News and views
by Isabella Robertson
The recent post, Teachers Ask: "Is 3rd grade the new 7th grade?", suggests that there is a new mandate to require children to read books that are too hard for most of them to understand.
No such mandate exists. A key shift called for by the Common Core standards is to challenge kids to read more complex text. This does not mean read books that are too hard. It does mean kids need to grapple with academic vocabulary and complex language structures if they are to become proficient readers. The current practice of "meeting kids where they are," while well-intentioned, means that many kids never encounter words and language beyond conversational language and their own independent reading level. The challenge of the Common Core is to give children book experiences at their independent reading level and opportunities to experience more complex texts.
The post wonders whether a 2nd-grade teacher's decision to read Charlotte's Web is best for students at that grade level, citing the Scholastic website that lists the book as written at the 4th-grade level. The post does not note that a variety of factors go into determining whether a text is appropriate for a grade. While it's true we might not expect students to read Charlotte's Web independently until at least the 4th grade, it is also true that, when read aloud, many 2nd graders will be engaged by the story and the vivid characters. What you ask students to do with the text (independent, guided reading, etc.) and the types of supports you provide (read-alouds, close reading discussions, vocabulary instruction, etc.) factor heavily in determining what is appropriate to teach at each grade.
(This story first appeared on DNAInfo.com)
Don't forget to put an extra quarter in your child's backpack starting on Monday.
The price of school lunch is rising 25 cents to $1.75 — the first price increase since 2003, when the cost of lunch jumped from $1 to $1.50, according to Department of Education officials.
Monday is also the deadline for parents to register for free lunches — as the city is now allowing all students who formerly qualified for "reduced lunch" to receive free lunch instead, officials said.
Confused about high school admissions? Have questions you need answered about particular schools, or how to fill out the 12-school application?
Insideschools.org can help! We are offering a free workshop for parents on Oct. 9: High School Hustle: How to apply.
Leading the discussion will be Clara Hemphill, founding editor of Insideschools and author of New York City's Best Public High Schools. Joining her are other experts on high school admissions, including Jacquie Wayans, Insideschools assignment editor and Bronx parent of three public school students.
We'll present Insidestats, a new way to judge high schools, explain what to look for in a high school, talk about the various types of high schools and provide plenty of time for Q&A.
The event is sponsored by the Center for NYC Affairs at the New School. It will take place at the Theresa Lang Community & Student Center, Arnhold Hall, 2nd floor, 55 West 13th Street, from 6-8 pm on Wednesday, Oct. 9. It is free, but you must RSVP to EventBrite.
See you there! (Let us know in comments below what questions you'd like to see answered.)
This weekend, Sept. 28 and 29, is the Department of Education's gigantic citywide high school fair from 10 am to 3 pm at Brooklyn Technical High School. Prepare for a hectic day, where you will meet teachers, students and administrators and find out about their schools.
You can attend information sessions several times during the day, led by staff from the Education Department's enrollment office. This will be helpful especially if you're a newbie to the process (and it will give you a place to sit down and take a breather.)
Here's the schedule provided by the DOE:
- High School Admissions at 11 am and 2 pm on both Saturday and Sunday
- Auditioning for High School Arts Schools and Programs at 12:30 pm on Saturday and Sunday
Most schools will have a table staffed by students, teachers, parent cordinators, guidance counselors and, sometimes the principal. Each borough has a dedicated space between the 2nd and 7th floors. The nine specialized high schools are set up in the first floor gymnasium.
Before you go, make sure to make a list of your "must see" schools. Read the reviews on Insideschools and watch the slideshows and videos. Look at our new "Insidestats" section. It'll give you a thumbnail description on a school's safety and vibe, how well it prepares kids for college, the graduation rate and much more.
Here are some questions you might want to ask school representatives:
- How much homework is typical? Is homework assigned over school vacations?
- Are students allowed outside the building for lunch?
- Does the school offer four years of math and four years of science? (Important for college prep)
- Are Advanced Placement classes offered? What subjects? What are the requirement to take an AP class?
- Besides passing required Regents exams, are there are requirements for graduation? Some schools require you to present a portfolio of your work, or perform community service.
- If the school has a graduating class, which colleges did graduates attend? What percentage of grads went to college? (Check out our Insidestats for that info as well)
- How does the administration handle discipline?
- Are there metal detectors?
- How does the school help students who are struggling?
- How does it challenge the strongest students?
- What are my chances for admission if I don't meet the specific requirements?
- Is there a uniform?
- What are the after school activities? What teams do they have? (Note that this can change from year to year and the directory might not be accurate!)
Here are a few more pointers for the day of the fair:
- Rather than carry around a hefty, heavy directory, consider ripping out the pages of schools that most interest you beforehand.
- Bring a notebook and pen to write down your impressions and any notes
- Collect fliers, or write down, the dates and times of school info sessions and tours
- If there's a sign-in sheet for a school that interests you -- sign in! That gives you a leg-up in admissions for some schools
- Dress for summer. It gets hot and steamy inside the huge building and there is no place to stash a jacket.
- Wear comfortable shoes and bring water. You'll be climbing up and down stairs. There will be food and drink for sale, but still, nice to have your own supply.
- Don't drive! Brooklyn Tech is close to virtually all subway lines and many bus routes. Traffic in the surrounding residential streets can be horrendous, so do yourself a favor and take public transportation.
Insideschools will be at the fair. Stop by our first floor table too.
Before you go, be sure to watch our video: Making the most of the high school fair
If you don't make the big fair this weekend, there will be fairs in every borough on Oct. 19 and 20. Insideschools is hosting our own Applying to High School event on Oct. 9. Watch for details.
PTAlink, a website which aims to connect public school parent organizations and serve as a hub of information for parent groups across New York City, launched today.
The online resource contains information on parent leadership opportunities, PTA development and administration, fundraising, and parent-run school activities and events. Still to come is a forum where PTA officers and members can ask each other questions and share information, say its co-founders Lisa Ableman and Rachel Fine, parents at PS 321 in Brooklyn who conceived of the idea nearly two years ago after getting support from City Councilperson Brad Lander.
They have collected and posted examples of best practices and resource materials from PTAs around the city and are reaching out to parents for more such success stories. For example, PTAlink features a school garden in Boerum Hill along with a "how to" guide on creating a garden, including names of supportive community organizations.
There is also nuts and bolts information about parent rights, the difference between a PTA and PA, Title 1 schools, available help from the Department of Education and more.
Still to come: a mentoring program, pairing experienced PTA officeres with newer ones.
"We realized that parent leaders across the city were reinventing the wheel in a range of areas -- and while many PTAs were looking for a way to find out what other organizations were doing, there were plenty of successful PTAs that were willing to share their best practices," Ableman said in an email. "We developed PTAlink to help parent organizations in two ways: as a comprehensive source of information, and an effective way for schools to learn from each other. In the end, we're hoping this leads to a community of parent organizations that work together."
Check out the website here and add your ideas and feedback. On offer is a free book on fundraising, Beyond the Bake Sale.
There's good news for parents who don't want to send their kids to kindergarten before their 5th birthday. The Department of Education is proposing a change in enrollment allowing for more flexibility in the placement of five and six year-olds. In the past, the DOE has been rigid in its rule that a child's birth year determine his grade placement.
The change to the city's enrollment regulation gives district superintendents the final say in deciding whether a child who turns six during the calendar year must enter 1st grade or whether kindergarten - or a different grade - is more appropriate. Parents will have to provide medical, or other documentation, making the case for placement in a different grade.
The city and state education officials keep saying the new Common Core standards are much tougher. I got a glimpse of just how much tougher on a visit to a Queens elementary school this week.
PS 254 in Richmond Hill has adopted Pearson’s ReadyGen reading program, one of three programs recommended by the city and state. Now, at the very beginning of the school year, 2nd graders are being asked to read Charlotte’s Web. A terrific book, but one that the Scholastic Book Wizard website (which lists the difficulty of different texts) says is written at a 4th grade level. Fourth graders at PS 254 are reading The Tarantula Scientist, a non-fiction book about spiders, which Scholastic says is appropriate for children in the second half of 5th grade.
Q: I am a sophomore in high school, but I am already looking at colleges and think I want to transfer between several campuses. I was wondering if that is even possible – to attend not just one or two, but even three colleges without adding any extra years. If so, would I be able to transfer between any school I like, or would a certain school's transfer program limit my choices?
A: Not only are you thinking ahead, you are thinking TOO far ahead! Generally, I tell sophomores that it really is too early to start planning for college (other than being open-minded and making academics their #1 priority). But your question about transferring is something that concerns many students.
The school year is young and some parents are still puzzled by their child's class placement. This week's Ask Judy answers two questions: one about Integrated Co-teaching, and another about bridge classes.
My niece is in 1st grade. Her school sent a letter home yesterday stating that her class is an Integrated Co-teaching class. According to the UFT website "students with disabilities receive instruction alongside their nondisabled peers with special education support." What does this mean? Does this mean my niece has some type of special need? If a school determined that a child has special needs shouldn't parents be notified? Is this the normal that all classes are integrated? Please clarify.
Parents concerned about a new online kindergarten admissions system, announced by the Department of Education last week, are urging the Panel of Educational Policy (PEP) to vote no to funding the project at their meeting tonight, or to delay action until there has been time for public comment or the new mayor to take office.
"What is problematic here is they are centralizing kindergarten admissions and that’s a huge shift in policy," said Liz Rosenberg, a Brooklyn parent and founder of NYC Public, a parent advocacy group. "It was spun in a way that makes it sound like it’s simply bringing the process online. But, it’s moving from a school-based process where people walk into a school and talk to a real person to a process by which parents have to rank their schools online."
"It is a humongous policy shift and that’s not the way the press release reads," said Rosenberg.