No matter how you feel about the end of summer (I am always sad and counting the days until the next one), this week marks the start of what may be a four-year fight for parents of high school freshmen.
A fight to make sure they get the right classes, the right teachers and even a lunch period. A fight to make sure they get support for what could be a tough adjustment from middle school.
A fight to make sure they are ready for college; too many U.S. students are not.
For New York City public school parents, it's likely an ongoing battle -- even at some of the city's best and most sought-after high schools.
A few of the city’s best-known schools have new principals this year.
This week, an email announced to parents at Bronx High School of Science that Jean Donahue, assistant principal for biology and physical sciences, isl taking over as the school’s interim acting principal. An alumna of the school, parent of a recent graduate, and former teacher at Bronx Science, Donahue knows the school well. She has a PhD and did cancer reasearch before she came to Bronx Science, where she lead the 3-year-research program. According to the Alumni Association’s facebook page, she has strong relationships with many faculty and with the Alumni Association. She will be taking over after former principal Valerie Reidy retired this summer after over a decade as the principal of Bronx Science. She stepped down amidst a high-profile investigation about incidents of hazing on the boy’s track team and after years of tension between teachers and administrators.
Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts also has a new principal this fall. This summer long-time principal Kim Bruno announced that she was leaving LaGuardia for a job as the principal of the Ramon C. Cortines School of Visual and Performing Arts in Los Angeles, California. Lisa Mars, former Assistant Principal of Language, Art and Music at Townsend Harris High School will take over as interim acting principal in her place. Parents at LaGuardia told Insideschools that they are hopeful that Mars will be a good leader for the school. However, according to members of the school’s Drama Parent Association, the transition is off to a difficult start since Mars still has not appointed a new assistant principal for the school’s Drama and Tech Studios, making them the only arts studios in the school without an AP.
At Brooklyn Latin founding principal Jason Griffiths announced this summer that he is leaving the school to lead Harlem Village Academy Charter School. Gina Mautschke, who has been with the school since its founding in 2006, is taking over as principal this fall. Mautschke began by teaching math at Brooklyn Latin until she was promoted to Assistant Head of Master of Operations in 2011, according to The Greenpoint Gazette. While Griffiths got high marks from teachers at Brooklyn Latin, according to the school’s Learning Environment Survey, he chose to leave after seven years, reportedly because of his frustration with dealing the city bureaucracy.
High schools aren’t the only ones with new principals this fall. Some of the city’s noteworthy elementary schools are also undergoing leadership changes this fall. This fall, former principal of PS 212 Midtown West, Dean Ketchum, will be starting as the new principal at Hunter College Elementary School. According to the Hunter College website, Ketchum served as principal of Midtown West for nine years, where he got excellent reviews from teachers. Still no word on who is taking Ketchum’s place at Midtown West.
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.
The first week of middle school a few years back, I learned that two cherished rituals were soon to be stripped from our lives: bringing cupcakes to our children's class for birthdays and traveling to school together with them.
"Your kids are going to be taking the subway alone to school soon, deal with it,'' the principal told an auditorium full of parents on day one, as some cowered in fear and uncertainty.
Soon enough, parents got used to the subway ritual, after following close behind for a few days – just never close enough to be seen. The principal just laughed at the parent (me) who asked about bringing cupcakes, and it never came up again.
By the time your child starts high school, you are deep into what I call "The Age of Embarrassment" and long past cupcakes and drop-off worries. Still, you may be filled with uncertainty about what your role should be during these four critical years.
I’ve heard that . . .
When I hear that phrase, I know what follows: a rumor. Sometimes the rumors are new, sometimes they have been around the block before, but they usually have one thing in common – they are not true.
While the rumor mill becomes a little quieter over the summer, when it’s back-to-school time it grinds louder. And for some reason, there are so many rumors about the college process! Here are some of the “I’ve heard” stories concerning standardized testing, namely about the SAT and ACT.
I’ve heard that the ACT is easier than the SAT.
No, they are both challenging tests. They are different tests, but they assess the same skills.
Brooklyn teen David Mascio is entering his junior year at Stuyvesant High School. Here's his advice to students just getting ready to start their freshman year at a new high school.
Starting high school can be stressful. You may have left many of your middle school friends behind as you go to a different and unfamiliar neighborhood and you only have a vague idea of what the school will require from you. Fortunately, there are ways to eliminate much of that stress and make your freshman year an enjoyable and successful one.
Before classes begin, take a trip to the school and get to know the neighborhood. It's a good opportunity to familiarize yourself with the commute and figure out how long it will take you to get to school. And, if your school allows you to go out for lunch, you can find interesting places to eat.
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
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.
Students who are new to New York City public schools or who are re-entering city schools after a time away, may register at special enrollment centers beginning on Aug. 28 in all boroughs. The centers are open Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. through Sept. 18, with the exception of Sept. 2, Labor Day and Sept. 5 and 6, Rosh Hashanah. Regular Department of Education enrollment offices will be closed during that time.
All high school students should go to the enrollment centers, along with any elementary and middle school students who do not have a zoned school. Elementary and middle school students who have a zoned school should wait until the first day of school, Sept. 9, to register at the school, the Education Department said.
All special education students who have a current IEP (Individualized Education Plan) may enroll directly at their zoned schools on Sept. 9. Students without a current New York City IEP need to go to an enrollment center or to a special education site.
Our advice: do your research before you get to the enrollment center. Make up a list of schools that would be a good fit for your child. Read our school profiles on Insideschools and check out other reports about each school on the DOE's website. If you have doubts about your zoned school, know that there are other schools in every district that are alternatives. You can use our "advanced search" option to find "unzoned" schools, or look at the DOE's elementary and middle school directories online.
I just read the news on your site about lower NYC ELA and Math standardized test scores. My son is a soon-to-be 8th grader and this news is devastating. I haven't yet seen his score but I know that many screened/selective high school programs require a minimum of 3 on state standardized tests. Will admissions policies change in these schools in recognition that kids were tested on new standards they never learned? What advice do you have in navigating the high school admissions process for those who will begin the process this fall?
Concerned Parent in Brooklyn
Dear Concerned Parent in Brooklyn,
As you know, as of this week parents can access their child's test scores on ARIS. In fact, DOE officials are at city libraries to help parents access the scores and to explain them. If you have questions about your child's test and want to review it, you can ask the principal to set up an appointment for this purpose. You have to fill out a request and a professional will show it to you. This year, only some of the exam questions and answers will be shown. For general information, some of the questions are available online.
Many parents have complained that the percentile range shown on ARIS is too wide to be of use to determine if their kids are eligible for some of the highly selective schools. So far there is no word as to when more specific percentile information will be available.
As of yet,there has been only a little discussion of how the schools will handle these very low scores. We do know that in the spring, just after kids took the state tests, a group of principals distanced themselves, vowing to ignore results of what they saw as faulty and unfair tests.
On the eve of the release of this year's New York state exam scores for 3rd-8th graders, city, state and national education officials attempted to cushion the blow of what is expected to be a significant drop in test scores.
City and state education departments have been warning parents for months that student proficency rates would drop this year, after the state introduced new tests aligned with the Common Core. The Common Core is a set of national education standards that have been adopted by 46 states and are supported by the nation's education secretary, Arne Duncan.
The drop was confirmed today by Duncan, who joined state Education Commissioner John King and city Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky on a conference call with reporters. They said that although test scores will dip, New Yorkers should take a long view and recognize that adopting the Common Core standards will better prepare students for success after high school.
“As a country we’ve had low standards for decades,” Duncan said. “It is the right thing to move forward, it isn’t easy.”