Tuesday, 12 February 2013 15:16

Ask Judy: Taking a chance on a new school

Dear Judy,

My daughter will be entering kindergarten in 2013 and we have been zoned to a brand new school which is still under construction. I am wondering if I should take my chances for the new school, try for an established out-of zone-school or move to a neighborhood with an established school.
KG Mom in Manhattan

Dear KG Mom
New schools are enticing, and a bit scary. You picture a spanking new building with spic and span furniture, up-to-date facilities, bright lights and new technology. But you don't know much about the learning that will go on there. Like other parents, you probably have an idea of what you would like for your daughter. Some parents look for rigorous academics, some care more about the arts, others would like their kids to learn a second language and others look for great special ed programs. (And ideally there are schools that cover all those bases!)

Most parents want small classes and that is usually one of the plusses of a new school. True, in an established school you know what you're getting: usually a seasoned principal, set routines and an active PTA. But, in a new school, working with other families and staff, you will have a hand in developing programs and partnerships that will allow the school to thrive. If the principal is open to it, you can help set the tone and work closely with the school leaders. (Read about how some parents are already doing at PS 118 in Park Slope, which will open in September. They've set up a group called "Founding Families" and have their own Facebook page.)  With just one or two grade levels, there will be an intimacy rarely found in a larger school.

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Thursday, 07 February 2013 18:47

City schools score "F" in PE

Six in ten city schools have physical education classes only once or twice a week for 45 minutes, way below what the state education department mandates, according to a new American Heart Association (AHA) report based on a survey of public and charter schools in all five boroughs. 

It's the city's youngest students who are most likely to miss out on vital PE time, says the Women's City Club of New York (WCC), a non-profit civic organization, that advocates for more physical education in all schools. Elementary grades do not have enough teachers citywide to meet state PE regulations, based on WCC's analysis of Independent Budget Office data. Yet, according to New York state regulations, the youngest children are supposed to get the most exercise. The rules call for daily physical educaton for grades K-3, three times a week for 4th-6th graders and 90 minutes a week for older students.

Middle school students have enough gym teachers and high schools, which require students to earn two PE credits in order to graduate, have a surplus of PE teachers, according to the IBO data.

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Tuesday, 05 February 2013 15:26

Rally for more phys ed in city schools

City public schools with tight budgets and shared buildings struggle to provide adequate physical education, especially in our era of high stakes testing.

But prioritizing test-prep over PE is misguided, say advocates of physical education in schools. Studies show that, "not only does PE help curb obesity, but it also increases test scores and grades," said Amy Schwartz, chairperson of the Physical Education in City Public Schools Task Force, a project of the Womens City Club of New York.

On Thursday at 3 pm, on the steps of City Hall, the Womens City Club will join forces with the American Heart Association and City Council members Melissa Mark-Viverito, Robert Jackson, Letitia James and Gale Brewer to ask the city's Department of Education to right their phys ed wrongs and bring city schools up to state-mandated standards. The Women's City Club will release a new report, which "raises questions about the fairness and equity of PE provisions in City public schools," according to Womens City Club's website. The American Heart Association will  release theresults of its survey of PE classes in city schools.

In 2011, Womens City Club prompted Comptroller John Liu to audit the city's schools, revealing that most do not meet state-mandated PE standards: daily physical educaton for grades K-3, three times a week for 4th-6th graders and 90 minutes a week for older students. This latest report is based on data from the city's Internal Budget Office.

 

Published in News and views
Thursday, 31 January 2013 15:18

Plan now for winter break

Hurricane Sandy did away with the traditional week long winter vacation that celebrates both Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthday’s and conserves schoolhouse energy at the same time. This year all students get is a four day weekend. Here are some suggestions to make the most of it and take the opportunity to explore some free or very low cost -- and lesser-known -- attractions. Most are closed on Mondays, however, so plan those excursions for the weekend or Tuesday. 

Federal Reserve Bank: Act quickly for a chance for older kids (16 plus) to visit the fabled gold depository and learn more about the institution that has been so much in the news since the economy went south. Call  212-720-6130 for immediate information about ticket availability—a 3-4 week wait for tickets is typical but either you’ll be surprised or you can reserve for a future date. Tours last approximately an hour, and begin on the hour from 9:30 am - 3:30 pm daily.

The Wall Street area and the 9/11 memorial, South Street Seaport, and Chinatown all have charms of their own – you can stroll about or make plans to visit museums and landmarks.

Published in News and views
Monday, 28 January 2013 20:33

Ask Judy: How do 8th graders get HS news?

Dear Judy,

Can you tell me when the high school placement results will come out? How does the school tell the kids the news?

8th grade Mom

Dear 8th grade Mom,

Results of the high school applications are due out March 15 (alas, for some parents, that date is later than when private schools let their applicants know.) The placement results, in sealed envelopes, are picked up by each middle school from their local enrollment office. Along with the letters comes a list of all applicants and, in some cases, the schools use this list to determine how the letters are distributed.

Schools vary in the way they distribute the letters and the news, so you'll need to ask your 8th grade guidance counselor how your school handles it.

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Can they please go back to school already?

Once again this morning, I woke up to a sprawl of sleeping teenagers in my home, their books, music and snowboarding equipment scattered about. They had no school today, due to a "citywide chancellor's conference day for teachers and staff,'' whatever that means.

They had no school last week either. And yet, in the weeks leading up to Regents week, they were buried in finals, while the seniors were simultaneously overwhelmed with essays and college application deadlines.
Not that my gang -- a senior and sophomore -- complained. They were thrilled to have the time off, even if I can't help wondering how once again, how I was caught unprepared for this onslaught of unstructured time.

Published in News and views
Thursday, 17 January 2013 11:27

Filling out FAFSA? Here's a how-to guide

Filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aide (FAFSA) is the first step for students seeking financial support to go to college.

But completing the form is a perennial headache. Even the first step -- finding the right form online -- is confusing because the Web is populated with imposters. That's why the Center for New York City Affairs and Insideschools released FAFSA: The How-To Guide for Students and the Adults Who Help Them. The illustrated guide was designed to help students and families navigate the sometimes confusing federal financial aid process. 

FAFSA: The How-To Guide was written in partnership with college guidance and financial aid professionals and funded by the Capital One Foundation. It is particularly relevant to students who are the first in their families to be going to college. The guide explains how to prepare for the form, what kinds of questions will be asked, and why the government needs the information on parents, families and income.  

The guide also addresses complicated questions that first generation students might have, such as: how the FAFSA form defines parents and families when students don't live with their parents and how to fill out the FAFSA form if a parent or student is undocumented.

Click here to download a PDF of the guide and visit the Center for New York City Affair's website to order a copy (or copies) for yourself, your family or your students. 

 

Published in News and views
Tuesday, 15 January 2013 11:15

Quinn: less test prep, more collaboration

Council Speaker Christine Quinn said she would focus less on standardized tests, give parents a stronger advisory role and extend the school day for low-income children if she is elected mayor.

You can watch her entire speech and Q&A session, sponsored by The Center for New York City Affairs (our parent organization) and Insideschools.org at the New School, here.

Without criticizing Mayor Bloomberg, Quinn implied that, if elected, her administration would depart from some of Bloomberg's education policies. While Bloomberg has focused on standardized tests as a way of measuring progress, Quinn said "testing should not be more important than teaching" and should not define schools. While Bloomberg has fostered competition among schools to outperform each other, Quinn said her administration would instead promote more collaboration by identifiying what is working and encouraging schools to share best practices. She pointed to New Dorp High School's literacy program as an example of something that should be expanded to other city schools. 

Charter schools are here to stay, Quinn said, but she suggested she would not expand their numbers significantly. "They're at a good level right now," she said. She pledged support to large high schools like New Dorp or Truman High School. Bloomberg's Education Department has closed dozens of large high schools in the Bronx and Manhattan, breaking them into smaller schools. Quinn said she supports the small schools, but large schools can be successful as well.

On the topic of closing schools, Quinn said she would like to see earlier intervention and mentioned a "red alert" system she would put in place to support "failing schools." "Instead of treating schools closings as a good in and of itself, we will treat it as a last resort," she said.

In another departure from Bloomberg, parents under the Quinn administration would have a stronger advisory role. She would like Community Education Councils to be elevated to the status of Community Boards, which advise city government on land-use. She said she's undecided on the topic of school networks, and welcomes parent input. The Bloomberg administration dismantled school districts based on a geographical area and replaced them with "networks" that may include schools from a number of boroughs. 

Notably absent from her speech were mentions of the teacher's union, except to say both sides should "lower the temperature" on the debate over teacher evaluations. She also was mum on special education, which the city has begun to overhaul.

 

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After weeks of back and forth, the yellow school bus strike will officially begin on Wednesday, Jan. 16, Mayor Bloomberg announced this afternoon in a press release.

Officials from Local 1181 Amalgamated Transit Union, the school bus drivers' union, confirmed that the strike is happening during a press conference, according to Schoolbook.

Yesterday, the city posted information online detailing what to do in the event on a strike and says it will hand out metrocards to all children who normally ride yellow school buses to school. The Mayor's office is also posting fairly up-to-the-minute news via official NYC.gov Twitter account and Tumblr blog. Or call 311.

Published in News and views
Tuesday, 08 January 2013 16:00

DOE says 2013 CEC elections to be smoother

The Education Department announced the start of the selection process for the city's Community Education Councils and vows to run the bi-annual elections more smoothly this spring. They could hardly be worse than the last elections in 2011, parent leaders say.

Two years ago, the Community Education Council elections were fraught with SNAFUs and confusion. Some qualified candidates’ names were mysteriously left off ballots and parents were unable to log on to a website to vote in the election’s first round.

“It was chaos and total disaster because the DOE didn’t do proper outreach,” said Shino Tanikawa, the president of District 2’s CEC.

The process was such a mess that even schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott admitted it was mismanaged and ordered a do-over.

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