News and views
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.
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.