Wednesday, 07 December 2011 10:49

City scores flatline on national exams

City students' scores on national reading and math exams have flatlined since 2009, officials announced Wednesday. The surprising news delivered a setback to the Bloomberg Administration, which has consistently trumpeted the positive results of its school reform agenda.

The National Assessment for Educational Progress is a set of exams administered every two years to the nation's 4th and 8th graders and is considered the gold standard for measuring academic achievement. The 2011 results had city officials scrambling to explain the results.

Department officials noted that there has been significant progress among 4th graders since Mayor Bloomberg implemented reforms in 2003, and they emphasized that city students kept pace with or improved compared with the rest of the state over the past two years.

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Tuesday, 22 November 2011 20:28

Parents say DOE mandates hurt Music School

The departure of half the core teaching staff at an elite Upper West Side elementary school has roiled parents who worry test prep is destroying the school’s creative spirit.

In July, close to half of the parents at the Special Music School signed a letter decrying the “apparent shift in school culture” and the new principal’s leadership.

 “This is not the same place it was three years ago,” said a 3rd-grade parent, who like most interviewed, asked to remain anonymous for fear of negative repercussions for their children. “There’s a lot of talk about data and test prep, and I didn’t used to hear that.”

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Wednesday, 16 November 2011 11:03

What is the Common Core?

Parents attending parent-teacher conferences this week may be hearing talk about the “Common Core” and wondering just what it is. At a Department of Education presentation in October, David Coleman, founder of the Grow Network and one of the authors of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), declared, “If you do this work [aligned with Common Core standards] then you’re ready for college.”

In short, the CCSS is not a curriculum but a set of standards defining the knowledge and skills that students from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade need to master each year to be prepared for the next grade, and ultimately college or work. Creating common academic standards across the country was a state-led initiative, involving a coalition of governors and educators. The actual standards were developed by teachers, administrators, experts and parents.

Modeled after successful programs in the U.S. and abroad the Common Core standards are meant to provide teachers and parents with a shared understanding of what students are expected to learn. One aim is ensure that kids who move across city or even state lines end up in schools with the same information being taught.

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Tuesday, 25 October 2011 12:17

Ask Judy: My daughter needs help in math

Dear Judy,

My daughter scored below a 3 at the State test for math. She is in 5th grade and not doing well with math. I requested to put her in the extended time help period but was told that the school only has extended day for ELA. I was told that there is something called Academic intervention and I asked for that. Is the school not obligated to provide extra math help for those who do not meet the standard requirements? How can I ensure that the principal will provide her with extra math tutoring? Is there any other department within the DOE that I can contact if my daughters school does not offer the help I requested?

Bronx Mom

Dear Bronx Mom,

Yes, indeed there is a requirement to provide academic intervention services for kids who score in the level 1 or 2 range on standardized tests. Like many policies these days, it is up to the principal to put it in place. I imagine that budget shortfalls have a lot to do with reducing the service, but that should not stop the principal from providing help to a student who needs it. Since you have already spoken to the principal, do what the DOE recommends: contact your school's network leader. The network leader is listed on your school’s online report card.

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Tuesday, 11 October 2011 11:10

Standing room only at G&T info session

A standing-room-only crowd greeted Department of Education presenters at the first of six Gifted & Talented information sessions, held Oct. 5 on the Upper West Side.  It was a "friendly, lively and through description of the G&T application process," according to Robin Aronow of School Search NYC, with three DOE representatives speaking for more than an hour, and answering parents' questions for another half-hour.

Virtually all of the information presented is detailed in the G&T Handbook, hardcopies of which were available that night (before they ran out) as well as on the DOE's G&T webpage. The handbook describes the process, includes frequently asked questions, an admissions timeline and a practice OLSAT (Otis-Lennon School Ability Test) by age. The OLSAT is one of two measures that will be administered to children applying for kindergarten through 3rd grade, along with the BSRA (Bracken School Readiness Assessment). The DOE will be looking for a new assessment next year when the current contract with the testing company, Pearson, expires.

There are three G&T sessions remaining: Oct. 11 in Queens, Oct. 12 and 18 in the Bronx and Oct. 18 in Brooklyn. Is it worth attending? Probably not, if you read the handbook carefully, but if you like to hear information directly from the enrollment office or have additional questions, you might benefit.

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Thursday, 29 September 2011 11:49

High School Hustle: Cheating on the SAT

With thousands of New York City high school students taking the SATs this weekend, the news that a Long Island teenager was arrested and charged with fraudently taking the exam for six other teens, brings into focus yet again, the degree with which testing has become high-stakes at all levels.  

Insideschools' blogger Liz Willen, interviewed by NBC News for the story, says the cheating didn't surprise her. After all, New York City teachers have been accused of erasing wrong answers on Regents exams, and some wealthy parents pay big bucks to tutors and consultants to give their kids an advantage in admissions to top colleges. But, she writes, the headlines about the SAT scandal are overshadowing another, very real problem: the number of students who make it to college unprepared, and drop out.

Read her post: "We're asking the wrong questions in the latest SAT cheating scandal," on the Hechinger Report.

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Monday, 19 September 2011 12:24

Ask Judy: Regents exams in 8th grade?

Dear Judy,

I have 8th grade twins in middle school. One is in a combined Collaborative Team-Teaching/SP (honors) class and does not seem to have Regents classes in anything. The other is in a regular SP class and has Regents classes in Earth Science and math. How does whether you take the various Regents exams in 8th grade affect high school curriculums, high school choices, and does it eventually effect the college credit situation too? Can you clarify please? Thank you.

- Twins mother

Dear Twins mother,

If the twin in the CTT class has an IEP, it is crucial that you make sure that the high school he chooses will have the resources and modifications he needs to take the Regents exams. As Insideschools expert Clara Hemphill put it: "I think parents should insist that their child get the most demanding curriculum they can handle. The tendency for the school system is to lower promotional standards for kids with iEPs and as a result they just fall further and further behind. What parents need to do is demand that kids get the extra help they need to meet the higher standards. If the school cannot provide extra help, they can sometimes get the city to pay for private tutoring.

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Monday, 12 September 2011 17:36

Black Stuy alums host prep "boot camp"

Black graduates of Stuyvesant High School, disturbed by the paltry number of African American students admitted to the prestigious school and other specialized exam high schools, are offering a free cram course -- a "boot camp" -- beginning Sept. 17 to help prepare 8th-grade minority students for the Specialized High School Admissions Test. In 2011 only 12 black students received offers, up from seven the previous year. To help reverse this downward trend, four Stuyvesant alums and teachers will offer intensive tutoring on six Saturdays before the test on Oct. 29 and 30. There will also be a session on test-taking tips for the SHSAT on Sept. 27 (see article update below.)

"We want to increase the number of kids who are taking the test and help them pass," said Renee Eubanks, a 1981 Stuyvesant graduate, now a corporate lawyer.  "My Stuyvesant education was a great opportunity -- it really does open doors. A lot of young folks and some parents don't understand what a great opportunity it is."

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Wednesday, 17 August 2011 10:27

Test scores available on ARIS today

Wondering how your kid did on the state tests back in May? Individual math and English test scores for grades 3 to 8 should be available today on ARIS parent link. Summer school students will receive August promotion letters and can view test results next week, August 22, and schools will provide printed test reports to all families in September. (See a schedule on the DOE's website.)

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 next week for parents. Be sure to bring a photo id. Translation services will be provided. The DOE posted library information and schedules (and we've copied the schedule below) and also created a fact sheet to help parents understand the scores.

Students took the mandated state reading and math tests in May this year and New York state released test scores only last week to schools and the city's Department of Education. Parents may wonder why the delay in getting the scores. According to a Education Department spokesperson, the state must complete "due dilligence to make certain that all of the data was accurate."

The city's DOE then sorts the data to make individual scores available to parents via ARIS. This is the second year in a row that English and math test results have not been available until mid-August, two months after school let out. A city spokesperson says that the late exam dates are what cause the delay in releasing scores.

If you'd like to compare your child's scores to the school average, posted a handy scrolling tool. You may also download citywide test results, broken down by school, from the DOE website.

Were you able to view your scores on ARIS yet? And how did your child perform compared to last year? Let us know in the comments. See a list of ARIS parent access stations in all boroughs after the jump.

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City students’ math and reading test scores inched up slightly this year compared to 2010, when the state imposed tougher testing standards. At a press conference today, Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced that, despite more difficult tests this year, the city’s 3rd through 8th graders saw an average increase of 3.3% in math scores and 1.5% in reading. New York City students scored below the state average but city test score increases outpaced the rest of the state. State officials were less enthusiastic when they released the test score data this morning, noting that “overall performance remains low.”

School principals received the scores last Thursday, but individual students' test scores won't be available to parents until Aug. 17. That's the date by which the DOE says scores will be posted in ARIS.

After he praised students, teachers and parents for the improved test scores, the mayor said that 4,808 students recommended for summer school did not have to go after all. Because of the late test dates -- which are administered in May now instead of January and March -- schools must estimate in June which of their students won't pass, based on preliminary scores. Last summer, the DOE underestimated the number of students in need of summer school and 8500 students found out in late July that they should have attended. This year the DOE overestimated, a spokesperson says.

Scores were released too late to curtail summer school for those students who retook the math test today and will take the reading test tomorrow.  Even if they don't pass this time around, they will promoted, according to the spokesperson.

For parents without internet access, or who need help logging into ARIS, the city will set up access stations in libraries in every borough beginning Aug. 22. "Parents who do not already have their login information can receive their usernames and passwords at these sites," according to an email Walcott sent to district offices.

The DOE released data broken down by school. An initial glance at reading test results showed the top-scoring schools are among the city's most selective. These include Anderson, Special Music School, and NEST+M, in Manhattan and the Scholar's Academy, and Baccalaureate School for Global Education in Queens.


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