Monday, 23 January 2012 11:14

Elementary Dad: Facing the musicals

Parents who unwittingly lead young children into addiction often can pinpoint that horrible moment when they’ve hit rock bottom. My moment came Thursday when my 6-year-old daughter, home from 1st grade with a cold, sat on the sofa watching a DVD of the idiotic musical “Carousel.”

Sometime after the number “This Was a Real Nice Clambake,” my blank-faced child mumbled, “This is my favorite movie.” I froze and wondered aloud, “Oh God, what have I done?”

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Thursday, 19 January 2012 11:32

Poll: Who's responsible for college prep?

After decades of focusing on Regents exams and graduation rates, in 2011 for the first time the Education Department evaluated each high school on "college readiness" - that is, how many of its graduates were actually prepared to do college work. The score on each school's Progress Report didn't carry any weight this year but the numbers are depressing: fewer than half of the 2011 public high school graduates reported that they planned to enter college in the fall. And only one in four 2011 grads were deemed "college ready" — not in need of remedial college courses after four years of high school. The numbers are even lower for black and Latino students.

The City Council is pressing DOE officials to explain what they are doing to improve college-readiness. In turn, the DOE will hold school's accountable: high schools will be docked points for poor college readiness scores on the 2012 Progress Reports.

High schools already struggle to meet other accountability requirements. Some schools, like It Takes A Village Academy in East Flatbush, have a high Regents pass rate (90% graduate in 4 years) and an abysmal college readiness rate (9%).

Should high schools take more initiative to guide students through test prep, college vists and the application process? Whose responsibility is it to prepare kids for college? Take our poll and share your ideas!

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Tuesday, 10 January 2012 16:54

Upcoming school closing hearings

The Department of Education set dates for another round of school closing hearings. On February 9th, the Panel for Education Policy will meet to vote on the future of the 25 schools up for closure.

Here are the dates for the next two weeks:

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Friday, 06 January 2012 14:33

Teachers want X-rated Bronx principal fired

Teachers, women's groups and elected officials will rally Tuesday afternoon (Jan. 10) to demand that the Education Department remove a Bronx principal who made lewd remarks to staff members.

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Sunday, 08 January 2012 18:05

Elementary Dad: Field trip realities

Dear Parent,

Thank you for agreeing to chaperone our upcoming field trip. It's safe to assume you are a first-time volunteer, since all parents who chaperoned previous field trips have informed us (sometimes via their attorneys) that they will never do so again. Therefore, you ought to know some basics.

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Thursday, 05 January 2012 16:17

Ask Judy: Starting a dual language program

Dear Judy,

How does the DOE decide to start a dual language program? Are they proposed by interested parents?

ELL Mom.

Dear ELL Mom,

Parents do have a big role in establishing dual language programs: the Department of Education is obligated to start one if at least 12 parents of English language learners who speak the same home language request one.

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Wednesday, 04 January 2012 11:42

Principal's Perspective: Parents do your part

I got a letter the other day from a parent whose daughter had missed more than 30 days of school. “Please excuse my child for these absences because of asthma, colds and the weather,” the note said.

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Tuesday, 03 January 2012 17:28

Poll: Many schools skimp on art, does yours?

Close to half of city elementary schools do not meet state standards for arts instruction, even as the number of certified arts teachers in the schools has grown, according to the 2010-11 fifth annual Arts in the Schools Report released just before the holidays.

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Thursday, 15 December 2011 18:01

Parents still don't feel 'engaged'

Parents are skeptical that parent involvement will improve with the reorganized Division of Family and Community Engagement (FACE), headed by Bronx parent Jesse Mojica. It's the third time that the office has been reorganized since 2007.

At a packed City Council hearing Thursday morning, Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Mojica fielded complaints and suggestions to improve parent involvement from council members, union representatives and parents.

"What will you do to give parents real power?" Brooklyn Council Member Charles Barron asked Walcott and Mojica, getting to the heart of most concerns raised at the hearing.

Walcott said he wants to work with the council more, and echoed points he made in a speech in October, when he promised to improve parent engagement. When asked how much influence parent committees have in DOE decisions, like school closing, Walcott responded, "the Community Education Councils do have a powerful role shaping what takes place in their particular district."

Lynn Sanchez, a representative for Community Education Council 4 in East Harlem, disagreed, saying CEC meetings are one-sided. "It's just space to sit and talk and talk and hear the DOE give fabulous presentations that are meaningless. They present to us and we ask questions that get no response."

Other concerns included recent parent coordinator lay-offs, the planned Parent Academy, and questions about  how the new structure will better support parent coordinators and engage parents.

Walcott left the meeting after council members finished asking questions, but Mojica stayed to listen to parents give their testimony. A parent told us she asked Walcott why he was leaving before parents’ had their turn at the mike. She said Walcott told her: "I have a $24 billion company to run."

We live-tweeted the first two hours of the hearing. Check out the feed on our twitter page @insideschools.

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Tuesday, 06 December 2011 19:58

Walcott okays roll-out of special ed reform

For the past year and a half, a group of schools has been experimenting with ways to educate special education students more flexibly and in more inclusive classrooms. Now, Chancellor Dennis Walcott says the experiment, piloted in 265 schools, will be be rolled out to all schools in the 2012-2013 school year, according to a letter to principals last week. 

The reform in special education is aimed at educating special needs children in the least restrictive settings possible, and, preferably, in their neighborhood schools, especially in elementary school. This might mean moving children from self-contained classes for special ed kids to larger classes that include general education students and have two teachers. Or it might mean grouping smaller numbers of students with similar disabilities into the same classrooms and providing extra help according to their needs.

Early data shows that fewer students have been recommended for more restrictive settings in "Phase I" schools than in those that have not yet adopted the reform, Walcott said. There has been a 16.6 percent decrease in recommendations of students to more restrictive environments in the Phase 1 schools, compared to a 3.9 percent decrease in other schools.

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