Wednesday, 16 April 2014 16:23

Our pre-k picks for Brooklyn

Brooklyn is the city's largest borough and the one with most schools. Pre-kindergarten choices are as varied as the borough. In some areas of brownstone Brooklyn, pre-k programs don't meet the demand. Even parents who list 12 schools on their application will be disappointed. In other areas —such as Fort Greene or Bedford Stuyvesant — parents have more options.

Don't be afraid to look at historically low-performing schools: in some cases pre-kindergarten programs are excellent and expanding, even if the school as a whole has a long way to go. Further out in Brooklyn, half-day programs can be the norm, especially in Districts 21 and 22. We haven't found much to recommend in central Brooklyn, where school environment surveys reflect a discontent with the tone of the buildings. We advise you to take a look and let us know what you find.

Published in News and views
Wednesday, 12 March 2014 16:54

Kids win one-quarter of high school appeals

A glimmer of hope for 8th graders who were rejected at their high school choices: Insideschools has learned that one-quarter of the kids who appealed their high school placements last year got a seat at one of the schools to which they originally applied.

Of the 3,028 rising 9th-graders who filed appeals last year, 761 were offered a place at one of the high schools listed on their applications, according to data released by the Department of Education in response to our request under the Freedom of Information Act. Another 783 were assigned to an alternative placement, but not a school they requested.

An appeal won't work if you were rejected at one of the specialized high schools, which require an entrance exam. And it probably won't work if you are assigned to a perfectly good, appropriate school that just doesn't happen to be your first choice--if, say, you are assigned to Bard High School Early College and you wanted Beacon.

But let's say you are assigned to a school that doesn't offer chemistry and physics and you want a college prep curriculum. In that case, you may have a shot.

Published in News and views
Thursday, 06 March 2014 16:06

Special ed reform backfires for some kids

Caleb,* a 14-year-old middle school student in Flatbush, has a seizure disorder and learning delays — the aftereffects of a brain cyst he had removed when he was an infant. He sometimes writes backwards and reads six or seven years below grade level. 

He should be in a special class with 12 children and a teacher certified in special education, according to his Individualized Education Plan (IEP), the legal document that lists the services his school must offer him. Instead, he is in a class of nearly 30 students, a mix of general education and special needs children. His mom says his teachers are doing their best to help, but they can't give him the attention he needs.

Caleb is the victim of a well-intentioned reform designed to end the unneccessary segregation of children with disabilities. Two years ago, the Department of Education declared that nearly all special needs children should be educated in their neighborhood schools, rather than being sent to special programs far from home. Across the city, children who were once assigned to so-called "self-contained" classes are now in classes with two teachers that mix general education and special needs children. Many of these children are thriving, school officials and advocates agree. But, by reducing the availability of self-contained classrooms, the reform has backfired for children who, like Caleb, need a smaller learning environment, advocates say.

Published in News and views
Thursday, 19 December 2013 10:33

Give to Insideschools this holiday season

 


Insideschools.org

 

Did Insideschools.org help you this year?

You may have attended one of our workshops, or called us for advice on how to find a good school for your child.

Perhaps you read one of our hundreds of school profiles, or watched a video about what to look for on school tour.

Some 160,000 New Yorkers turn to Insideschools each month. Now, at this holiday time, we are turning to you. Donations to Insideschools are tax deductible and will help us help other parents in 2014.

Insideschools is based at The New School, which provides us office space and a modest amount of in-kind support – but we depend entirely on private donations and foundation support to fund our day-to-day work informing parents, students, and everyone else about New York City’s schools.

As New York City enters a new phase of city and school leadership, you can count on Insideschools to keep you abreast of all the changes. Can we count on you to help?

Please take a moment to DONATE NOW as generously as you can, and please forward this email to others who care about our kids’ education. With your support, we can keep working hard to make sure all of our children get the best education New York City can provide.

Wishing you a happy and healthy holiday season and all the best for 2014.



Clara Hemphill and the Insideschools staff

Donate Now

"Thank you so much for the work you've put into this very comprehensive tool that has become my savior."

Brandice Reyes, East Harlem parent
 
Published in News and views
Monday, 16 December 2013 13:51

Pol still fighting to fill G&T seats

Politicians and parents in November petitioned the Education Department to let qualified children fill Gifted & Talented seats that remained empty after the October enrollment deadline. In a reply last week, the DOE refused the request, saying it would be "extremely disruptive" to schools and families to allow children to enroll now.

"Office of Student Enrollment (OSE) conducted multiple rounds of waitlist offers for available seats at G&T programs citywide," wrote a DOE official in a response to Councilwoman Gail Brewer and Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell's November letter requesting the DOE allow qualified students access to empty G&T seats at two Upper West Side schools.

The DOE said that they had conducted "multiple rounds" of waitlist offers after too few families accepted offers to fill seats at PS 163 and PS 165. 

O'Donnell disputes the DOE's explanation. "I have heard from students who scored as high as the 96th to 99th percentiles on the test, and were still given no offer, although they ranked PS 165 and PS 163 as top choices in the initial process," he wrote in response to the DOE's letter.  

O'Donnell will continue to press the DOE to open up seats. He says that schools and families do not find the post-October 31st enrollment disruptive. 

Karen Alicea-Dunn has been trying to get her son, Dylan, who scored in the 96th percentile on the G&T exam, into PS 163's G&T program for two months. In November, the school told Dunn that Dylan could enroll in the general education program -- but not the G&T. Dunn isn't worried about switching elementary school programs mid-year. "I'm ready," she said.

In late November, WNYC reported that at least 24 schools citywide still have room for more kids in their G&T programs.

Download a copy of the DOE's letter response to Brewer & O'Donnell here [PDF].

Download a copy of O'Donnell's letter here [PDF].

Published in News and views

by Jane Heaphy, executive director of Learning Leaders

Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio's goal of increasing parental involvement in schools is exciting! This is what we have been waiting to hear.

Families have a vital role to play in our schools' success. Research shows that parents who understand the school system and know how to support education at home can contribute hugely to a child's development. That's why Learning Leaders builds family-school relationships, provides interactive workshops and trains parents to volunteer in NYC public schools.

While there is increased recognition of family involvement as a key factor in children's success, more effort is needed to bring in parents. The city's recent education budget cuts and the introduction of Common Core Standards make this more important than ever. A renewed focus on families would help our students and I look forward to hearing the next chancellor's plans.

Published in News and views
Thursday, 21 November 2013 12:57

Introducing the HS directory for your pocket

The official high school directory is essential reading for 8th graders applying to high school in New York City. But, at 565 pages, the directory can be cumbersome, especially for kids already lugging pounds of textbooks. 

Now, we've created a mobile site that will get this information to kids where they are most likely to use it--on their smartphones. 

Our new iPhone/Android mobile website, http://insideschools.org/sage, combines all of the information in the official high school directory with our own reviews (based on our school visits) in a platform easily accessible on your smartphone, tablet or computer.

Published in News and views

If your child is one of the 210,000 students in grades 3-8 who scored a Level 1 or 2 on last spring's state ELA or math exams, you should know that schools are offering families 30 minute one-on-one conferences with their child's teachers from now through January.

The $5 million Department of Education initiative was prompted by advocates from the Coalition of Educational Justice (CEJ), said Megan Hester, a community organizer with the Annenberg Institute for School Reform which works with CEJ. 

Hester said that when scores came out last summer some CEJ parents wondered whether they should be alarmed at their child's low test scores and what they could be doing about it.

Published in News and views
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.

Published in News and views
Tuesday, 01 October 2013 12:27

When "school choice" means "no choice"

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.

Published in News and views
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