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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Wednesday, 21 August 2013 12:20

HS Hustle: Time for parents to back off?

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. 

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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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Monday, 12 August 2013 17:00

10 tips for your soon-to-be-kindergartner

(This post is adapted from an article which originally appeared on Full-Time Nanny.com: 10 Role Plays to do with Your Soon to be Kindergartener)

Kindergarten is an exciting time for kids and their parents, but it can also a be a bit scary. Your child will be in a brand new environment, likely surrounded by kids he doesn't know and under the care of a teacher he's unfamiliar with. The easiest and most effective way of helping him to become acclimated and comfortable with his new school is to help him prepare for common situations he's likely to encounter. Here are ten of the encounters you can role-play with your child before he starts kindergarten.

1. Asking for the Restroom –  Letting your child know how to ask to be escorted to the restroom and how to handle a bathroom emergency in advance allows him to be more confident when approaching his teacher, who is a virtual stranger, about such intimate needs.

2. Requesting Help – Your five-year-old may need help from tying his shoes to managing the clasps on a backpack. Feeling embarrassed about his difficulties or unsure of how to proceed when it comes to asking for help can lead your child to suffer in silence, so make sure that you role-play various situations in which he needs to ask the teacher for help.

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Wednesday, 31 July 2013 15:14

DOE workshop explains specialized HS

In 2012 about 28,000 students took the Specialized High School Admissions Test and only 5,229 were offered seats at the exam high schools. Up against these odds, hundreds of hopeful rising 8th graders attended the Department of Education’s July 30 specialized high school workshop to learn about the admissions test and the specialized schools.

“I’m not going to kid you, this is not an easy test,” said DOE representative Leonard Tretola, who gave an overview of the admissions process to the crowd at Fashion Industries High School in Manhattan. Trerotola advised that applicants closely review the specialized high school handbook, which “clearly explains everything you need to know about the admissions and testing process.”

There’s no downside to taking the exam, known as SHSAT. Trerotola suggested reading to prepare for the exam, but parents concur that your chances of acceptance are slim without doing test prep. Trerotola also covered the timeline for the specialized high school admissions process, which can be found here.

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Wednesday, 31 July 2013 10:32

Ask Judy: My school needs peer mediation

Dear Judy,

I'm a parent who'd like to introduce a Peer Mediation Program to my daughter's principal.  Can you provide information on any services that might provide training to staff members and students alike and are approved by the NYC DOE.  

PSP (Problem solving parent)

Dear PSP,

If your principal doesn't already know about peer mediation, it's a good job for you to introduce  it to him. But principals should know, peer mediation is among several recommended steps under the city's Discipline Code to solve programs without resorting to the most exteme punishments.

With peer mediation, kids work with each other to figure out why a specific problem occurred and how students can solve it. The program not only avoids violence, it develops leadership skills in the children who attend peer mediation training. There are programs which are apt for elementary, middle and high schools.

Like other great additions to a school, it won't  just spring into action.  If you really want peer mediation in your school,  you need to start preparing now. Contact not-for-profit organizations that do peer mediation training, find out what staff they use and how much your school may have to pay. Contact schools with successful programs, to find out what school staff is needed and how they keep the program going.

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Wednesday, 17 July 2013 16:36

HS workshops ease admissons angst

On July 16, the Education Department held the first in a series of summer high school workshops for rising 8th graders and their families. The DOE hosts these workshops every summer to help 8th graders and their families prepare for the complicated high school admissions process.

Hundreds of parents, guardians and students attended the 90-minute session at Prospect Heights Educational Campus; many left saying they felt better prepared for the high school search. The workshop "gives you a starting point to look at the madness and see what you need to be doing," said Khen P. Brady, the parent of an 8th grader.

The DOE's Maurice Frumkin led the presentation, walking students through the phone book-sized high school directory and highlighting a few key recommendations for choosing a high school.

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Thursday, 27 June 2013 12:13

PTA mom "retires" with advice for parents

by Michele Herman:

Michele Herman is a writer, editor and teacher living in the Village. She writes frequently about education and community issues for The Villager. This is an edited version of an article that first appeared in Downtown Express.


For the past 16 years, I have been an active New York City public school parent. Most of those years I’ve served on the executive board of one P.T.A. or another, and for the past three, I’ve been a parent rep on the School Leadership Team at Stuyvesant High School.

My learning curve was considerable: when my older son entered kindergarten at P.S. 3, my first job was folding the auditorium chairs. During my younger son’s last years at Stuyvesant, when the administration was edging toward a one-size-fits-all educational approach, I was fighting hard for things I believe all kids deserve from their school: humaneness, flexibility and breadth of offerings.

Along the way I learned library software, helped hire two principals, organized writing festivals, took a ream of minutes, sent out weekly email blasts, recruited officers, made speeches, and wrote a multi-page monthly newsletter, handbooks and a manifesto. I wasn’t even close to being one of the most involved parents. I bow down before all the good-humored, overtired presidents under whom I’ve served. I bow even deeper before the parents who are working to reform the whole system.

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Why do 40 percent of New York City high school students miss a month of school each year? The Center for Court Innovation went directly to the source and asked 17 high school students serving on its Youth Justice Board to research the issue. On Tuesday night at City Hall, students made ten recommendations to Chancellor Dennis Walcott on how to reduce chronic absenteeism. Suggestions ranged from taking a closer look at school security to providing peer mentors to students who are frequently absent.

The problem is huge: More than 20 percent of New York City students in grades kindergarten through 12 are chronically absent for a month out of each year --that's five percentage points higher than the national rate.

The Youth Justice Board brings “the voices of young people into issues that affect their lives,” said Steven, a rising senior at Benjamin Bennaker High School. The diverse group of teens represented all five boroughs. The students came up with their recommendations after a year of research that included meeting with student focus groups, teachers, parents, and policy makers. One issue they identified: metal detectors and security at the front door.

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Monday, 17 June 2013 18:09

29 new dual language programs to open

The city plans to open 29 new dual language programs in elementary, middle and high schools in September, according to a list of new programs released by the Department of Education. New York City's public school students speak over 185 languages at home, as reported in the city's recent Internal Budget Office audit of city schools, and there are dual language programs in at least a half-dozen of those languages.

Dual language programs offer English speakers the opportunity to learn a second language alongside native speakers of another language who become proficient in both English and their native tongue. Ten percent of the city's more than 150,000 English language learners were in dual language programs in 2011, according to the IBO. 

Spanish is the second-most common language spoken at home -- nearly a quarter of New Yorkers are native Spanish speakers -- and many of the city's new and established dual language programs are in Spanish.  But the programs opening this fall will expand the city's dual language offerings to include three languages not offered previously in elementary school. The Polish enclave of Greenpoint, Brooklyn will get a Polish dual language program at PS 34 Oliver H. PerryPS 214 in East New York will open a Bengali program; and PS/IS 30 Mary White Ovington in Bay Ridge will start an Arabic program. A handful of new Chinese programs are in the works for the fall, as well. 

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