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On Monday, the Sun reported that Governor Spitzer is investing billions of dollars into SUNY and other New York colleges to increase their presence in public middle and high schools.
This increased "collaboration" will come in the form of associate degree level classwork and more interaction between the universities and public students, some as young as 12 years old. Students involved in these programs would also receive increased financial aid and a guarantee that they would be able to go to a four-year college.
This IS a good idea.
Some might argue that putting kids in failing schools into college programs is unrealistic. It is not. In order for students to succeed in school it is vital that they have a goal, a future plan. High schools are a common part of middle school culture â€” they become part of a middle school students' future plans and thus a large majority of middle school students end up in high school. In a great number of high schools, college is not a part of the culture. It is not within reach. It is not familiar.
This program could help many high school students, from schools without a college culture, to understand what college means and how possible and important it really is. It could increase the number of students with "college" somewhere in their future plans.
Then, once they have college in their sights this plan throws in a double-whammy. First, you get guaranteed college placement. (Awesome, right?) Second, you get financial aid bonuses. As a senior going through the college process with many of my friends, I see every day how vital these bonuses could be. It could mean the difference between succeeding in college and dropping out or not even going. Any program to encourage students not only to attend but also to succeed in college would not be complete without a financial aid aspect to it.
Getting colleges involved in high schools is always a good idea. For recognizing that, Governor Spitzer, I commend you. You are really doing it.
Looks like Jean Claude Brizard may be the next top DOE administrator to move on to greener pastures. He's one of four contenders for the superintendency of the Rochester (N.Y.) Public Schools, which post a high school graduation rate even lower than New York City's. On Monday, Brizard met with the selection committee in Rochester and told them what he would do to improve the schools, including bolster security, enroll more kids in pre-K, and increase vocational offerings. School board members told the local paper that Brizard "came very close" to meeting all their selection criteria; the board is meeting with the three other candidates this week.
In the last several years, Brizard has been the principal at George Westinghouse High School, a regional superintendent, and the DOE's executive director of high schools. But despite his reputation as a pretty straight shooter (or perhaps because of it?), he didn't land in any of the highest positions after the most recent reorganization. The Rochester Democrat-Gazette has an extended profile of Brizard.
The search for grants can be broken into four basic parts: needs assessment, funder research, grant writing, and implementation or spending the money. In this post, I'll explain the first component, needs assessment.
Needs assessment means deciding what are the biggest problems at your school that can be helped by grants. In some schools, this might be science kits or refurbishing a community room. In my school the principal was going deaf because the lunch room has no sound insulation, so we applied for money to install acoustic panels. Also, kids seemed to never go out on field trips, so we asked for money to send them on field trips to orchards and symphony halls. Some grants are for special programs like visiting artists or conflict resolution training.
One thing I have learned about program grants is they need to fit in a busy teacherâ€™s day, so itâ€™s best if they support the existing curriculum, or else bring in special experiences that will free up teachersâ€™ time to work with small groups of kids. For instance, if children leave the classroom for a piano lesson a half-class at a time, the remaining half can be given their math lesson with more personal attention.
The four parts of the grant search can be delegated to different people working on the grants team: one can canvass parents and teachers for grant ideas, and others can do the internet research for grants. That job is good for people who can only do work on their own time, late at night when the kids have gone to bed.
The consensus on the G+T changes is that they will make the programs more equitable in theory but will likely result in far fewer students being offered seats in gifted programs, especially in the districts that have a lively G+T culture, such as Brooklyn's District 22 and District 3, which covers the Upper West Side.
Parents in those districts are concerned that many of the students who are currently thriving in gifted programs would not be eligible for them under the new plan, reducing the number of programs and seats in those districts. â€œI think it would be a shame if not a crime to in any way eliminate any of the gifted programs that District 22 has nurtured over the last 40 years," a member of District 22's CEC told the Times. But all seem to agree that expanding access for poor students and kids in districts with only a handful or even no G+T programs is a good thing. ""When I started here kids who took the test were fundamentally kids whose parents would pay for the tests," Chancellor Klein told the Sun, and even now less than 10 percent of kids in some districts apply for gifted programs; in contrast, more than 60 percent of families in District 3 applied, the Sun reports.
The DOE has just released its long-awaited proposal for reforms to admission processes for the city's gifted and talented programs, and parents have until Nov. 25 to comment on the proposal. The goal of the proposed changes, according to the DOE, is to "expand access to gifted programs and create a single, rigorous standardâ€”based on national normsâ€”for 'giftedness.'" You can take a look at the DOE's slideshow about the changes, but here are the highlights:
- All students will be tested for G+T at their schools, not at off-site testing centers.
- Evaluations will continue to be based on two assessments (as they were last year for the first time). Children will continue to take the OLSAT. The Gifted Rating Scale will be replaced by something called the Bracken School Readiness Assessment, which the DOE says is "easier to administer in schools to many children."
- Children who take both tests will be given a composite score (75 percent OLSAT, 25 percent BSRA). Any child whose scores place him in the 95th percentile nationally will be guaranteed a slot in a gifted program in his district. Children whose scores are in the 97th percentile will be able to apply to the three citywide gifted schools: TAG,
HunterAnderson, and NEST.
- Families will rank their choices from among the district and citywide options.
- OSEPO will place students. Parents will know whether their child is guaranteed a G+T slot by March 31 and will get their placement offers by May 31.
To make the process even more equitable, beginning in 2008, all students -- not just those whose parents request an evaluation -- will be tested for G+T eligibility.
The DOE says it also plans to enhance the quality of instruction in self-contained G+T programs citywide -- quality, like admissions procedures, has varied from district to district -- and to expand enrichment opportunities for all students, not just those whose scores qualify for G+T programs.
After the state decided to forgo federal funds that would require schools to teach abstinence-only sex education, the DOE has announced that it is recommending a "research-based" high school sex ed program that Newsday says is "designed to encourage students to delay sexual activity while at the same time providing information about contraception and disease prevention." The program, called Reducing the Risk, does not offer the comprehensive sex ed that advocates have called for, but it at least recognizes that teenagers need to learn about contraception and protection. However, the state still doesn't require sex ed for high schoolers, so it's anyone's guess how many schools will choose to offer the program.
Gotham Gazette's featured education article right now is about the lack of -- and need for -- quality sex ed in the city's schools. One kid quoted in the piece works as a Teen Advocate for Planned Parenthood and describes some pretty incredible misinformation that she's heard from other young people. If you're a teen interested in improving the information kids get about sex issues, Planned Parenthood has three different programs you can join.
Saturday was the Specialized High School Admission Test! I think it went fairly well, considering the rain was pouring and I was really nervous.
The reading section of the test seemed pretty easy to me, at least easier then the sections that I had been studying off of, and that kind of caught me off guard. The math went smoothly too, for the first half; the next quarter of questions were challenging, and the last quarter were near impossible â€” some just because they were difficult problems, and some that I could have figured out with more time. In the end, I can only hope that the last couple of problems didn't completely trip me up.
I only put down two schools on the specialized high school application, because I really had no interest in the others. Now, all that I can do is wait!
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.
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
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.