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(This story first appeared on DNAInfo.com)
More than 30 public elementary schools — including TriBeCa's top-ranked P.S. 234 and the Upper East Side's P.S. 59 — are set to participate in protests Friday to blast the state's standardized English exams.
The planned protests by schools in Manhattan's District 2 — which also includes Greenwich Village and Chelsea — are part of a growing anti-testing movement in some of the city's most esteemed public schools. Last week, a protest at Park Slope's P.S. 321 drew hundreds of teachers, parents and students who complained about age-inappropriate content and poorly explained multiple-choice questions that seemed to have no one right answer.
Now, the 31 Manhattan elementary schools are planning an even bigger demonstration at each of their schools Friday morning, to demand that the exams be released to the public as soon as they have been graded.
Nearly one-third of the 14,600 rising kindergartners who sat for Gifted & Talented assessments in January and February found out today that they qualified for one of the city's district or citywide G&T programs. That's about six percent fewer than qualified in 2013, according to Department of Education data released Friday afternoon. The number of children who scored in the 99th percentile--the score usually necessary for a chance at entry into one of the five coveted citywide G&T--programs also fell, from more than 1,450 last year to about 950 this year.
Even with the lower number of qualifiers, there are still three times as many top-scoring tykes than there are seats in the five most selective citywide programs which have only about 300 seats for incoming kindergartners. Further decreasing the odds of entry, qualifying siblings of current students get first dibs at those seats.
The gap in student performance between richest and poorest districts remains wide but there were gains in Harlem and Washington Heights. In Districts 4 (East Harlem), 5 (Harlem) and 6 (Washington Heights and Inwood) nearly twice as many students scored in the top percentile than did last year.
Parents were notified of their child's score today along with an application listing their progam options. Families who do not get their results by Monday, April 7, should call the DOE at 718-935-2009. Families have until April 21 to apply one of the gifted programs, but since schools are closed for spring vacation from April 14-22, parents have only next week to visit schools. A list of open houses is posted on the DOE's website here. Letters of acceptance for regular, non-gifted, kindergarten programs will be sent during the spring break. G&T applicants won't find out until May 26 if they have been offered a spot.
Some highly sought-after schools that lacked pre-kindergarten programs will now have them. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced today the city will add more than 4,200 new full-day pre-k seats at 140 public schools in September, thanks to $300 million in funding from the state that was approved over the weekend.
There are three new programs in popular midtown Manhattan schools: Midtown West, PS 116 and PS 40. In Chinatown, PS 130 is offering a full day instead of a half-day program, and PS 124 will house three classes. In Brooklyn's District 15, the new Maurice Sendak Community School will have 66 seats, up from the 30 originally planned. PS 15 in Red Hook is offering 84 slots. PS 20 in Fort Greene will have two classes, instead of one.
In the Bronx, perennially popular Bronx New School will offer two full-day classes, not one and PS 23 in Fordham will have 48 seats. In Queens, new programs will open at PS 290 in Maspeth and PS 63 in Ozone Park and at two new schools that will open in the fall, PS 343 in Corona and PS 316 in South Ozone Park. PS 175 in Rego Park will also offer three classes. In Staten Island, 15 schools have either created new programs, added additional seats or are expanding half-day programs to full-day.
The state budget bill’s expected passage includes several dramatic education policy shifts for the city, but perhaps none have been more fiercely debated than new provisions for providing new city charter schools with free or subsidized space. Now…
Amid the debate surrounding charter schools in the city, 15 new charter schools will be opening in the fall, adding to the 183 already operating in New York City. The majority of the new schools are part of established charter networks, including Success Academy, Achievement First and Ascend Schools. A few of the new schools are independent “mom and pop” charters that aren’t part of a larger network.
Applications for most charter schools are due by April 1 with admissions lotteries held in early April. Parents may submit applications to multiple schools at once using the online Common Charter School Application on the New York City Charter School Center website. Parents should also contact the schools that they wish to apply to directly to make sure that they understand all the application requirements. Admissions to charter schools is determined by lottery, giving priority to residents of the district where the school is located. Some charters have additional admissions priorities.
In a charter's first year, there is frequently space for out-of-district students, as some families are reluctant to take a chance on a school until it has a track record. All charter schools keep waitlists so even if you miss the application deadline, if you are interested in a school it's worth asking to be put on the waitlist.
Q: My son is a senior in high school, so we have just finished with applications and testing and expensive test prep. Now I have to start worrying about my daughter, who will be entering ninth grade next year. When the New York Times magazine devotes its cover article to the "new" SAT test, it's got to be something major! I am in a panic!
A: Everyone needs to take a deep breath about the "new and improved" SAT. The College Board is a business. It is a huge business. Yes, it is a .org and calls itself a "not-for-profit" entity. But that lack of profit comes after taking their multi-million-dollar revenues (from the PSAT, SAT, and AP exams) and subtracting their expenses. And among their expenses are tremendous salaries for those at the top of the organization. While the current head of the College Board has an annual compensation package of $750,000, his predecessor had a compensation package of $1.3 million. Many executives at the College Board have salaries over $300,000. You want to know why test fees have increased so much over the years?
All right, to be fair, the head of the ACT company gets $1.1 million. As I said, testing is big business.
What are an 8th grader's odds of getting accepted by the most popular New York City high school? Less than two percent at tiny Baruch College High School, which got a whopping 7,238 applications for just 111 seats this year. For the fourth year in the row, Baruch, which has a 100 percent graduation rate and screens for student grades, test scores and attendance, tops the Department of Education's list of the 20 high school programs that received the most applications. (Some huge neighborhood schools in Queens and Brooklyn get far more total applicants but the DOE ranked the list of applications by programs, not schools.)
In a repeat of the past few years, second on the list with 5,779 applicants, was Pace High School in Chinatown, followed by Eleanor Roosevelt on the Upper East Side, with 5,740 applicants. What the top three have in common is that they are all small schools located in Manhattan's District 2.
Unlike the other boroughs, there are no large zoned high schools in Manhattan. Instead, District 2 created a series of small and successful schools which have yet to be widely replicated around the city. Five of its screened schools give priority to district students and Manhattanites, all but shutting out applicants from elsewhere. Because there are few comparable schools in other boroughs, 8th graders citywide continue to apply, even though chances of acceptance are slim. According to a SchoolBook article this week, more than 78 percent of the students offered admissions to six District 2 schools last year came from the district. For Baruch and the New York City Lab School (number 18 on the list), about 95 percent of the students accepted in 2013 came from District 2 middle schools.
High school students looking to transfer to a different school for 10th grade face tougher odds than applicants to 9th grade. This year, only 57 percent of the 4,425 students who applied for a different school for 10th grade received offers, as compared to 90 percent of 8th graders applying to high school for the first time, according to Department of Education data.
The good news for all 9th graders who are unhappy with their current school is that you can apply now for a different school. There are some strong programs with openings for rising 10th-graders.
You must submit a new application -- with up to 12 choices -- by March 21 and you'll hear in May where you've been assigned. To find out more about your options, go to the fair at Martin Luther King Jr, High School this weekend.
Here are our picks for schools with space in 10th grade, according to the Department of Education’s Round 2 Program List. All seats are open to both general education students and those receiving special education services, according to the DOE’s list. For more specifics regarding openings, your best bet is to ask the school representatives at the fair.
A glimmer of hope for 8th graders who were rejected at their high school choices: Insideschools has learned that one-quarter of the kids who appealed their high school placements last year got a seat at one of the schools to which they originally applied.
Of the 3,028 rising 9th-graders who filed appeals last year, 761 were offered a place at one of the high schools listed on their applications, according to data released by the Department of Education in response to our request under the Freedom of Information Act. Another 783 were assigned to an alternative placement, but not a school they requested.
An appeal won't work if you were rejected at one of the specialized high schools, which require an entrance exam. And it probably won't work if you are assigned to a perfectly good, appropriate school that just doesn't happen to be your first choice--if, say, you are assigned to Bard High School Early College and you wanted Beacon.
But let's say you are assigned to a school that doesn't offer chemistry and physics and you want a college prep curriculum. In that case, you may have a shot.
This weekend – March 15 and 16 is the Round 2 fair in Manhattan for 8th and 9th graders who are still looking for a high school for next fall. You can meet school representatives and ask guidance counselors questions about your options. All 8th and 9th graders may apply again.
Here are some recommendations for high schools that haven’t filled their 9th grade seats, according to the Department of Education Round 2 Program List. You may also want to consider applying to one of the 10 new schools opening in the fall of 2014.