We had a number of questions this week from parents who are confronted with “Promotion in Doubt” letters, or “PIDs” as they are known in DOE lingo. These letters are sent to families of children who are at risk of repeating a grade or who may be failing a course needed to graduate.  Here are three recent questions from parents who received a PID letter.

 1.Why did I get a promotion in doubt letter, when my daughter's teachers have said that she is doing well and on target for graduation?

2. My kindergartner’s teacher says my son is making good progress according to the terms of his IEP, so why the letter?

3. I never heard this before from my child’s teachers and here it is almost the end of the school year and I'm just now getting the letter?

Here's some advice to these and other parents with similar problems.

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Tuesday, 30 April 2013 10:02

High School Hustle: Who is failing gym?

When report cards arrive, vigilant parents turn immediately to what could be a confounding and heart-stopping grade in a subject with no bearing on academic averages: Gym.

That's right, gym, also known as physical education or PE. At least a dozen high school seniors I know are either failing it, coming close or getting lackluster marks like 70. And some of these are terrific students, headed to top colleges.

Can schools please stop giving out grades in gym?

I agree that if students repeatedly don't show up to gym class, they shouldn't pass. I also understand the frustration gym teachers must have when kids show up for gym in impossibly tight skinny jeans or skimpy dresses and platform shoes.

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Thursday, 11 April 2013 15:28

Walcott: Turn down the exam pressure

On the eve of next week's state ELA exams for grades 3-8, Chancellor Walcott is urging principals to "turn the pressure down" on teachers in the wake of "heightened anxiety" about this year's high stakes tests.

Walcott and State Ed Commissioner John King have been saying that the 2013 state tests will be more difficult to pass because for the first time they are aligned with the new Common Core standards which many schools have just began to implement. Some teachers say they have not had adequate curricula and learning materials to prepare for the new standards.

In his weekly letter to principals, Walcott acknowledged the anxiety surrounding the upcoming ELA and math exams. He writes: "...a natural reaction would be to turn the heat up on your teachers, who tend to respond by turning the heat up on their students," he writes. "Instead, to the greatest extent you can, I’m asking you and your team to do the opposite, and turn the pressure down."

Even with the expected drop in student scores, "roughly the same number of students will attend summer school as in previous years," he said . "And teacher evaluation and school accountability will adjust accordingly so no one is punished by the change in assessments."

Earlier this week, Walcott visited Academy of Arts and Letters in Brooklyn with King and Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch, to see how that school was implementing the Common Core. He praised the leadership for "cultivating a caring culture" that other principals should follow.

See the full text of his letter after the jump.

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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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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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Thursday, 08 November 2012 14:00

Parent Academy launches Saturday

Chancellor Dennis Walcott will launch the long-awaited Parent Academy this Saturday at Long Island University (LIU) in Brooklyn, with a focus on aiding families who are victims of the hurricane. But, in the aftermath of the storm, it's not clear how many parents actually know about the event or will be able to attend.

In an email invitation sent to parent leaders on Tuesday morning, Jesse Mojica, head of the DOE's Division of Family and Community Engagement, said that Hurricane Sandy made plain the need for the community to come together at this workshop and, "identify the opportunities and resources for not only student success, but also those outlets for aid in the midst of Hurricane Sandy." 

The workshop begins with an 8:30 a.m. breakfast and is open to public school parents, administrators and staff. The DOE and LIU, a partner in the Parent Academy, will provide guidance to help families apply for FEMA and other sources of disaster aid. Mental health experts will advise teachers and parents on how to deal with students affected by the disaster. Additionally, there will be three sessions at the workshop to tackle specific topics: preparing for parent teacher conferences, supporting better parent-teacher communication and, "how to become a more active and engaged participant in your child’s education,"said Stephanie Browne, a DOE spokesperson.

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Friday, 02 November 2012 12:43

What's wrong with fantasy books for teens?

Claire Needell Hollander is an ELA enrichment teacher at a Manhattan middle school and the mother of three daughters, all public school students.

For those not directly affected by the damage wreaked by Sandy, boredom was the enemy over the past school-free week. Lucky were those households with a stockpile of good books, or access to a bookstore whose doors remained open. Alas, most of the books for teens at my local chain bookstore are dystopian novels and paranormal romances. Few and far between are the thought-provoking realistic young adult novels like "Kind of a Funny Story," by Ned Vizzini and "The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian," by Sherman Alexie.

While there is nothing wrong with spending leisure time reading fantasy books, they are mostly devoid of real world knowledge—unlike realistic novels, like "Sold," by Patricia McCormick, that may introduce students to other cultures.

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Monday, 10 September 2012 10:40

NYC teachers rally for Chicago strike

TUESDAY UPDATE: About 200 people were at the Monday rally. The city's teachers union approved a $10,000 donation to the Chicago teachers' strike fund. GothamSchools says the UFT isn't likely to follow Chicago's lead, but you can check out their upcoming explanation of why the strike still matters for our city.

MONDAY: Some New York City teachers are rallying to support the Chicago teachers who were on the picket lines Monday morning. Chicago's Democratic Mayor Rham Emanuel says the city has made a generous offer that would raise teachers' salaries. But leaders of the reform-led Chicago Teachers Union say the strike is not just about money -- they want improvements made to Chicago's schools, including smaller class sizes, and a nurse and a social worker in every school. They also note that the proposed raises would be offset by a hike in health care costs.

If you're with the Chicago teachers, you can join NYC teachers and Occupy Wall Street at Union Square at 5pm.

NYC connection: Chicago schools superintendent J.C. Brizard was a teacher and principal of Westinghouse High School before going to the high school division at Tweed. He left to become head of schools in Rochester, NY and then was off to Chicago.

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Only 55 percent of eligible teachers received tenure this year, Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced on Friday. This is a huge shift from just five years ago when 97 percent of teachers were awarded tenure after three years on the job.

Walcott said that stricter standards for teachers was the reason that fewer teachers were awarded tenure. "Receiving tenure is no longer an automatic right, and our new approach ensures that teachers who are granted tenure have earned it,” said Walcott in a press release.

Teacher who do not get tenure may continue to teach and, for some, the decision to grant tenure can be extended to the next year. That's what happened to 42 percent of eligible teachers this year.

Principals determine which teachers get tenure, rating them on a four-point scale: ineffective, developing, effective or highly effective.

Even as fewer teachers are getting tenure, more teachers are being hired. NY1 reports that the hiring freeze has eased up for 2012-2013, with many of the new hires coming from the ranks of Teach for America (new college graduates) and Teaching Fellows, a program that targets career-changers.

A scarcity of special education teachers persists. To help ease the shortage, eligible general education teachers who have been "excessed" from their jobs may enter the Special Education Re-Certification Program. That would allow them to teach special needs children if they are working toward getting special education certification at Adelphi University.

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Thursday, 21 June 2012 11:28

Too few NYC grads ready for college

More students than ever are graduating high school in New York City. And many more are applying to—and attending—college. Yet very few of these young people ever complete a college degree. The number of graduates enrolling in CUNY surged to 25,600 in 2009 from 16,200 in 2002, a jump of 57 percent. But as enrollment has spiked, graduation raties at CUNY's community colleges has declined.

An upcoming report from our parent organization, the Center for New York City Affairs, presented at a forum today at the New School, shows how the city's public schools are preparing more and more teens for high school graduation—but not for success in college and the living-wage workplace.

Keynote speaker David Conley, director of the Center for Educational Policy Research and University of Oregon professor, said that test scores and knowledge of subject matter are not the only indicators for success in college. The ability to show up on time, follow directions, organize your time and know how to ask for help and be persistent are just as important. (Download Conley's presentation here.)

Conley joined Sheena Wright, president of Abyssian Development Corporation; DOE deputy chancellor Shael Polakow-Suransky; CUNY's director of admissions, Richard Alvarez; and Fernando Carlo director of Urban Youth Collaborative's Sistas & Brothas United for the forum, Creating College Ready Communities: Preparing NYC's Precarious New Generation of College Students, moderated by Meredith Kolodner of Insideschools.

There is a chasm between what students want to achieve and what they are prepared for. For every 100 middle school students, 93 say they want a college degree, according to Conley. Of these, 70 will graduate high school, 44 will enroll in college and only 26 will get a degree of any kind within six years of enrolling. The numbers for city students are even more discouraging.

Most city high school students have high aspirations, and want to become professionals, yet too many don't realize that their grades in 9th and 10th grade count for college admissions, said Andrew White, director of the Center in his introduction (download the presentation he gave here).

We also live-tweeted highlights from @insideschools under #collegeready.

Read accounts of the event written by Philissa Cramer on GothamSchools and Peter Goodman of ed in the apple.

Watch our livestream of the discussion. And, to keep the conversation going, please share your thoughts about what our high schools, community groups and parent organizations can do to help make sure the city's graduates are prepared for college.

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