Thursday, 01 November 2012 16:13

Saturday's SHSAT postponed until Nov. 17

Saturday's specialized high school admissions test, scheduled to be taken by all 9th graders and 8th graders needing special accommodations, has been postponed until Nov. 17, the Education Department announced this afternoon.

One of the sites, Brooklyn Technical High School, is still housing evacuees, and another, Stuyvesant, is virtually impossible to reach by subway.

The DOE announced other changes for anxious 8th and 9th graders applying to specialized and other high school:

  • All weekend auditions, interviews and exams have been cancelled and will be rescheduled
  • Auditions at LaGuardia High School scheduled for Nov. 3-4, will be held the following weekend, Nov. 10-11
  • Auditions at Frank Sinatra scheduled for Nov. 3-4, will be held the following weekend, Nov. 10-11
  • The SHSAT scheduled for Oct. 28 will now be held on Nov. 18

Check the DOE's website for more information. So far the DOE has not changed the Dec. 3 due date for high school applications.

(And, if you, and your children have extra time on your hands, check out some of the volunteer opportunities at one of the 60 schools housing evacuees. Evacuees are still very much in residence. Here's a link:



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Friday, 26 October 2012 16:39

Sunday specialized exam CANCELLED

Late Friday afternoon, Chancellor Dennis Walcott cancelled the specialized high school admissions test for Sunday, Oct. 28, citing weather concerns with Hurricane Sandy and "uncertainty over travel conditions." Eighth-graders scheduled to take the test on Sunday now have an extra few weeks to wait before taking the exam, which determines entrance into one of eight highly competitive high schools.The new date for them is Nov. 18.

Saturday test-takers are not affected.

Here's the notice we got at 4:20 p.m.




The test will be rescheduled for November 18

Due to the anticipated inclement weather brought on by Hurricane Sandy, we are cancelling the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) scheduled to take place on Sunday, October 28. The test is rescheduled for Sunday, November 18.  The exam scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday, October 27, will take place as planned.

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Monday, 22 October 2012 13:44

Gifted or not? G&T info sessions begin

UPDATE: G&T info sessions set for Bronx and Queens on Oct. 29 and 30 have been cancelled. The next one on the calendar is from 9-11 a.m. in the Bronx on Wednesday, Oct. 31 at 1230 Zerega Avenue. See the DOE's website for updates.

Information sessions explaining New York City's elementary gifted and talented program begin tonight in Brooklyn. Parents will learn about the admissions process, the assessments used and what to do to prepare their child for testing which takes place in January and February..

The meetings, led by Education Department officials, will cover the nitty gritty of local admissions, but they won't touch on bigger issues, such as: What makes a child gifted? Can it be determined at age 4?

In New York City, young children are considered eligible for G&T programs, based on the results of two assessments, one verbal, testing a child's ability to follow directions by listening to instructions,  the other nonverbal, in which a child must recognize shapes and patterns and how they fit together.

Elsewhere in the U.S. there is little consensus about what determines a child's giftedness, whether G&T programs are advisable and at what age they should start. There is no national definition for gifted and talented programs and criteria for entrance into such programs varies widely.

Gail Robinson, an contributor, explores the larger topic of gifted education and what's happening on the national scene in three posts written for GreatSchools. Is your child gifted?  Gifted or Just Privileged? And, Your child is what?

Parents who are considering G&T programs for their child might want to give the posts a read.

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Monday, 01 October 2012 16:33

Many failing schools were on top last year

Nearly a quarter of the elementary and middle schools marked failing on the 2011-12 Progress Reports were top schools last year.

The Education Department released those Progress Reports today and, in a statement, touted stable grades: “86 percent of schools did not change more than one grade from 2011” the DOE said.

But our analysis of the 102 schools that earned D’s or F’s on their Progress Report this year shows that severe instability persists. Of those failing schools, 24 earned A’s and B’s on their 2010-11 Progress Reports. PS 241 in Harlem, for example, went from a C in 2009-10, to a B in 2010-11 to an F this year. 

Even though a school’s progress report scores may wildly fluctuate, the stakes are high -- low grades on Progress Reports can lead the DOE to close a school. Schools that earn D or F on their progress report or schools that earn no better than a C for three years in a row are flagged for possible closure.

Center for New York City Affairs Education Project Director Kim Nauer says elementary and middle schools’ Progress Report grades are more likely to fluctuate than high schools' grades (to be released later this month) because the lower schools are graded on fewer factors. "When you have more indicators it gives you a better picture of the school," says Nauer, who co-authored a report on the DOE's data and accountability methods with Insideschools' Clara Hemphill. 

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The new 2012-2013 middle school directories are online just in time for the district fairs which begin this week for 5th graders and their families. District fairs run from 5:30-7:30 p.m. beginning on Wednesday. All schools are supposed to send representatives.

There will be copies of the guides at the fair, but it's a good idea to go through them before you arrive and make a list of the schools that your child is eligible for and any questions you may have. The fairs can be crowded and a little overwhelming, so arrive prepared. Our video on how to apply to a middle school is here.

The latest middle school Progress Reports are also available online now. These are report cards, complete with grades, that the Education Department gives to each school every year. They are supposed to give a sense of how the school is doing. They are useful to look at, but take the "grades" with a grain of salt. They are mostly based on how much progress kids have made on state exams. So for example, three popular, progressive Manhattan middle schools, Institute for Collaborative Education, School of the Future and IS 289, all received Cs this year, even though on average about 80% of their kids are reading and doing math at grade level. Meanwhile, the Middle School of Marketing and Legal Studies in East Flatbush, Brooklyn got an A, even though less than 40% of the students at the school are reading at grade level.

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Wednesday, 19 September 2012 16:08

Poll: Are gifted programs neglected?

Gifted and Talented programs only serve about one percent of children nationwide, says the Fordham Institute's Chester E. Finn, who authored a new study of G & T programs in the U.S., and says too many deserving kids don't have access to them. In a must-read New York Times op-ed piece, Finn argues that the nation's high-performing students are being neglected: "Mostly, the system ignores them, with policies and budget priorities that concentrate on raising the floor under low-achieving students. A good and necessary thing to do, yes, but we’ve failed to raise the ceiling for those already well above the floor."

 I'm guessing that hundreds of New York City parents whose kindergartners scored in the 99th percentile on G&T exams last spring but failed to score a seat in one of the five citywide G&T program might agree with Finn. What do you think? Do G&T programs deserve more attention (and more of our limited school funds)? Take our poll!

(By the way, this month 4th and 5th graders who applied for G&T seats over the summer will find out whether they scored one of the very few seats available to them. And, a few more offers may be made for K-3 G&T seats, according to a letter sent to principals asking them to report any "attrition-based" openings by Sept. 19.)


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Monday, 17 September 2012 11:03

College Counselor: ACT vs SAT?

Q. I am the mom of an 11th grader. I grew up and went to school outside of the United States, so it is very challenging for me to understand the whole U.S. higher education system. Would you please explain to me what the SAT and ACT are? What is the difference between those two? Which one does my daughter need to take in order to apply to a 4-year college?

A: Most colleges and universities in the United States require either the SAT or ACT (with writing) for admission as a first-year student. These are nationally administered examinations, each one about three hours long, which provide a general assessment of a student’s skills in mathematics, reading and vocabulary, and writing. The tests are structured differently and scored differently.

The SAT comes from the Educational Testing Service, headquartered in New Jersey, while the ACT comes from a company in Iowa. Originally, most students on the East Coast took the SAT, while in the Midwest and West the ACT was the preferred exam. It was merely a matter of geographic preference. But now that all information is online, students in all areas are trying both tests.

There are numerous differences between the tests. The ACT includes a section of questions related to science, but it is really about interpreting data. The ACT is also more straightforward in its knowledge-based approach. I suggest that you and your daughter look at the websites of each exam and try the sample questions. Some students simply feel more comfortable with one format than the other. Your daughter could also take both tests, and then compare her results. Colleges truly do not care which test an applicant takes! You can find complete information, plus practice questions, at the SAT and ACT websites.

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Thursday, 26 July 2012 14:08

Test scores now posted on ARIS

Parents may now see their children's 2012 reading and math state test scores on the Education Department's parent website, ARIS, a week earlier than scheduled. The schools' test scores were released last week by the state Department of Education and individual student scores are now up as well, according to parents checking the site today.

Parents and guardians may log on using their ARIS user name and password to access their child's test information.

If you don't have internet access or need help logging onto the ARIS system, the city has set up ARIS access stations at select libraries in all five boroughs during the week of Aug. 6-10. Be sure to bring a photo id. Translation services will be provided. (See a list of the libraries below.

Some 7,000 elementary and middle school students were surprised to find out last week that they had actually passed the state's reading or math tests, even though they had been told they had failed, and were sent to summer school, the New York Post reported on Thursday.  Because the state tests for grades 3-8 are now given in the spring, results are not available until after the end of the school year. Schools must use preliminary scores to estimate how many students won't make the mark and they have miscalulated over the past two years.

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Monday, 16 July 2012 12:34

Test scores released Tuesday

The State Education Department said today that standardized math and reading test scores for grades 3-8 will be released Tuesday, July 17. That's nearly a month earlier than 2011 when test data was released on Aug. 8, with parents able to access their children's scores online on Aug. 17

This year, test administration in April was marred by errors on the several of the exams resulting in questions being discarded. An 8th-grade exam had a nonsensical story about a talking pineapple that almost no one understood and, in May, teachers were confused about how to score the exams. This was the first year that the testing company Pearson produced the tests. Because of the many mistakes, the state said that Pearson would have to pay for an expert review of its test development process.

Families of 113 children, angry about the emphasis on high-stakes testing, decided to opt out of taking the exam, the New York Times reported, more than in previous years. Many others decided to boycott the field-tests in May and June.

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My son did something last month that is apparently unacceptable among driven and high striving high school juniors these days: He failed.

More specifically, he failed the trigonometry Regents by three points – after taking three Advanced Placement exams, six finals, three SAT sittings (one of them unplanned after a testing debacle) and at least four other Regents.

My reaction has surprised me. I'm relieved.

As the recent cheating scandal involving 71 students at high pressure Stuyvesant High unfolds, I'm a lot less concerned about one isolated failure than I am about a "whatever-it-takes to succeed,'' mentality among teenagers bent on success.

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