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Most of the folks who could have answered your questions were out of their offices on Friday, but I am working on getting responses and as soon as I do I will share them with you. Until I can find out more, here's a roundup of what we already know, thanks in great part to your comments.
- We know where programs will be housed next year (see below for lists of schools in some districts); this information was part of the application mailed to families whose children scored in the 90th percentile or above.
- We know that in many districts in Queens, Staten Island, and the Bronx, gifted programs continue to start in 1st grade, meaning that 90th percentile+ scorers entering kindergarten are without options (or are able to apply only to citywide schools if they scored in the 97th percentile or above). Some Queens parents didn't understand that the DOE didn't plan to change programs' entry years and now feel shut out and angry.
- We know that siblings get priority for admission; a lower-scoring sibling who qualifies for admission will beat out a higher-scoring child.
- We know that families must rank all district programs in order to be guaranteed a spot in one of them; applications are due May 9.
- We know that the Office of Pupil Transportation covers transportation costs for children who live at least half a mile's walk from their school when it's within their district. For elementary students, this often comes in the form of a yellow bus as long as the school has busing. The DOE doesn't provide any busing across borough lines.
- Yet again, we see that standardized tests can be capricious, especially for 4 year olds: some kids did extremely well on one of the two gifted assessments, but not the other, despite their skills, and according to parent comments, some children who made it to the second round of Hunter admissions didn't make the gifted cut this year.
- We know that when the DOE spokeperson emailed me Wednesday afternoon to say that letters hadn't yet been mailed, he must have been misinformed, because letters began arriving on Thursday. (Or maybe the mail is really that fast?)
- And we know, as we have long known, that it's hard for parents to get a straight answer from the DOE. In the comments on our last post, different parents reported getting different answers to the same questions when calling DOE officials, and one asked, "Why do they all have a different story?"
Where will district G&T programs be housed?
In District 1: PS 19 and PS 110
In District 2: PS 11, 77, 111, 116, 124, 126, and 130
In District 3: PS 9, 145, 163, 166, 185, and 191
In District 5: PS 129 and PS 154
In District 6: PS 98 and PS 153
In District 7: None
In District 11: PS 121 and PS 153
In District 13: PS 3, 9, 20, and 282
In District 14: PS 132
In District 15: PS 1, 10, 32, 38, and 230
In District 16: None
In District 18: PS 114, 115, 208, 276, 279
In District 20: PS 102, 104, 176, 185, 204, and 229
In District 22: PS 52, 152, 193, 195, 206, 207, 217, 222, 236, 277, and 312
In District 23: None
In District 24: PS 16, 91
In District 25: PS 21, 32, 165, and 209
In District 26: PS 18, 115, 188, and 202
In District 28: PS 101, 117, 144, 174
It's the middle of school vacation week, which means it's the perfect time for the DOE to send out important letters -- letters that some Insideschools readers consider potentially life-altering. Did you get your G&T score notification letter today?
We'd love to see a copy of the letter, if you can scan and email it to us. Thanks and relax!
Parent coordinators are increasingly unavailable by phone, according to a report released recently by the Public Advocate's office, where staffers called 100 parent coordinators after school hours, only to leave messages for the vast majority of them. Many of those messages — 71 percent of those left by staff members posing as prospective parents, according to the Post — were never answered. When the Public Advocate's office conducted a similar study in 2005, 50 percent of parent coordinators responded to calls.
Parent coordinators are supposed to be available around the clock, and the DOE is supposed to provide them with a cell phone that should remain on all evening and on weekends. But over time, parent coordinators have lost their phones, their phones have broken, and departing parent coordinators have failed to hand their phones over to their replacements. I've had little trouble reaching parent coordinators during school hours by calling schools' main numbers and asking for them. But reaching them after school or by cell phone exclusively (if indeed that's what the Public Advocate's office tried to do) sounds like a different beast.
Of course, the real issue is that which a District 4 parent advocate notes in the Post: "You talk to a lot of answering machines when you deal with the DOE. ... No return calls, no-pick-up calls - it's true."
Today's word from the DOE: "Letters haven't gone out yet. They will go out later this week," according to a DOE spokesperson who just wrote to me. Our collective mailbox check can continue -- please keep sending in your helpful comments!
Bad news for critics of the citywide cell phone ban in schools: Yesterday, a state appeals court upheld the ban, saying that "the department has a rational interest in having its teachers and staff devote their time to educating students and not waging a 'war' against cell phones."
The author of the opinion also wrote, "If adults cannot be fully trusted to practice proper cell phone etiquette, then neither can children" — but that to me sounds like grounds for an etiquette lesson, not a costly rule that inconveniences families and causes students to feel alienated and persecuted.
Of course, many families won't let the ban stop them from sending their kids to school with a cell phone. Louise at Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn, for example, recently wrote that she's contemplating getting her soon-to-be-6th grader a cell phone to provide security during the trip to and from middle school next year.
After great uncertainty about dates -- at first it was supposed to be the end of March, then April 18, then the end of this month -- we're hearing that the first G&T letters have gone home. Have you checked your mailbox today? What's the word at your school and in your neighborhood?
UPDATE: I just wanted to note that we are not at all sure letters have actually gone home anywhere -- so don't be alarmed if you haven't gotten anything!
Ever since New York Sun columnist Lenore Skenazy wrote a column earlier this month about why she let her 9-year-old son travel alone on the subway, parents around the city have had little else to talk about — or at least they've made room in their G&T and kindergarten admissions discussions to ponder whether Skenazy is a hero or a lunatic.
The reason for the journey? Skenazy's son wanted to be more independent, and she wanted to illustrate that the city is safe for children, no matter what their overprotective parents may think. The outcome? Armed with a Metrocard, a subway map, $20, and change for a phone call, her son made it home just fine from Bloomingdale's, "ecstatic with independence."
Skenazy is planning to let her son find his way back from Queens sometime soon, per his request. What about you — would you be comfortable executing this experiment? Your kid would probably thank you. Last year, a Clinton 6th grader argued on Insideschools, "Parents – we know what we’re doing. We’re city kids after all. So think about it -- and let your kids roam a little more freely for a while." Of course, his mother didn't agree.
Update: Skenazy has launched Free Range Kids, a site "for anyone who thinks that kids need a little more freedom and would like to connect to people who feel the same way."
After all of the debate on this blog last week over school admissions and the headaches the process causes, I was wondering whether it is actually getting harder to get into desirable schools in Manhattan than it used to be. The answer appears to be both yes and no.
On the one hand, Districts 2 and 3 are adding population far faster than they are adding school seats. According to a report released last week by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer's office, in four areas at risk for overcrowding, city officials approved new residential buildings that could add as many as 2,300 children to the neighborhoods' schools — but added only 143 school seats in those areas. As those buildings get finished and families move in, school admissions pressure can only heat up.
But at the same time, the recent change in G&T admissions policy actually increased the percentage of children in districts 2 and 3 who meet eligibility requirements. As Eduwonkette noted in the comments to an earlier Insideschools blog post last week, she estimates that the percentage of children in District 2 classified as gifted increased this year from 7.1 to 15.2 percent; in District 3: an increase from 13.8 to 22.3 percent. So while the pressure may be on for neighborhood school admission, more families in these areas may have the option to choose a district-wide G&T program.
I’ve spent considerable time contemplating issues like class size, teacher quality and the importance of after school programs and art and music curriculums in middle school, first for my 7th grader and now for my soon-to-be-6th grader.
I probably should have spent more time checking out shoes.
Apparently shoes – what brand you wear and how many pairs you have — really matter in middle school, at least that’s what my 7th grader tells me. And his skateboarding little brother isn’t far behind.
It’s no longer okay to lace up any old pair of $20 sneakers and wear them till they are trashed.
My public school kids have somehow been tuned into websites where they can browse through thousands of cool and colorful high-end brands or design and customize their own Nikes. They've discovered skateboard shops stocked with DCs and Elements and other brands of sneakers that easily cost $85 or more.
My middle schooler has also brought home the idea that it's not enough to have ONE or TWO really cool pair of sneakers. You are to be pitied, my 7th grader warned me, if you wear the same pair of sneakers over again. Same goes with those pricey hooded sweatshirt jackets.
When I ask about the day -- hoping to catch a small tidbit about an interesting lesson, a book, an exciting moment in history -- I'm more likely to get a plea for new sneakers and a reminder of the horrific humiliation involved in wearing the same pair each day.
I don’t have any solutions or advice here (beyond putting your middle schoolers to work so they can buy their own shoes) but if you are just beginning to think about touring middle schools, you might want to shift your eyes downward a bit toward the footwear – and start saving up just in case.
Read all of Liz Willen's Middle School Muddle
Here's one way to deal with the disheartening and overwhelming school admissions process in New York City: don't apply.
A growing number of the city's families who are choosing to homeschool are middle-class black families who believe the options open to them won't sufficiently challenge or support their children, particularly their boys, according to an article in the Village Voice. Instead, those parents present an enriched curriculum, often with an Afrocentric orientation, in a setting that's free from bullying and other negative social pressures. There are downsides, of course — one parent has to give up working, school supplies and enrichment activities cost money, and it can be hard for kids to make friends — but according to the Voice, more black parents every year think homeschooling pays off in academic achievement, safety, and self-esteem.
I've always thought that New York City would be a great place to homeschool — it's sort of absurd that in a city with such deep cultural, artistic, and academic resources, kids sit in classrooms all day. But homeschooling, like any other alternative school choice, should be a positive choice, not a means to escaping schools that can't meet kids' academic and social needs.