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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Thursday, 03 January 2013 11:44

Future of NYC schools event with Quinn

On Tuesday, Jan. 15, Insideschools and the Center for New York City Affairs will co-host a conversation with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn on the future of schools in New York City.

Quinn will discuss her vision for "building a 21st century school system," including college and career readiness. She will also participate in a Q & A with Insideschools' founder and senior editor, Clara Hemphill. This event is one of a series of events with potential 2013 mayoral candidates sponsored by the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School.  (See a write-up of a 2012 event with mayoral hopeful Tom Allon here.) 

Quinn also spoke about city education policy, along with other potential mayoral candidates, at a GothamSchools event in November. See a rundown of that event here.

The Jan. 15 forum will be at The New School, at 65 West 11th Street, from 8:30 am to 10 am. Tickets are free but you must reserve a seat; RSVP here: http://strongerschools.eventbrite.com/. Do it soon! It's a small venue and seats are going fast.

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Thursday, 20 December 2012 11:09

Free stuff to do over the holidays!

What to do with your children once the presents have been opened, the holidays feasts consumed and the kids -- and you -- have had enough of games and computers? How about a visit to one of New York City's "more than 500 galleries, 375 nonprofit theater companies, 330 dance companies, 150 museums, 96 orchestras, 40 Broadway theaters, 24 performing arts centers, five zoos, five botanical gardens, and an aquarium."

That rundown is from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs which compiled a list of city venues with free or "suggested" admissions, perfect for families looking for something to do over the holidays. (Thanks to DJ Sheppard, District 3 family advocate for forwarding it to us!). Here they are, in alphabetical order.

FREE HOURS AT CULTURAL VENUES

For more events, see the NYCulture Calendar.

And, as always, it's best to call or check online before you visit to confirm the details.

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Tuesday, 18 December 2012 11:40

Applying to middle school with an IEP

All 5th graders will turn in applications for middle school this Friday, Dec. 21. That includes students with special education needs who will fill out the same application as other children.

There is often some confusion about the process, even after the roll-out of the special education reform this year. Now all schools are expected to accept students with special needs, which wasn't the case in the past. Parents say that outreach was poor at some schools last year, with special needs students unaware that they could apply.

To help families of children with special needs better understand their rights when applying to middle school, Advocates for Children put together a list of recommendations and tips. See their suggestions after the jump.

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Monday, 17 December 2012 14:17

How to talk to children about Dec.14 tragedy

All schools should offer a "safe place" for children who wish to talk about last Friday's tragedy at Sandy Hook elementary school, Chancellor Dennis Walcott wrote in a letter to school communities and families today.

The letter, signed also by UFT President Michael Mulgrew and Ernest Logan, president of the principal's union, encouraged teachers to "give solace and support to your colleagues so we can be strong enough to take care of our students."

Included were suggestions of resources that teachers, school staff and families can refer to when helping children try to comprehend Friday's horrific acts such as Resources for Dealing with Traumatic Events in School, published by the University of Maryland's Center for School Mental Health.  

Ever since news of the school shootings in Newtown on Friday, parents have been sharing resources and suggestions on how to speak to their children about what happened. Here are a few resources to consider:

And, after the jump, here are some tips from a social worker accustomed to treating victims of crime. Thanks to Park Slope Parents listeserv for sharing them.

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Tuesday, 11 December 2012 13:05

Ask Judy: I'm being bullied & want to transfer

Hi Judy,

I go to a high school in Brooklyn. I am a freshman. I have been asked by three older student to do drugs. I hate the environment and feel really unsafe going to school every day. I want to transfer but they are saying I need to wait until my year is over. I can't stand the thought of going one more day. I am really scared. I can't sleep anymore.
Worried

Dear Worried,

Drug use in schools is alarming.  Most schools have a program, and specialists known as SAPIS, to combat it, but that is a long term solution and I think that your particular situation should be remedied immediately.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.">What you describe is bullying and intimidation. I know it is tough to publicly report the kids involved but here is a way to report confidentially: contact the person who is listed on the Respect for All poster in your school. Respect for All is the city's anti-bullying program. If there is no poster visible at your school, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to get the name of your school's representative.

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Tuesday, 11 December 2012 11:11

Cost is high for convicting teens as adults

A new edition of Child Welfare Watch -- issued by Insideschools.org's colleagues at the Center for New York City Affairs --  reports on the city's youth justice system, looking at what has changed following several years of reform. It reports on new initiatives to raise the age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18; to build bridges between communities and the Department of Probation and to house incarcerated juveniles closer to home. And it tells the story of the difficult relationships between the NYPD, young people and other tenants in New York public housing.

Findings include:

  • The number of arrested teens aged 15 and under whose cases have been diverted from court and closed by the city's probation department increased 47 percent between 2009 and last year. This number has more than doubled since 2006. (See "Case Closed.")
  • Public housing residents make up about five percent of the city's population, but from 2006 through 2009, roughly half of all NYPD trespassing stops in the entire city took place in public housing. (See "To Protect and Serve?")
  • New York's policy of trying 16- and 17-year-old nonviolent offenders as adults in criminal court reduces each teen's lifetime earnings potential by more than $60,000. The state loses at least $50 million in foregone wages for each annual cohort that passes through the adult courts—and unknown millions in lost tax revenues. (See "The High Cost of Convicting Teens as Adults.")
  • ACS plans to spend $22 million to provide short term, evidence-based therapies to work with about 3,000 families. This is a targeted effort to reduce the number of children 12 years old and older placed in foster care. (See "Social Workers at the Kitchen Table.")

Child Welfare Watch offers a set of policy recommendations and solutions informed by the research and drafted by a panel of practitioners, experts, parents, young people and others, aimed at helping policymakers continue toward cohesive criminal justice reform.

Read the new edition of Child Welfare Watch here.

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Tuesday, 04 December 2012 10:55

Don't believe schools that say: "Rank us 1st"

Applying to high school in New York City is complicated, but some schools are making it even harder by giving out misleading or downright wrong information, Insideschools has learned.

Schools are telling 8th graders and their families that they must rank a school first on their application or they won't be considered for a spot, according to many parents we have heard from.

The problem is, that's not true.

"There are no schools that require students to rank the school first on their application in order to be considered," Rob Sanft, director of student enrollment at the Education Department wrote in an email. "Students should rank schools based on their order of preference. Schools do not see where an applicant ranks them on their application."

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"By the time we get to college applications, it's going to be so easy,'' friends and colleagues joked over the years, watching -- or participating – in the scramble to find pre-schools, then elementary, middle and high schools for our kids.

Too bad they were wrong.

Starting at age 4, the interviews, tours, tests, essays, letters and lists – it seemed just endless. Yet after years of searching for public schools in a city with more than 1,700 of them, I find myself in the middle of a college search for my oldest child.

And it is anything but easy.

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Wednesday, 28 November 2012 11:29

Applying to high school? Here are some tips

High school applications are due on Dec. 10! Here are some final tips for 8th graders and their families who are still mulling over their options.

Filling out the application:

  • Be careful when drawing up your list of (up to) 12 high school choices. You don't have to fill in all the slots. Don't list a school you are not willing to attend. If you get assigned to a school you hate, but listed it on your application, it will be very hard to get placed elsewhere.
  • Rank your favorite school first. There's no need to play guessing games or set up an elaborate strategy. Schools will not see which students rank them first, so you have nothing to lose and everything to gain by ranking your top choice number one.
  • Don't apply to a school for which you do not qualify. If a school looks for students with a minimum 85 average or above and your GPA is 70, your chances of getting accepted are slim to none.
  • If you have a zoned school, it will be printed on your application but you are not guaranteed acceptance unless you list it as one of your choices.
  • If you are a "top two-percenter," which counts when applying to educational option schools, this is noted on your application.
  • Many large schools offer several programs. If you really want to attend a certain school, apply to more than one program.
  • Make sure your parent signs off on your final application. Nobody, including your 8th-grade guidance counselor, should persuade you to add choices without consulting your parent or guardian.
  • Keep a copy of your completed application and get a receipt from your guidance counselor when you hand it in.

What to consider when choosing a school

  • Admissions criteria: Some schools require an interview, an essay, or the submission of school work. Make sure you've done what you need to do. 
  • Small school or large? Small schools offer more personal attention and a sense of community. Large schools tend to have more sports teams, clubs and courses. Need help deciding? Watch our video: Weighing your options: Large school vs small school.
  • Fast-track or laid-back? Some schools pile on the homework. Other schools have a slower pace and encourage kids to relax a bit. Think about what's best for you. Will you thrive in a rigorous and competitive environment? Or, are you more likely to learn and excel when the pressure's off?
  • New school or well-established? It's nice to go to a school with a proven track record. Most new small schools take a few years to develop relationships with college admissions officers, so it can be a gamble to be in the first few graduating classes. However if you're faced with the choice between an overcrowded, failing neighborhood school or a new untested small school, in general, you might be better off going with the small one, if you feel comfortable with the theme and the leadership.
  • Theme school or well-rounded curriculum? Be aware that some of the school "themes" exist in name only. The academics should be solid, whatever the theme.
  • How long is the commute? Take a subway or bus ride to see if the commute is doable. Think about what it will be like in the rain and snow, or coming home late in the evening after a sports event or a school play. Far too many students discover after a few days of school that they can't handle a long commute. Watch our video: Weighing your options: Long trip vs short trip
  • Does your child have special needs? Check out our list of noteworthy special education programs, and watch our video on what to look for when you tour a program. Take a look at the DOE's online guide for high school students receiving special education services; unfortunately the high school directory offers very little help.

More tips for students

  • Auditioning? Practice first! Many performing arts and visual arts high school hold competitive auditions and expect applicants to be well-prepared. If you haven't had your audition yet, watch this video: How to apply to an audition school.
  • Don't let your friends choose for you. No school can accept every qualified student, so it's likely that friends will attend different high schools. Trust that you will make new friends in high school.

For 8th graders and their families who are logging hours pouring over the high school directory, reading Insideschools profiles and comments, watching our videos on how to apply to high school, and trekking all over the city for open houses and tours, decision time is here. High school applications are due on Dec. 2.

Here’s our advice about how to fill out the application.

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