time came out in 1962 and it was one of the first books I read that my mom read when she was my age. Kids can't say that about Harry Potter yet.
Following up on its revelation that increasing test scores might have more to do with easier tests than smarter kids, the Daily News now reports that Chancellor Klein is setting up an independent audit bureau to review test data, which historically have been reported by the same city and state education departments being judged by the tests.
The independent Research Partnership for New York City Schools has been in development for the last year, according to its website, which lists members of the bureau's working groups but hasn't been updated in months. I'm pleased to see the DOE taking seriously criticisms that cut to the core of its recent reforms, but Sol Stern of the conservative Manhattan Institute is wise to question whether the bureau's members will be able to evaluate the data impartially, given that many of them have "an interest in what the research will show."
The bureau, which is being supported with private money, will hold a conference Oct. 5 but is likely to take the entire school year to get fully up and running, the Daily News reports.
Did anybody catch "Small Steps," the PBS program about the High School for Contemporary Arts? Instead of airing at 10 p.m., Channel 13 showed it at 12:30 a.m. I caught a few minutes of the opera on at the original time, but I couldn't stay up late enough to see the program about the school. It's too bad few will likely get to see the program; it looked interesting.
Remember the "learning environment" surveys the DOE was pushing parents, teachers, and students to take last spring? Their results are now available in the "statistics" section of each school's DOE website. Each report has a ton of information to wade through, but the New York Times has a useful summary. Some of the most interesting tidbits:
- 26 percent of parents overall answered the surveys, far fewer than the DOE originally said it wanted but a reasonably good sample (though not representative â€” response rates were much lower in schools with poorer students).
- Most parents' responses indicated that they are generally happy with their schools, just as researchers have discovered pretty much every time they've ever surveyed parents, regardless of the quality of schools from which those parents are drawn.
- Perhaps for this reason, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum thinks the survey was "nothing more than a multi-million dollar P.R. effort."
- But there's actually a surprising amount of criticism of principals, coming mainly from teachers. I checked out the reports of a couple of schools that I know are having leadership problems, and it looked like teachers reported freely that their principals don't adequately respect or support them. I wonder whether the DOE will take a closer look at schools like these, even if the final grade into which the surveys are being factored isn't low.
- A quarter of parents said the single improvement they'd most like to see in their kid's school is smaller class size, a request that Mayor Bloomberg immediately downplayed. Small class size advocates mobilized around the surveys, so the results might be a little distorted, but it's still telling that parents almost universally chose class size reduction over "more effective school leadership" and "better communication with parents." And it's simply bizarre to see the disdain Bloomberg has for an idea that makes an unimpeachable goal, even if it isn't immediately attainable.
I'm impressed that the DOE released the survey results in such a straightforward manner. The next step is for the DOE to give parents, teachers, and students a real say in crafting the surveys (that way, perhaps special education would get addressed) and to translate the wealth of information into a language that's more understandable for those of us who aren't trained to analyze data.
Military recruiters are being given a wide berth to seek enlistees from the city's high schools, according to a New York Civil Liberties Union report titled "We Want You(th)!" NYCLU, along with the office of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, surveyed more than 1,000 students, found that recruiters are "aggressive" in pursuing students and that schools allow recruiters to use instructional time to advertise the military.
Principals are required to give recruiters access to their buildings and students' personal information under No Child Left Behind unless students or their families formally opt out. More than 40 percent of the students NYCLU surveyed said they were not given opt-out forms at the beginning of the school year. Recruiters have also stepped up their sell nationwide as the war in Iraq has dissuaded potential enlistees. "They even lie to you and say you won't have to go to war if you sign up," a Lafayette High School student told NYCLU.
The NYCLU report raises questions about the messages high schoolers are getting about what to do after graduation. "During one month I'd see the recruiters twice or even three times a week on the first floor walking around and talking with students," an Edison High School student told NYCLU. "I was like, why are you always here? I hardly ever saw any college recruiters; I remember seeing recruiters from CUNY maybe one or two times."
Insideschools told you "How to say 'No!' to military recruiters" in 2005, the first year that a student's signature alone was sufficient to prevent recruiters from contacting that student. Opt-out forms are supposed to be available the first week of school, but it looks like the DOE's website hasn't yet been updated with this year's letter.
Did you know there's a law on the books requiring schools to teach about the humane treatment of animals? Neither did I, but according to an article in today's Daily News, a Queens lawmaker is trying to get the law enforced and at least one Manhattan school is adhering to it. At Hunter College Elementary School, kids in the Animal Club learn the difference between pet and wild animals, how to treat all animals with respect, and why pets ought to be spayed or neutered.
Tony Avella, a City Council member from Queens, has proposed a bill that would require the DOE to send a memo to principals reminding them about the humane education law, in effect since 1947. The Humane Society wants you to tell Speaker Christine Quinn you support the bill, which hasn't advanced since Avella first proposed it last year. I'd be interested to see where in the litany of testing schools could find time to teach about being nice to animals.
If you're planning to be home tonight and don't have too much first-week-of-school homework to deal with, check out a new PBS documentary that follows students at the High School for Contemporary Arts, a new small school in the