Tuesday, 11 June 2013 10:00

Middle school rankings rankle parents

Many New York City families who send their children to neighborhood elementary schools are in for a rude awakening when their child reaches 5th grade and they learn that choosing a middle school is not so straightforward. Applying to middle school can be just as nerve-wracking and time consuming as applying to college.

“Kind of feels like you’re going to see Oz behind the curtain,” said a Cobble Hill dad in District 15, whose 5th grader didn't get accepted by any of the schools he applied to. “Who is making these decisions? The DOE? The middle schools?”

The answer? It depends on where you live.

Unlike high school admissions – a mostly uniform, citywide process – the middle school process is decentralized and different rules apply in different districts.

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Finals will begin in many New York City high schools next week, and I already have a vision of what "studying,'' will look like in my household.

Banish forever any image of notebooks, highlighters, textbooks, index cards and teenagers hunched over a desk.

Instead, picture headphones or ear buds and dozens of open windows – the digital kind – with sites ranging from Facebook to i-Chat, spark notes, Twitter, Hulu or even Netflix. One hand will undoubtedly hold a cell phone with multiple text messages coming in and out.

As a parent, you may be tempted to shout: "Turn it off! You have finals! Study!"

It's most likely a losing battle; in their minds, they are studying – and to some extent, they are. How much is being retained is subject to debate.

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Wednesday, 22 May 2013 10:57

Parents win victory in PCB removal

The Department of Education's announcement yesterday that it will accelerate the removal of light fixtures that may be contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyl (PCBs) from more than 730 school buildings by December 2016 is an important victory for New York City school children and their families.

Prompted by a lawsuit brought by parent and advocacy groups, the city agreed to halve the timeline for the PCB removal from flourescent lights.The clean-up was supposed to be done by 2021 but the city will expedite the process to be completed in the next 3.5 years.

The renegotiated timeline is a result of more than two years of litigation brought by New York Lawyers for the Public Interest (NYLPI) on behalf of New York Communities for Change. The advocacy groups sued the DOE in 2011 over its intentions to remove the PCB contaminated fixtures over a ten year period. In March, a federal judge ruled against the city's motion to dismiss the suit, admonishing the city for its "foot-dragging" and "spurious" arguments over the clean-up of school buildings. In a stinging decision, the judge said that he was troubled over the city's dismissive attitude to potential health risks faced by children in schools with PCB-contaminated light fixtures. The settlement will require the DOE to provide semi-annual progress reports and the NYLPI and the court will continue to monitor the city's work until the last light fixture is removed. 

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A catalogue arrived the other day from Urban Outfitters, the ubiquitous clothing chain that dresses so many U.S. teenagers. Along with hipster uniforms of skinny jeans, chunky jewelry and platform sandals, I saw photographs of long-limbed girls wearing shorts so skimpy they might as well have been bathing suit bottoms.

With so little left to the imagination, I couldn't help asking the teenage boys who reside in my household if this was how girls dress at their New York City public high school.

"All the time,'' was their answer, and I should not have been surprised. Since middle school, I've repeatedly noticed girls coming to school wearing not much at all.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who has taken note. A lot of New York City public school officials aren't terribly happy about the scantily clad students whose desire to shed layers increases as the weather warms up.

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If you've got a child entering public school kindergarten in September 2013, you may want to attend one of this month's "Getting Ready for Kindergarten" workshops led by the Department of Education's Office of Early Childhood. The evening workshops will be held in every borough from May 16-30 in public schools and libraries.

The goal is to give parents an introduction to "who's who" in elementary schools, what to expect in kindergarten and how to become involved in your child's school. Childcare will be provided, as will snacks and activities for kids. The DOE will also provide information about local library and summer programs.

All workshops are from 6-8 p.m. See a flier on the DOE's website [pdf] for dates and locations. Call 212-374-0351 for more information.

 

 

 




 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Borough
 
Location
 
Dates
 
 
Bronx
 
 
PS 49
 
383 East 139th Street
 
Bronx, NY 10454
 
Tuesday
 
 
May 21 2013
 
6:00
-
pm
-
8:00pm
 
 
Bronx
 
 
Bronx Central
 
Public Library
 
310 E Kingsbridge Rd
 
 
Bronx, NY 10458
 
Tuesday
 
 
May 28 2013
 
6:00
-
pm
-
8:00pm
 
Brooklyn
 
Brooklyn Central
 
P
ublic Library
 
10 Grand Army Plaza
 
Brooklyn, NY 11238
 
Wedne
sday
 
May 22
 
2013
 
6:00
-
pm
-
8:00pm
 
Brooklyn
 
PS 214
 
2944 Pitkin Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11208
 
Wednesday
 
May 29, 2013
 
6:00
-
pm
-
8:00pm
 
Manhattan
 
PS185
 
 
Early Childhood Discovery
and Design Magnet School
 
20 W
est 112 Street
 
New York
, NY 10026
 
Thursday
 
 
May 23, 2013
 
6:00
-
pm
-
8:00pm
 
Manhattan
 
PS 63
 
STAR Academy
 
121 East 3 Street
 
New York
, NY 10009
 
Wednesday
 
May 29, 2013
 
6:00
-
pm
-
8:00pm
 
 
Queens
 
 
PS 69
 
77
-
02 37 Avenue
 
Jackson Heights, NY 11372
 
Thursday
 
 
May 16,
 
2013
 
6:00
-
pm
-
8:00pm
 
Queens
 
 
Queens Central
 
Public Library
 
(Jamaica)
 
89
-
11 Merrick Blvd
 
 
Queens, NY 11432
 
Thursday
 
 
May 30, 2013
 
6:00
-
pm
-
8:00pm
 
 
Staten Island
 
 
PS 44
 
80 Maple Parkway
 
Staten Island
,
 
NY 10303
 
Thursday
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Six mayoral hopefuls showed up on Tuesday night for the Democratic Mayoral Candidate forum for parents at Eagle Academy for Young Men in the Bronx. Below are highlights of most of the questions asked and answered, reported by Jacquie Wayans, assignment editor at Insideschools and the mother of an Eagle student. The statements are not direct quotes but a synopsis of each candidate's response.

Q1: What would you seek to accomplish within your first 100 days of office?

John C. Liu

Christine Quinn

WilliamThompson

Adolfo Carrion

Bill DeBlasio

Stop the pipeline to prison and create cradle to career instead.

 

Allocate resources so that every neighborhood can have good schools. Extend the school day and expand successful models of existing schools.

 

Choose a chancellor who is an educator. Encourage critical thinking and not memorization for standardized tests. Form a parent academy with a clear message that families should be involved.

Jobs where our children contribute to the economy and climb up the employment ladder.

 

Tax the wealthiest to improve schools. Implement Full day Universal Pre-k. Guaranteed 3 hour after school for middle school.

 

Q2: By show of hands, how many would still support mayoral control?”

All candidates raised their hands, but all said they would implement changes.

Q3: What major initiatives of mayoral control would you keep? What would you get rid of?

Lui

Quinn

Thompson

Carrion

DeBlasio

Albanese

Keep - “The buck stops with the Mayor” but mean it. Rid - shutting down  failing schools and move from testing to teaching.

 

Rid- living and dying by test and move more schools to portfolio model.

Keep - More Eagle Academies (lol). More career & technical education. Rid - from day one – stop closing schools.

 

Keep – accountability and responsibility on mayor. Rid – stop posturing with the teachers union.

 

Keep testing but utilize a better system so that it can be done right. Rid – parents being disrespected.

 

Rid – high stakes testing. Invest in teaching corps with 1 year internship.  Promote pediatric wellness.

 

  • DeBlasio challenged Quinn on the issue of high stakes testing. Click to see NY1 coverage.

Q3: Would you continue to support single gender education?

All said yes.

Q4: Cathy Black – Show of hands that believe next chancellor must be an educator?

All hands went up, except Quinn's.

Quinn

DeBlasio

Liu

Carrion

Thompson

I don’t believe the next chancellor has to be an educator and I will look at all options.

 

Disagreed sharply. We need an educator, the whole system will not respect non-educator.

 

State law requires an educator to be chancellor. As mayor, I would follow state law. Handling schools like  business divisions is not fostering learning .

 

(No longer present. He left early for another panel discussion)

 

We haven’t had a serious discussion on an educational vision and direction in 12 years.

 

 

Q6: Do you support the teacher evaluation system supporting teacher terminations?

DeBlasio

Albanese

Liu

Quinn

Thompson

Yes, I think it is right – the 2 year timeline can work. Bigger challenge is teacher retention.

 

Need to recruit and support teachers. Need to train and use best practices.

 

Teacher evals should be about making teachers better not getting rid of them. The evaluations should be done by educators and not outside consultants. Peer reviews are also important; other teachers don’t want bad teachers in the classroom.

Implement teacher modeling based upon a Texas model.

Use a combination of test, principal evaluations and peer evaluations.

 

 

Q7: Describe a time when the UFT was wrong on a position

See Gotham Schools for a description of their different perspectives. (DeBlasio & Albanese left after that question.)

Q8: Would you continue the co-locations of DOE schools and charters

Liu

Quinn

Thompson

I don’t think the co-locations work. I see stark differences in charters from other public schools and it sends a terrible message to kids. This is classism. It’s playing shell games with our children’s lives.

Both sides say co-locations are not working. I don’t want to eliminate charters as an option, but it is not the answer – however, there is no way to do that without co-location. I would clarify the process and make it transparent.

 

I agree with Liu. Put an end to co-locations. Schools are closed without consultation. Announcements of 72 new schools and only 2 are actually new. Students can’t be second class citizens in their own building.

 

Last Question: Budget – How would you hold the DOE accountable?

Quinn

Thompson

Liu

I’d make the budget municipal-controlled and then parents can get involved and go to the city office to raise their voices. Make a full city agency for balance of power, as every other city agency, and clear reporting.

 

Agrees with Quinn. Would also have annual budgets published and go back to a budget breakdown.

 

I agree but I am more concerned about ending the millions spent at headquarters on no-bid contracts.

 

Each remaining candidate had one minute for a closing statement.

Quinn

Liu

Thompson

I want NYC to have the best schools and best choices. Engage all stake holders in conversation, bringing resources into schools and not central. Take a look at what we are doing well and replicate it. Schedule longer school days, evaluate teachers and move from testing.

I am a product of NYC public schools, came here as an immigrant and didn’t know the language. My wife and my kids are also products of NYC public education. We have some of the best schools in the country and we must reinforce and reinvigorate the system.

Mayor Bloomerg wanted to be known for education. I want NYC to be known as the education city. We must involve all stakeholders again. I would select a chancellor with a background in education. I would move away from this “One size fits all” mentality for our schools. I will not sentence our kids to poverty.

 

Published in News and views
Thursday, 02 May 2013 11:38

Is there a place for G&T kids with IEPs?

As the May 10 deadline for parents to rank gifted and talented applications approaches, one Insideschools message board became a hotbed of anxiety. “Do you know what G&T is supposed to do with kids who get accepted to a G&T school but have IEP's requiring ICT placement?” asked one parent. My son also has an IEP and is in ICT and is G&T. No place for him....” echoed another. The questions about inclusive gifted classes didn’t stop.

Parents want it, educators applaud it, and the DOE supports the idea—at least in theory. But a year after special education reform, there is still not a single combined G&T/ICT class in the city. No one seems to understand why.

"Twice exceptional” or "2e" kids are cognitively gifted children who also struggle with learning and attention disorders. Many of these students' Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) call for an Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT) class, which has two teachers, one of whom is trained in special education. The special education reform rolled out in all schools last year is meant to allow students to attend their school of choice and still receive needed special services, including these team-taught classes.  

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The start of the 2013 mayoral race began in earnest in February when Christine Quinn was the first out of the gate to release her education plan at The Center for NYC Affairs.  Since then, there have been numerous forums with mayoral candidates -  separately or collectively -  with many more to be scheduled before election day. However, there has yet to be an event targeted specifically to parents, an after-work forum that gives parents the opportunity to address potential candidates about issues close to their heart.

Such an event is finally happening on Tuesday, May 7, at Eagle Academy for Young Men in the Bronx. David Banks, head of the Eagle Foundation, invited all of the candidates to come and answer parent questions. The forum is part of Eagle Week, a series of events designed to give Eagle students an opportunity to do community service as well as exposure to engaging speakers and workshops. Banks opened the policy forum to the public so that city parents, educators and community leaders can pose their concerns directly to the mayoral candidates, and. in return, hear their proposed solutions.

Confirmed candidate attendees are: Sal Albanese, Bill DeBlasio, John Liu, Christine Quinn and Bill Thompson.  It will be moderated by Elinor Tatum, Publisher of the New York Amsterdam Newsand Gerson Borrero, columist for El Diario/La Prensa.  A nice community touch is that WBLS will be present in order to run a live audience poll. 

As an Eagle parent, former CEC & PTA member, I encourage all parents to take advantage of this moment. Let's show up and be prepared with the hard, intelligent questions that need to be asked!

See the details on our calendar.

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Fourteen-year-old Marc Brandon Gross, is what's called a “2E,” or twice-exceptional, child: he is a talented singer, dancer and actor who can memorize a script in two days that would take most people two weeks to learn, says his mother Maria Gross. But Marc has trouble communicating and socializing because he is on the autism spectrum.

Marc is thriving as a freshman Talent Unlimited High School -- a sign that children with special needs can be successfully integrated into the city's selective high schools. “They bend over backwards to make sure his needs are met,” says Gross.

While Marc should be a poster child for the Department of Education's new push to enroll more special needs children at the city's selective high schools, his mother is angry that the city is bending the rules for admission to schools like his. Marc passed the demanding audition for the musical theater program last year, but some of the students admitted this year did not.

“That's not right. It's not fair, especially not fair to my kid” who played by the rules, Gross says. At Talent Unlimited, more than 45 students (including 13 special needs students) were admitted who either did not audition or didn't meet the school's audition standards. 

Gross contacted Insideschools to tell Marc's story after hearing that the city placed more than 1,300 students in 71 of the city’s selective high schools as part of a double-pronged effort to match more students to their round one high school picks and to ensure that schools meet the city’s new special education quotas.

Marc has speech and language disabilities as well as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The school offers intensive support: he is in team-teaching classes with two teachers, one of whom is certified in special education. He gets extra help in math and English. The school also provides after-school academic tutoring. The guidance counselor arranged a special peer support group to help Marc work on his socializing skills.

Marc's family expected him to attend high school at School for Language and Communication Development (SLCD), the school for special needs children where he went from kindergarten through 8th grade. But a guidance counselor at SLCD suggested he try out for a public performing arts high schools. 

Just like thousands of other aspiring performing artists, Marc practiced for weeks and attended rounds of auditions to try out for four of the city’s audition schools: Talent Unlimited, Frank Sinatra, Professional Performing Arts School and LaGuardia. All four schools require auditions for entrance but do not have academic screens. Yet, this year DOE officials said the city assigned students to both Talent Unlimited and Frank Sinatra based on test scores, rather than artistic ability. 

Competition at the city's performing arts schools is fierce; 1,500 students typically audition for 125 seats at Talent Unlimited.

Gross is proud to say her son went through the “appropriate channels of auditioning,” and was awarded a seat. And now Gross is concerned that the admission of dozens of students who did not meet Talent Unlimited’s audition standards – or did not even try out – will compromise the integrity of the program.

Because of his IEP, Marc still struggles academically, Gross says, but he is excited to get up and go to school everyday. "My kid loves the school because everyone is at his level. They can sing, they can dance, and they can act." 

Watch video of Marc performing at Talent Unlimited, courtesy of his sister Lauren Gross:

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Wednesday, 27 March 2013 13:37

Walcott says middle school in CPE's future

Center Park East parents lost their battle to open a middle school in 2013 but say they're heartened by Chancellor Walcott's promise to work with them to find space for a CPE middle school that will open by 2014.

It's no surprise that all of the DOE's proposals were passed at the March 20 PEP meeting, including a resolution to open East Harlem Scholars Academy II in the same buliding as Central Park East I and Central Park East High School. CPE parents had hoped to nab that soon-to-be-open space for a CPE middle school that would allow their elementary school children to continue to receive a progressive education after 5th grade. This is the fifth year in a row that the DOE rebuffed efforts by CPE I and CPE II to open a middle school. But uptown parents won't have to wait much longer for a progressive middle school. 

Raven Snook, the mother of a CPE II student, told Insideschools that Walcott made a promise at the PEP meeting to find a site for the progressive middle school by this summer and open the school in fall 2014.

"While we were all disappointed that the March 20 PEP vote didn't go our way in terms of the co-location of two East Harlem Scholars Academy schools, we were all pretty thrilled when Dennis Walcott himself stood on the stage and promised we would indeed get a progressive middle school for fall 2014," said Snook. "So it was a bittersweet victory."

Education Department spokesman Devon Puglia confirmed Walcott's promise via email: "There will be middle school CPE seats available in 2014. We're continuing to engage with stakeholders in order to meet that goal."

 

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