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College Counselor: Common App isn't working

Written by Dr. Jane S. Gabin Wednesday, 16 October 2013 09:56

Q: Help! I am having trouble logging on to my Common Application account. Some of my friends are also having trouble with Common App. It's almost November 1, and I am worried that problems at Common App are going to make my application late. What can I do? Should I write to my colleges and explain?

A: The Common Application staff is aware of some technical glitches that are occurring, and so are the colleges. This is not your worry. Just keep working on your application and supplements, and remember to do "print preview" so you have a physical record of what you have written.

The Common Application started out with just a few colleges using its forms, and now there are hundreds. The organization recently increased the size of their staff from 10 to 65. They are initiating a 24/7 help center as well. But they are also experiencing unprecedented high usage. This is putting a lot of pressure on their system.

Just as you are frustrated, so are the colleges. Some of them cannot download or access the information they need. As a result, many colleges have already said that they are prepared to be a bit flexible with the Nov. 1 deadline for Early Decision. However, please do not wait until late on Oct, 31 to test the system. Prepare your materials so that you can hit "submit" on Oct. 29 or 30.

Do your part in ample time, and college counselors and admissions offices will handle the rest. Try not to worry—you are not alone!

Find out about middle school tours, forums

Written by Pamela Wheaton Tuesday, 15 October 2013 11:56

Parents of 5th graders spend the fall calling parent coordinators and checking school websites to find out about middle school tours and open houses. Some who aren't quick enough find themselves closed out of daytime tours at popular schools.

Now the Department of Education has compiled a list of school open house and tour dates for many districts. It doesn't include every school -- and some of the schools require you to call and make an appointment anyway. Still the list is a helpful start for busy parents. Find the list of dates and schools here [PDF].

Some districts hold Principal Forums for parents, invitiing principals to give a brief show and tell about their schools. District 15 in Brooklyn is holding a forum on Monday, Oct. 28 at Sunset Park High School; District 3 on Manhattan's Upper West Side is holding one on Tuesday, Oct. 29 at PS/IS 76. 

Middle school fairs conclude this week on Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 16-17, from 5:30 - 7:30 pm. Check our calendar for details and districts.

Upcoming deadline: Sign for OLSAT testing in Queens' District 24 and for the Mark Twain School for the Gifted & Talented test and audition by Wednesday, Oct. 16. See the DOE's middle school admissions timeline here

High School Hustle: Get ready to compromise

Written by Liz Willen Wednesday, 09 October 2013 17:54

When I look back on the full-time job of finding a New York City public high school for my kids, I’m reminded of looking for my first apartment.

Anyone else remember coming to New York City with big dreams and a tiny paycheck? And being shown moldy, tiny apartments, up endless flights of stairs, in neighborhoods no one wanted to visit?

Remember fantasizing about fireplaces, decks and duplexes? Maybe the dreams weren’t even that big. In those early days, I would have happily settled for views of anything other than brick walls, proximity to a subway, and maybe a small washing machine.

Sorry to say that the real estate comparison is valid when you are searching out high schools in Gotham. Your fantasy apartment is out of reach; the perfect high school does not exist.

Sign up for G&T test by Nov. 8

Written by Aimee Sabo Tuesday, 08 October 2013 10:08

It's that time of year again for families of four- and five-year-olds interested in the Department of Education's much sought-after gifted and talented programs. Although last year's testing season was a bit rocky, with a new, harder test and much-publicized grading errors, this year the DOE promises few changes (and hopefully less drama). Admissions expert Robin Aronow of School Search NYC spoke with us and noted that the only major difference this year is that the Otis-Lennon School Ability Test (OLSAT) and the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test (NNAT2) now each count 50 percent toward the total G&T percentile score. (Last year the Naglieri was approximately 66 percent and the OLSAT 33 percent.) Aronow emphasized other key dates and procedures that families should keep in mind:

November 8th is the deadline for completing the Request For Testing (RFT) online, but the sooner the better to get a desirable date, time and location. You will be offered options for test dates, times and locations during weekends in January. (If your child is also applying to Hunter College Elementary School, which has a separate application, remember to take Hunter's second round evaluation dates into consideration when selecting your DOE test date).

Prospective kindergartners will be tested one-on-one and will point to answers; they do not need to bubble in answers. If applying for first grade and up, your child will be tested in small groups and will need to bubble in answers.

Alternate language assessments are available in Arabic, Bengali, Chinese (Cantonese and Mandarin), French, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish and Urdu. It is not permissible to alternate between languages during the test administration. As children do not answer any questions orally, test your child in the language he or she most understands when spoken by an adult. Please note that applicants already in a DOE program may only take the test in an alternate language if entitled to services in English as a Second Language.

Scores in the 90th percentile or above qualify your child for a district G&T program, although seats are not guaranteed. Please note that children are compared to others whose birthdays are within three months of theirs. If your child is eligible, you will receive an application in early April due back by April 18, 2014.

Scores in the 97th percentile or above qualify your child for a citywide program. In reality, your child will need to score in 99th percentile—and have a stroke of luck—to be offered a citywide placement or a highly desirable district placement. This is due to the high number of applicants scoring in the 99th percentile.

For more information check out the G&T Handbook online and attend one of five information sessions (one in each borough), beginning October 16 in the Bronx. We'll post updates as we get them!

Applying to middle school? Here's how.

Written by Pamela Wheaton Monday, 07 October 2013 18:13

Middle school admissions season kicks into high gear this week for parents of 5th graders. You can meet school representatives at evening district fairs held between Oct. 8-17. Middle school directories for 2013-2014 are online and hard copies are being distributed by elementary schools. Clara Hemphill of Insideschools will be giving a free talk about middle school options on Thursday at New York University.

Now is the time to sign up for school tours and open houses! Check school websites, or call the school to find out about them. In some popular schools, especially in Manhattan where there is active school choice, many tours are already fully booked. If you're shut out, try contacting the parent coordinator to see if additional tours will be added.  

In addition to fairs, some districts hold informational nights where principals talk about their schools. Check with your district's family advocate to see if one is scheduled. (You can find their names and contact information on our district pages.)

Ask Judy: How do I build up my zoned school?

Written by Judy Baum Thursday, 03 October 2013 14:18

Judy,

I  am the parent of a child in pre-kindergarten and am newly elected to a PTA board in Brooklyn. Our zoned school is a lower performing and not highly sought after school in a district that is overcrowded because of what the other schools offer. I was hoping to work on improving parent involvement, increasing retention at the school and raising funds for enrichment programs at this school. Today we were told that because of decreased enrollment we are losing a teacher. For now I am focusing on the short term crisis of how to either gain 33 students or raise $125,000 in a few weeks. In the long run we need a parent coordinator (ours has been out since 1/2013), and ideas of how parents could work with the administration to make this a school where parents want to send their children. I would really appreciate any guidance on how to proceed!

Sincerely,
Pre-K parent

Dear Pre-K parent,

You have three tasks -- maybe a dozen, but three to start with. You need to build up the school's reputation among parents of young children. You need to raise money. And you need to engage the administration in forging a new perspective. As you noted, these are long term projects -- you won't see results right away but in their pursuit, you will build up a strong stakeholder constituency. In fact, a strong constituency engaging parents, teacher and administrators, as well as the wider community is key to any kind of school improvement effort. See also what I wrote about ways to attract students to a zoned school in a previous column

For more immediate results try posting a notice on neighborhood parent listservs to let parents know that seats are still available in your school. You can also post notices on supermarket bulletin boards and in local storefronts. I don't know if 33 kids will show up, but it's a start.

When "school choice" means "no choice"

Written by Jamaal Abdul-Alim Tuesday, 01 October 2013 12:27

As I planned to relocate to New York City to begin a fellowship at Columbia University this fall, a housing specialist advised me to move into School District 3 because it had “better options” for my 12-year-old daughter.

By the time I established residency — a prerequisite for enrolling in the city’s public schools — the “better options” in District 3 had been filled to the hilt.

On our third visit to the makeshift enrollment center in the auditorium of the High School of Fashion Industries on 24th Street (the first time we were turned away because we lacked a lease; the second time there was a “transmission error” as my daughter’s records were being faxed over) we secured a referral to Community Action School.

But after an interview with the school’s assistant principal, my daughter — who earned almost entirely A’s and B’s at her last school — was rejected in favor of another student for what was purportedly the last remaining seat.

City to offer more Advanced Placement classes

Monday, 30 September 2013 16:34

In an effort to better prepare the city’s students for the demands of college, 55 public high schools will add a total of 120 Advanced Placement courses with a particular focus in math and science, city school officials announced Monday.

The three-year, $7.3 million effort, formally known as the NYC DOE Advanced Placement Expansion Initiative (APEX), is expected to reach 2,500 students this academic year and 10,000 students in all. It’s focused on schools where the students are predominantly from groups that are underrepresented in higher education, officials said at a news conference.

“If we do our job, we’ll be able to reach even more students and get even more funding from the private sector when they see the results of the first year, ,” said Gregg Fleisher, Chief Academic Officer of the National Math + Science Initiative, a nonprofit that is helping to implement the expansion effort.

Report looks at why kids aren't college-ready

Written by Insideschools staff Monday, 30 September 2013 12:06

High school graduation rates are higher than ever before but college completion remains frustratingly elusive for New York City's public high school graduates.

Barely half of students who enroll in CUNY schools graduate with a Bachelor's degree in six years; fewer than one in five of the students who enrolled in city community colleges in 2009 earned a two-year Associate's degree by 2012. Many city high school grads begin college at a disadvantage: not even a third of New York City's class of 2012 earned high enough test scores to avoid remedial courses at CUNY, which has been nicknamed the "13th grade."

A new report from the Center for New York City Affairs (Insideschools' parent organization), Creating College Ready Communities: Preparing NYC's Precarious New Generation of College Students, explores why so many New York City high school grads struggle to earn college degrees. It gives recommendations on how the city's Department of Education and schools could improve college preparation in K-12 enabling students to have a better chance of success. The report follows four years of research by the Center in 14 low-income city schools which were working to improve their college numbers.

DOE replies: Why kids need challenging books

Sunday, 29 September 2013 17:56

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.