Monday, 07 October 2013 18:13

Applying to middle school? Here's how.

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.)

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Thursday, 03 October 2013 14:18

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

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.

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Sunday, 29 September 2013 17:56

DOE replies: Why kids need challenging books

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.

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Friday, 27 September 2013 10:54

School lunch price hike begins Monday

(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.

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Tuesday, 24 September 2013 12:28

Wiggle-room for late birthday kids?

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.

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Thursday, 19 September 2013 12:56

Ask Judy: Why is my child in an ICT class?

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.

Dear Judy,

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.
Aunt

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Thursday, 19 September 2013 12:11

Parents to PEP: Vote no to online K admissions

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.

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Wednesday, 28 August 2013 16:43

Cheap WiFi for low income kids

A new program rolling out in New York City aims to bridge the "digital divide" and get low income students connected to the internet at home. About one in four, or 2.2 million New Yorkers, are without internet access at home and most of those New Yorkers are low-income and minority, according to EveryoneON, the organization running the Connect2Compete program that gives access to discounted internet service and low price computers. 

Mayor Bloomberg held a press conference in front of a class of 7th-graders on the Upper West Side's MS 258 on Wednesday to promote the Connect2Compete program, which is already underway in other major cities like Chicago. He was joined by Carlos Slim Domit, son of Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helú, former NBA Knicks star John Starks, Education Department Chancellor Dennis Walcott and the principal of MS 258, John Curry. 

"What we are doing today is getting together to try to provide the same opportunities to you and to other students," Domit said. He explained that more than 60 million Americans are not connected to the internet (as opposed to 35 million who are not connected in his home country, Mexico) and many of those 60 million are people of color. Domit's family foundation is a partner of Connect2Compete and working to decrease those numbers in Mexico and the US. 

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Fourth and 5th-graders who scored 4's (the highest level) on both the 2013 state reading and math exams may apply now through Sept. 16 for seats in district and citywide gifted and talented programs for this school year, 2013-2014. Unlike the younger elementary grades which base admission to G&T programs on asssessments including the OLSAT, admittance in the upper elementary grades depends solely on state standardized test scores. Like the younger grades, demand far outweighs supply!

Seats are scarce, especially for 5th grade, and some districts have more openings than others. There may be a very few seats at citywide gifted programs, which require a higher score, as well as the district programs.

To find out whether your child is eligible, check his test score now available on the ARIS parent link. For parents without internet or computer access, the DOE has set up stations at local libraries this weekwhere parents can see their children's scores.

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Tuesday, 20 August 2013 14:51

5,000 free backpacks for kids in need

Islamic Circle North America's annual backpack giveaway to New York City school children began in late July and lasts through September. The group will give away a total of 5,000 backpacks stuffed with back-to-school supplies to children in need of any religious faith. 

There are three giveaway events this weekend:

Saturday, 8/24, from 3 - 5 PM at the Douglass Housing Projects, 102 Street and Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan

Sunday, 8/25, from 12 - 2 PM at ICNA Al-Markaz Masjid, 166-26 89th Avenue, in Jamaica, Queens

Sunday, 8/25, from 12- 2 PM at Albanian Islamic Cultural Center, 307 Victory Boulevard in Staten Island

Next weekend: 

Friday, 8/30, from 5:30 - 7 PM at the MAS Community Center, 25-15 Steinway Street in Astoria, Queens

Saturday, 8/31, from 1 - 3 pm at Masjid Taqwa at 1266 Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn

Sunday, 9/1, from 12- 2 PM at the ICNA Brooklyn Community Center 865 Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn

Sunday, 9/1, from 2 - 4 PM at the Masjid Al-Ansar, 161-34 Foch Boulevard in Rochdale, Queens

The backpacks are free to any child in need. See ICNA.org for more information. 

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