On Wednesday, a 12-year-old middle school student in Queens hanged herself, leaving behind a note saying she had been harassed by classmates at school and bullied online. What can be done to prevent tragedies in the future? One issue may be that teachers are unaware when students are being bullied, especially when there is cyber-bullying. According to the Learning Environment Survey at IS 109, the school Gabrielle Molina attended, 80 percent of the students said there was bullying; but only 15 percent of teachers said students were bullied.
About 30 percent of IS 109's students said they felt unsafe at the school, although all the teachers reported feeling safe.
The tragedy occured just two days after Chancellor Dennis Walcott joined City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in asking schools to step up antii-bullying efforts before the end of the school year.
Walcott mentioned the latest anti-bullying initiative at a Town Hall meeting in Bedford Stuyvesant on Monday night, telling parents that bullying was still "very prevalent" in city schools. Just two days later, according to the Daily News, he was comforting the family of Gabrielle Molina, a student at IS 109 Jean Nuzzi Middle School, who was found dead that afternoon.
"Any child that takes his life or her life is something that deeply concerns me and hurts me as a parent and not just as a chancellor,” Walcott told the Daily News on Thursday. "Bullying is something that I feel very strongly about. We are always looking at new ways to work on the issue."
Fifth-graders around the city should find out today or tomorrow where they have been accepted to middle school. That's several days earlier than the May 20 date posted on the Department of Education's calendar.
Public elementary schools are picking up the letters at the enrollment offices on Thursday and will distribute them to children. If you don't get a letter today or tomorrow, contact your parent coordinator. Private school students should get their school assignments in the mail; if you don't receive a letter, go to the nearest enrollment office for help.
Unlilke the citywide high school application process, middle school admission varies by district. Some districts have zoned schools where children are assigned to middle school based on their address. Other districts have school choice and no zoned schools. A few, such as District 2, offer both zoned and unzoned schools. All students are guaranteed a seat at a school in their district. Those who apply to citywide, charter or other non-district choice schools may be accepted at several schools.
If you're not happy with the school to which you have been matched, you can appeal. Public school students should ask their elementary school guidance counselor for an appeal form; private school students may get one at the enrollment center. Wednesday, May 29 is the deadline to appeal.
Insideschools would like to hear from families who have appealed their middle school assignments in the past. Parents would like to know how the process works and whether appeals are generally successful. This is information that the Department of Education does not make public...at least they have not done so in the past.
You can't make this stuff up. The Department of Education discovered still more errors on the scoring of this year's gifted and talented exams and may fire Pearson, the company that administers the tests, it announced Friday afternoon.
Chancellor Dennis Walcott called Pearson's repeated errors "deeply disturbing" and said he was "reviewing a variety of options, including terminating Pearson's contract."
More than 300 young test-takers are affected, mostly incoming kindergartners: 82 additional students now qualify for district G&T programs (scoring at or above the 90th percentile) and 64 more children scored above the 97th percentile and now qualify for citywide programs, according to a DOE statement.
If you've got a child entering public school kindergarten in September 2013, you may want to attend one of this month's "Getting Ready for Kindergarten" workshops led by the Department of Education's Office of Early Childhood. The evening workshops will be held in every borough from May 16-30 in public schools and libraries.
The goal is to give parents an introduction to "who's who" in elementary schools, what to expect in kindergarten and how to become involved in your child's school. Childcare will be provided, as will snacks and activities for kids. The DOE will also provide information about local library and summer programs.
All workshops are from 6-8 p.m. See a flier on the DOE's website [pdf] for dates and locations. Call 212-374-0351 for more information.
If you are between the ages of 14 and 24, you may apply by May 10 for the New York City Summer Youth Employment program.
Participants work up to 25 hours a week for seven weeks, earning $7.25 per hour. Job sites include government agencies, hospitals, summer camps, nonprofits, small businesses, and retailers. See the NYC Department of Youth & Community Development website for more information and an application.
Still looking for a free summer program for your teen? The Long Island University campus in Brooklyn has several programs that still have space, including one for budding accountants, another on college readiness, a third for artistic kids who will learn to draw and paint from professional artists and a fourth for coursework and class trips on writing, speaking, critical thinking, research and creativity. The Fort Greene-Clinton Hill Patch gives a rundown, including contact information for each program. Deadlines have been extended until June.
After an outcry by parents, the Education Department changed its plan about where to move The STEM Academy, the citywide gifted and talented program in Queens. Last week, in a meeting with parents, DOE officials said that the school would be "split-sited" at two locations, the lower grades going to PS 76, the upper grades to IS 126.
Parents were upset, not only about the two different locations, but also because PS 76 is located far from public transportation and already houses a program for autistic children. Parents said the G&T program would take space from the program for special needs children, a prospect that made them uncomfortable. Instead, STEM families proposed that the school move to PS 17, which has room for more students and is closer to the subway.
Yesterday, the DOE agreed, presenting a new proposal to parents and principals at the affected schools. Under the new plan, the school would still be located at two different schools, but grades K-4 would go to PS 17, not PS 76. Grades 5-8 would still go to IS 126.
"We’ve worked extremely hard over the past several months to identify space to extend and create a stand alone citywide STEM program," the DOE press office said in a statement. "We always try to incorporate feedback from school communities, and we’re glad we can accommodate a K-8 program in Queens with this proposal."
"We are not thrilled with the split site but unfortunately there is not a lot of room in district 30," STEM parent Michal Melamed wrote in an email to Insideschools. "We are thrilled with how quickly the DOE changed its mind."
The plan to move and expand the STEM program, now housed at PS 85, will have to be approved by the Panel for Educational Policy. In January, Chancellor Dennis Walcott gave the go-ahead for STEM to become a K-8 school with its own administration. Since then the DOE and parents have been looking for a location.
"The city is planning to divide the K-8 version of P.S. 85's citywide gifted program between two buildings, including one that is far from the nearest subway stop, upsetting parents who have been pushing for an expansion of the popular STEM Academy, parents said.
During a meeting at P.S. 85 Wednesday night, DOE officials told STEM parents they want to split-site the G&T program into two new schools — co-locating its younger classes at elementary school P.S. 76 and siting the middle school grades at I.S. 126, at 31-51 21st St., both identified by the city as underutilized.
STEM is currently a K-5 program housed at P.S. 85, at 23-70 31st St. in Astoria. The building doesn't have enough space to allow the program to expand through eighth grade, the DOE has said.
In the few days between the end of the state ELA exams and the start of this week's math tests, Brooklyn New School Principal Anna Allanbrook and her teachers reflected on testing in general, and this year's longer, harder, reading exams in particular. Here's an edited version of her letter to families about testing.
by Anna Allanbrook
The test was indeed harder than in the past, for a few reasons. On Day 1, the day of the multiple choice exam, there were many questions that appeared to have more than one answer. One principal from another school in Brooklyn joked that she would need to go to summer school as there were so many questions, which she thought had more than one correct answer.
The other problem was its length. Back in the 1990s, students spent one day doing an ELA test and one day doing a math test. Now, they must be tested for three days for each subject. The test is 70 minutes long for grades 3 and 4 and 90 minutes for grade 5. For some of our students, this was still not enough time. For students who were given extended time to take the test (due to IEP or 504 mandates), it was far too much time to spend sitting and thinking and writing. After the second hour of the third day, (and following two and a half days of pretty impressively sustained effort), one student had had enough. He only had two questions left, but he couldn't keep going. He banged his head on the desk so hard everyone in the room jumped.
Last week students in grades 3-8 sat for state standardized reading exams that were longer and harder than in previous years and, for the first time, aligned with the Common Core reform. Some students even ended up in tears, teachers said. This week, the same students are bracing for three days of math exams: Wednesday-Friday. An 8th-grader (who wishes to remain anonymous) from the Center School in Manhattan reflects on his testing experience last week and gives it -- and his performance -- low marks. Here's his report.
Because our principal has so much faith in her students, we all approach standardized tests without worry. I went into this one thinking it would be just like all the others I have taken -- not too hard. It turned out, on the whole, to be harder than it has been. It wasn't unbearable for me, even though I barely had enough time to complete some sections. The stories were quite long. Many were two pages, some three. I had to constantly look back, to reread several times, and that took time. A lot of the answers seemed to be equally valid and [based on] somebody's opinion, not fact.
(story updated 4/20/2013 & 4/21/2013 with numbers of affected children)
Pearson, the test company that administers the city's gifted and talented tests, miscalculated the scores for thousands of children, the company has acknowledged.
Pearson announced the mistake in a letter to parents late Friday afternoon, April 19, on the very day that parents were supposed to submit their applications. The application deadline has been extended until May 10, Chancellor Dennis Walcott said, and parents will get the results of rescored exams by April 29. Affected families will receive an update from the Education Department this weekend.
The DOE set up a hotline for G&T score-related questions. Call 1-888-705-9417.
The mistakes affected 4,735 children, or 13.2% of test takers. "Of these, 2,698 students (7.5% of test takers) who didn’t previously qualify for G&T now qualify for district programs; 2,037 students (5.7% of test takers) who previously qualified for district programs now also qualify for citywide programs," the DOE said.