District 20 leaders are bracing for a flood of parents at Wednesday's Community Education Council meeting who want the city to exempt IS 187 Christa McAuliffe from next year's special education requirements, which will force the school to admit more kids with special needs.
Other parents say allowing more special ed kids into the school isn't the problem. These parents want the city to re-open the application process to special needs students at the all-gifted Brooklyn middle school, since so few knew it was an option.
Many parents of special education students – including those with kids at IS 187 - say they had no idea that their beloved school was a possibility. While a small number of special education students do attend the school, it has not enrolled students who require special classes and more intensive services.
Gifted and talented results letters were sent to families last week, and since then our inbox has been full of G&T queries from parents of prospective kindergartners who must apply by April 20. Here are four questions that we answered.
- My 4-year-old is a smart guy. His teacher says he is ahead of the other kids in his pre-kindergarten class, but he got a really low score on the G&T test. He took it on a very cold day and he is rather shy. Can he retake the test? .
The short answer: not this year. There are no re-dos. If your child was ill on the test date, or if there was a problem with the administration of the exam, you had 48 hours to report the problem. He can test again next year when he is in kindergarten. Note, next year it will be it will be a different test mix. The OLSAT will be kept but the Bracken will be replaced by the Naglieri Nonverbal Ability Test [NNAT].
The good news for this year's gifted and talented kindergarten test-takers? More kids scored high enough to qualify for a citywide G&T program. The bad news? Eligible students have about a 1 in 7 chance of scoring one of those citywide seats.
Of the 14,249 children who tested for the city's gifted and talented programs, 2,656 -- 18% -- qualified for one of five citywide programs. But there are only about 381 citywide seats. The number of eligible students continues to rise -- about 1000 students scored in the 99th percentile in the last two years. But the number of citywide seats has not risen to meet the demand.
To qualify for the more selective citywide program, children must score between the 97th and 99th percentile on two assessments; for district programs they must score between the 90 to 96th percentile. Fifteen percent of this year's kindergarten test-takers - 2,256 - qualified for district programs.
Some 35% of the kindergarten test-takers -- 4,912 -- are eligible for a G&T program. In 2010 and 2011, 28% qualified.
Parents have started receiving the results of the 2012 tests for entrance to elementary school gifted and talented programs. Score reports were sent by email and regular mail on April 10, according to the Department of Education.
Along with the results, families receive an application listing programs for which child is eligible. Incoming kindergarten and 1st graders are guaranteed admission for programs in their district as long as they list all of them on their application. Students who score at the 97 to 99th percentile are eligible for five citywide programs. However, given the high number of children who score in the 99th percentile - nearly a quarter of all eligible students last year - most citywide seats are taken up by those top scorers.
Applications are due on April 20.
Information about the number of qualifying students will be coming soon, according to the DOE. We'll post it when we get it.
Did you get your notice yet?
It's spring break so why are so many kids showing up at school this week? Test prep, that's why! Schools have sidelined regular lessons and ramped up test prep this year as the stakes for improved scores on state exams continue to rise. Some schools brought in test prep companies and 25 schools have opened their doors during vacation so kids can continue to study for the exams.
On a chilly morning in April, when most schools were closed, students at PS 189 in Crown Heights filed into school to prep and practice for the tests.
Many of the parents shepherding their children through the doors said they appreciated the extra preparation.
“I think it was a good idea,” said Stacy Alexander, whose daughter is in 3rd grade. “I think they should do a lot of reading, but they also need the practice tests.”
But PS 189 students have been prepping for weeks. Instead of regular classes, children took practice tests every morning in March, teachers and parents said. Reading was Monday and Tuesday, math was Thursday and Friday, and most Wednesdays they took both. The afternoons were saved for more test prep, focusing on questions the kids got wrong.
State-mandated standardized tests for students in grades 3-8 begin on the Tuesday right after spring break. There are three days of reading (ELA) tests: April 17, 18 and 19 and three days of math the next week: April 25, 26 and 27.
Have the teachers been spending lots of time preparing kids for the increasingy high-stakes exams? Your child's test results help determine the "grade" his teacher will get on her evaluation. the grade his school gets on its Progress Report and even whether the school could be closed down or "turned around".
For students in transition from elementary to middle school and from middle to high school, results on the 4th and 7th grade exams can be a determining factor in where they are accepted!
Given all the testing mania, are teachers being pressured to "teach to the test"? Are they weaving test prep into classroom lessons or has test prep become the lesson?
How has your school handled test prep this year. Too much? Too little? Just right? Take our poll!
A group of parents have launched a petition drive to try and reverse the increasing importance of standardized exams in city schools. In particular, they are opposed to a new law that could get teachers fired if their students' state test scores don't increase sufficiently.
"Parents want their children to have the opportunity to learn, to think critically, to engage in meaningful relationships with teachers, and to have positive school experiences," the Brooklyn-based group of parents write.
They also do not want to see a repeat of the Teacher Data Reports, which used state exams to evaluate teachers and then made the dubious ratings public.
They've gotten about 1,000 signatures by tabling outside schools, mostly in Brooklyn. Now there's an online petition you can sign if you want to join their effort.
Sparks flew at the Brooklyn Secondary School for Collaborative Studies on Monday night as the chief academic officer defended the city's heavy reliance on standardized exams to judge schools, principals and teachers.
Deputy Chancellor Shael Polakow-Suransky was under fire all night from the crowd in the packed school auditorium in Carroll Gardens. The two principals on the panel who said they believed the testing regime had damaged education in city schools.
The former head of the Office of Accountability kept his cool and acknowledged that the current state exams did not do a good job at measuring "critical thinking," but he denied that the exams were overly influential and said that better tests were coming. Why, then, has the Bloomberg administration made such a public spectacle of the A through F grading system, which is mostly based on student progress on the exams, if they aren't very good? Polakow-Suransky never answered that question.
You can read more about the event, which was moderated by Insideschools reporter Meredith Kolodner, on GothamSchools and SchoolBook. Watch a video clip of the meeting from the Grassroots Education Movement:
Vasilios Biniarls is a math teacher at a Queens middle school program for gifted students, The Academy at PS 122. He wrote to Insideschools after his name was published in the press as a "Below Average" teacher. Here's his view. Insideschools will not be publishing or linking to the Teacher Data Reports.
The recent release of NYC's Teacher Data Reports (TDR) has stirred up a wide range of responses from all of the relevant stakeholders in our city's school system. As a teacher whose name was published in the local media with a corresponding characterization of "Below Average," I am upset, angry, even demoralized. After a great deal of personal reflection, I feel compelled to reach out to the parents of the students I teach.
For me, it is important for people to know that I teach in the same school that I attended as a child; it is the same school that both of my siblings went to as well. As three children of immigrant parents, we owe a debt of gratitude to our alma mater, and I strongly feel that the experiences that we had at P.S. 122 were instrumental in paving the way to a life of higher education. I would do anything for my school.
The latest serving of data-driven mania from the city Education Department will likely produce screaming headlines about the city's "worst teachers." This virtual wall of shame (and fame) will live online for years to come. But does it actually help parents to find the best schools and teachers? Not really. Here's why.
The ratings are based on a complicated formula that compares how much 4th through 8th-grade students have improved on standardized tests compared with how well they were predicted to do. The system tries to take into consideration factors like race, poverty and disabilities. Teachers are then graded on a curve. It's known as "value-added," because it tries show how much value an individual teacher has added to a student's test scores.
Here are our top five reasons they won't help and why you won't be seeing them on Insideschools. Please add your own, or tell us why you think they will be useful.