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Parents — answer a survey to help the arts

Written by Admin Tuesday, 19 February 2008 12:07

Parents — looking for something to do during this week off? Take a survey about the arts in your school. The Center for Arts Education is surveying parents about their opinions on arts education and the role of art at their schools. By taking the survey, you'll be helping CAE advocate for better arts programming in the city's schools — at precisely the time that principals are feeling like they have to cut arts funding.

Parents — answer a survey to help the arts

Written by Admin Tuesday, 19 February 2008 12:07

Parents — looking for something to do during this week off? Take a survey about the arts in your school. The Center for Arts Education is surveying parents about their opinions on arts education and the role of art at their schools. By taking the survey, you'll be helping CAE advocate for better arts programming in the city's schools — at precisely the time that principals are feeling like they have to cut arts funding.

If it's February, it must mean that the DOE is scurrying to find spaces for all of the new schools it plans to open in September. In addition to the 27 high schools and transfer schools opening in the fall, some number of elementary, middle, and charter schools will also open, and they all need space. Many of the city's schools are officially under capacity, but those schools have been able to make headway in reducing class size and improving performance, and they don't want to compromise their gains. (Official school capacities assume that classes will have the largest legally permitted number of students.)

This year, in response to complaints in the past, the DOE is giving school communities greater warning before placing new schools inside them. As a result, parents afraid of age-mixing, overcrowding, and other tensions have more information earlier — and they're just as angry as they were last year. I don't envy the DOE's Office of Portfolio Development right now.

Here are a few space-sharing issues I've come across this year. I'm sure I'm leaving some out — have you heard of more?

  • When the DOE announced that it was planning to place a new high school devoted to the film industry in Long Island City's IS 204, parents and students there protested. It's still not clear where the school will be located.
  • In Red Hook, Brooklyn, the DOE would like to house a new charter school in PS 15. The widow of Patrick Daly, the PS 15 principal who was killed in 1993 in gang crossfire while searching for a truant student, says he would have opposed the charter school.
  • Without any available space in the North Bronx, where it has been open — and housed in trailers — for the last two years, the Young Women's Leadership School is being moved into IS 162 in the South Bronx.
  • Kingsborough Early College School, previously located on the community college's campus, which lacked many amenities, will be moving to the Lafayette building; according to the Daily News, some parents won't be allowing their kids to move along with the school.
  • When the principal of PS 21 in Queens received a letter that said the DOE was considering putting another school in the building, parents were angry, saying that sharing space would diminish the quality of their excellent school.
  • At PS 84 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where last year middle-class parents reported being made to feel unwelcome when they asked for new programs, the DOE proposed creating a new elementary school. Hispanic parents protested, saying the DOE was trying to create a system of "separate but equal" schools in the building. The DOE now says no new school will open in PS 84 this fall.

Give your time to help schools and students in need

Written by Admin Tuesday, 19 February 2008 03:21

With no funding for tutoring and after school programs for the rest of the year, some schools must be turning to free labor to provide those important services. I just heard that Learning Leaders, the half-century-old organization that places trained volunteers in schools, is urgently seeking volunteers for the rest of this year, especially those who can work one-on-one with high school students or offer math tutoring. If you're interested in becoming a Learning Leader, contact Heather Whyte at 212-213-3370 x337.

Scenes from a student rally

Written by Admin Friday, 15 February 2008 11:38

Arlen Benjamin-Gomez/Insideschools, AFC

This was the scene yesterday at the student-run "Broken Hearts" rally against the budget cuts.
We've heard that the kids there were pretty fired up -- hopefully they can sustain their energy in the coming weeks, as the Keep the Promises Coalition ramps up its work. And check out our blogger Seth Pearce, who made an appearance in a preview article in yesterday's Sun; he says LaGuardia's musical may be on the chopping block for next year.

Grading state tests an expensive endeavor for schools

Written by Admin Friday, 15 February 2008 04:20

According to the Daily News, the DOE is spending $32 million — more than three times what it spent last year — to grade standardized tests this year. New state and federal laws require teachers to do the grading, so instead of grading tests after school, teachers in middle and elementary schools are pulled from their classrooms for weeks to grade. This year, it sounds like many principals won't be able to afford substitutes for those teachers, so non-teachers may have to cover the classes, or students might be dispersed for a short time into other classrooms. Sounds disruptive, right? Good thing all that will happen AFTER the state math test.

8th Grader Izzy: I'm extremely excited

Written by Admin Friday, 15 February 2008 03:01

Thank you guys for all of the positive feedback, it feels great to know that I have some support!

Wednesday night was the Bronx Science open house, and therefore a good chance to get a feel for what the subway ride was going to be like. From the time that we got into the subway to the time that we got out, it only took (give or take) 45 minutes, which was slightly less than we had heard but still quite a shock (my subway ride to school takes 10 minutes on a slow day!). Transportation is still a major question; the school offers a bus service that would take me door to door, but it's rather pricey and takes anywhere from an hour to two hours, from what I've heard. The alternative would be taking the subway, but I'm not sure if I'm comfortable riding the subway all the way to the Bronx by myself everyday.

Transportation aside, the open house itself very much resembled the tour that we took when we were first considering it; this time, however, the opening speech was much more congratulatory, and reminded us of how special we should feel that we had gotten in. I certainly did feel special, sitting in the huge auditorium that will someday be where I think some of my most complex and intellectual thoughts.

The tour took us into some of the classrooms, and introduced us to students in classes, clubs, and anyone else that happened to be in the building at the time. All of the courses sounded difficult and grueling, but I was instantly intrigued by a lot of the rooms that I walked into just based on the displayed work; one room was housing the robotics team, and they had their fully completed robot sitting out for people to look at.

Overall, I'm extremely excited to start going to Bronx. The possibilities are endless, as long as I keep my mind open and my schedule clear for study time!

Could this year's budget cuts have long-lasting effects?

Written by Admin Thursday, 14 February 2008 11:08

One more dispatch from last night, where I was surprised to hear several speakers thinking about the possible long-term economic effects of the budget cuts.

Ziporah Steiner, principal of Maxwell High School, offered a real-world example of what the budget cuts could mean once she cuts all after school programming. "Our students have a choice: they can join the chess club, the drama club, the dance club, or they can join the Crips or the Bloods," she said, noting that once students have joined a gang, "We cannot reel them back."

In a statement read by a member of his staff, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz echoed Steiner's concerns, saying, "I strongly disagree that cutting school budgets is logical, productive, or even, in the long run, economically sound."

And Liz Phillips, principal of PS 321 in Park Slope, said, "If this is truly a recession, schools will need more money, not less," because children whose families are affected by the struggling economy will need additional services.

Preserving school budgets sounds great for the short term, but it sounds even better when you take a longer view. Let's hope lawmakers and the mayor can be made to agree.

TODAY (1/14): Students march on Tweed to oppose budget cuts

Written by Admin Thursday, 14 February 2008 07:11

Today at 4 p.m., Students Against the DOE Budget Cuts, a new student-organized group that looks like it's getting support from NYCORE and Time Out From Testing, will be holding a march on Tweed to oppose the budget cuts. Many folks last night said they would be supporting the student protest, and Liz Phillips, principal of Brooklyn's PS 321, has written to her families encouraging them to go.

As much as I'd like to, I can't go — can someone who is tell us in the comments what it's like?

Budget cuts reflective of bigger problems, speakers say

Written by Admin Thursday, 14 February 2008 05:24

While the response to the budget cuts started quietly and informally, it's now shaping up to be a loud, organized expression of years of frustration with the way the mayor and chancellor have managed the city's schools.

At the Borough Hall meeting last night, it was the repeated calls for transparency at the DOE and meaningful inclusion of parent opinion in decision-making that received the most applause.

City Council Member Bill DeBlasio recited a litany of circumstances when the public has found out that "policy decisions have been made that don't reflect the on-the-ground reality" and when DOE officials "didn't get approval from anybody" but went ahead with their plans nonetheless, including last year's school bus fiasco, the cell phone ban, increased testing, and the progress reports.

Describing Time Out From Testing's six-point plan for how the DOE can save money without hurting students, Martha Foote said the DOE should open its books to the public, creating greater transparency about who works at the DOE and how much they're paid.

The rest of the plan: eliminate the $80 million contract to create interim assessments; cut ARIS, the $80 million data tracking system the DOE bought from IBM; cut the $16.6 million contract to provide security for ARIS; stop hiring expensive consultants; and stop accepting no-bid contracts.