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NY Post: In violation of law, schools aren't recycling

Written by Admin Monday, 29 October 2007 06:26

Yesterday, the Post confirmed something that many of us who are concerned about schools' environmental impact have long suspected: few schools recycle, and the city doesn't care that they aren't following local laws or DOE directives. Even at Brooklyn's Academy of Environmental Leadership, recyclables and trash are mixed together and thrown to the curb. The DOE could really be a leader in reducing its environmental footprint, but instead its lack of a recycling program is an embarrassment and evidence in a time of massive decentralization that some functions might be better carried out centrally.

Student Government Project: LaGuardia High School

Written by Admin Sunday, 28 October 2007 04:26

For the NYC Student Union Student Government Project, the members of the union are profiling their own schools' student government organizations. This is my entry on LaGuardia's SGO.

At LaGuardia, our SGO is run by five elected officers and one hundred representatives appointed by application that meet every week.

The officers are the president (me), vice president, secretary, treasurer and, as of this year, a speaker. The first four positions are elected by the entire student body and the last, though appointed this year, will in the future be elected by returning SGO representatives.

The president and vice president both sit on the School Leadership Team and one of them (we switch off) sits on the Safety, Attendance, and C-30 (administration hiring) committees so as to actively advocate for our peers. The Secretary and Treasurer also appear at SLT meetings, though they do not vote.

In addition, the officers each serve as liaisons for the SGO's nine committees, where the main work of the SGO is done. Each representative serves on one of the committees. This year's committees are:

Academic: Dealing with academic issues that arise and advocating on behalf of students to the Academic APs.
Building Beautification: Working on improving the school environment by making it more appealing and sustainable.
College: Working with the College Office to improve LaGuardia's college process.
Communications: Getting information out to the students by writing a section in the school's weekly bulletin.
SNAP: The LaGuardia Student Performance Society, which produces student-generated art and performance (e.g. Poetry Slams, Hootenanies and the like).
Student Activities: Helping student organizations get funding and space and assisting them in the logistics of event planning.
Student Court: Students may appeal demerits or punishments before a court of their peers. (I'll go more into detail in a few weeks)
Student Opinion: Actively seeking out student opinion on LaGuardia's goings-on through polls and social networking sites.
Website: Runs the SGO website and works to improve the SGO's internet presence.

Next post: How has LaGuardia's SGO worked to improve student involvement and representation this year?

Cross-posted on NYC Students Blog

8th Grader Izzy: The test is closing in!

Written by Admin Friday, 26 October 2007 09:51

Tomorrow at 8 in the morning, the Specialized High School Admission Test will start.

Tension is definitely running high at my school, and the student body seems to have broken up into groups:

  • the Majorly Stressed Out, or the kids whose lives depend on passing this test;
  • the Middle Group, or the kids who would love to get in and are fairly worried, but still seem to have a clear head (this is me);
  • the Minimally Stressed Out, or the kids who really want to get in but aren't really concerned;
  • and the Micro Group, the kids who are taking this test because their parents want them to, but have already decided to stay at our school for high school.

Some students are even skipping school today so as to rest up and cram in some last-minute studying.

I'm not ruling out my current school for another four years, but the key problem is right there: another four years. I think I'm just about ready for a change of scene. Now let's hope the test tomorrow goes well enough to give me the options I want.

Bonuses for top-performing DOE officials?

Written by Admin Friday, 26 October 2007 08:46

Wow. The Sun today reports that top DOE officials and aides will be eligible for bonuses based on the test scores of the students their responsibilities affect. According to the article, Chancellor Klein has asked about 100 top administrators to draft their own performance goals, which he and others will monitor. If they meet those goals, improve student test scores, and get good reviews from principals, the administrators could get performance bonuses as early as June.

I can't even begin to figure out what I think about this new development. The incentives are coming fast and furious out of the Chancellor's Office and at this point we have no way of telling how they will affect schools and students. But no one can say that the mayor and the chancellor aren't doing a darn good job of replicating the features of the business world that they have long said they admire.

At NYC Public School Parents, Leonie Haimson is incredulous about the new plan. She writes:

So let me get this straight: if test scores improve enough in our schools, even if this leads to a ridiculous amount of test prep and/or cheating, and if graduation rates improve, even if this causes increasing numbers of students to be suspended, transferred or discharged from our schools, then the already overpaid officials at Tweed will get even more of our taxpayer money for being able to further degrade the conditions for authentic learning at our schools.

I'm not quite so cynical, but it's valuable to remember that with higher stakes comes increased potential for corruption. For that reason, the DOE needs independent oversight of all of its data -- before they're used to make decisions, not audited after the fact. If we could trust the DOE when it says things are on the right track, I would feel a lot better about its leaders getting performance bonuses.

“You are not going to believe this,’’ my 10-year-old son announced at dinner this week, after his second middle school tour. He was telling his older brother about the impressive, amenities-rich IS 126 in Chinatown, also known as the Manhattan Academy of Technology.

“They have a climbing wall! And a surfing club! They have 34 different sports, and they have actual fields – it’s crazy!’’

Big brother, a jaded seventh-grader at the Clinton School for Artists and Writers, wasn’t impressed, even though his middle school – which he absolutely loves – has few such frills.

“Is that how you are going to judge a middle school?’’ he asked tartly. “You are going to choose a school for a climbing wall? Are the academics any good?"

It’s hard for grown-ups to imagine what it’s like for all these 9- and 10-year-olds, hiking up stairs, visiting different neighborhoods and peering into classrooms. They aren’t thinking about specialized high school placement, curriculum and teacher qualifications.

Our 5th-grade teacher at PS 150 in Tribeca gave parents a little insight into what the kids are thinking about on tours. Seems these little consumers have developed a savvy reserved for New York City apartment hunters: obsession with size, location and, of course, amenities.

A tour – good or bad – can make an enormous impression. And MAT impresses. The kids peered into a math class, saw a large, well equipped art room and heard about clubs, band, fashion design, robotics, web design and a typing class. They learned the classes are smaller (about 25 kids in most cases) than many other middle schools.

But what about the academics?

That’s the most critical question to me and I’ll take a closer look in another post. It’s hard to tell during a whirlwind tour and the tail end of a lesson crammed with visitors.

Here’s how my 10-year-old answered big brother on that question: “They had an amazing science room, with fish tanks and frogs,’’ he said. “And I really liked the principal. She seemed very nice, and very organized. But I don’t think the writing I saw was as good as the writing at Clinton.’’

Then he was back to the amenities: “They already have every sport there is, practically,’’ he repeated. “And they have fields, actual fields. I didn’t know there could be actual fields in New York City.’’

Read all of the "Middle School Muddle" series.

Very sad news from IS 211 in Canarsie, where a student died earlier this month after contracting a particularly vicious form of drug-resistant staph infection that has been spreading in schools across the country. The bacteria is spread through the kind of contact that kids, especially athletes, routinely have, and while most people who are infected recover from the infection, it can kill those with depressed immune system. The state has just issued guidelines for schools to stanch the spread of the bacteria but the best advice is simple: wash your hands and tell your kids to wash theirs frequently, as well. This might be a good time to invest in some bottles of hand sanitizer.

Update: If your child has a wound that is not healing properly, seek medical attention -- the Post says the IS 211 student got the infection from a wound suffered while playing basketball and had what a classmate said were "red and yellow sores ... bad sores" before falling ill. And parents at IS 211 are wondering why it took so long for them to find out about the health issues at the school; the student died Oct. 14 but the school didn't send a letter home until this week.

8th Grader Izzy: The final tour

Written by Admin Thursday, 25 October 2007 14:38

Last week, I took my last tour before I make my high school decision. (Applications are due Nov. 30.) It was a small school on the Upper East Side, about 45 minutes from my apartment by car. The building was tiny, neat, and clean, and the walls were plastered with photographs and student artwork. The curriculum seemed fairly rigorous, although nothing about it seemed to stand out to me in particular. The students that roamed the halls were polite and informative; however, I sensed a slight lack of interest. There seemed to be a fair amount of science equipment, and there was a beautiful art room filled with unbelievably unique student work.

After touring this school, I think that I would perhaps consider it as a last resort. The student body seemed to be a little bit different than the kinds of people that I am generally used to, but the school did seem like it had a very nurturing atmosphere.

How to rank schools on the specialized high school exam

Written by Admin Thursday, 25 October 2007 08:34

This weekend is the Specialized High School Admission Test and kids and parents are nervous about how to rank the schools on the application. Some schools are saying you should rank them first if you want to be admitted -- this is not true. Filling out the application is intimidating but not complicated. Here's what to do:

Rank all of the schools you want to go and none of the schools you don't want to go to. Rank them in the order you'd like to attend them. Then take a deep breath and do your best on the test. The computer will match you with the school highest on your list for which your score makes you eligible.

Still confused? Check out Insideschools' advice from last year and a 2004 Ask Judy on the subject -- the answer is still true.

And remember to eat a good breakfast because you can't bring in food or drink to the test. You can, however, take bathroom breaks -- just ask the proctor for permission.

At least NYC doesn't have this problem, right?

Written by Admin Thursday, 25 October 2007 04:22

We all complain about the size of the communications corps at the DOE. Sometimes it seems ludicrous for a schools chancellor to have a whole staff devoted to answering his email. But then again, with so many handlers, it's unlikely that Joel Klein will ever be able to make this kind of mistake.

Opportunity NYC paying some parents to meet with teachers

Written by Admin Thursday, 25 October 2007 03:09

With new incentive programs being announced what seems like every other day, it's easy to forget where the city's presentation of financial incentives for good behavior began — way back in June, with the announcement of the Opportunity NYC program. The program, which offers cash incentives not just to poor students but to their families as well, has gotten quietly underway this fall; according to a DOE memo, the program apparently is being administered in "bi-monthly periods" and the first one comes to a close at the end of the month. Before then, parents will have a chance to earn $25 for every parent-teacher conference they attend. (Check out the Insideschools calendar for conference dates.) Principals have been instructed to tell their teachers to sign forms documenting parents' attendance. This is the first I've heard about the actual mechanics of the program — has anyone come across any other information?