For the past year and a half, a group of schools has been experimenting with ways to educate special education students more flexibly and in more inclusive classrooms. Now, Chancellor Dennis Walcott says the experiment, piloted in 265 schools, will be be rolled out to all schools in the 2012-2013 school year, according to a letter to principals last week.
The reform in special education is aimed at educating special needs children in the least restrictive settings possible, and, preferably, in their neighborhood schools, especially in elementary school. This might mean moving children from self-contained classes for special ed kids to larger classes that include general education students and have two teachers. Or it might mean grouping smaller numbers of students with similar disabilities into the same classrooms and providing extra help according to their needs.
Early data shows that fewer students have been recommended for more restrictive settings in "Phase I" schools than in those that have not yet adopted the reform, Walcott said. There has been a 16.6 percent decrease in recommendations of students to more restrictive environments in the Phase 1 schools, compared to a 3.9 percent decrease in other schools.
Can parents from schools with active Parents Associations help others from less-advantaged schools learn such basics as how to set up a PTA, run a fundraiser, or establish themselves as a non-profit? A newly formed parent group believes that they can and is reaching out to parents in all five boroughs to participate in a project called The Public School Parent Support Project.
Lisa Ableman and Rachel Fine, members of the active Parent's Association at PS 321 in Park Slope, decided to found the organization when they realized that there was no centralized place in the city for PAs and PTAs to connect with one another.
"Although most PTAs have similar general goals and are working toward some common ends, there is no good, central place for them to go to access and share information and resources," said Ableman. "Most PTAs function in relative isolation, replicating each other's learning curves, reinventing the wheel over and over again. Even individual PTAs themselves, often start over again year to year as new officers do not have a very good way of getting a primer on their roles and responsibilities"
Update Monday, Oct. 31: GothamSchools reports that Eva Moskowitz cut her presentation short on Saturday after parents protests disrupted the meeting. Opponents of the plan outnumbered parents who had come to learn about the proposed new school, Cobble Hill Success. The DOE proposed that the school would be housed in a building shared by two 6-12 schools: The School for International Studies and the Brooklyn School for Global Studies. A new Success school in Bedford-Stuyvesant would be housed in PS 59. The Panel for Educational Policy must approve the school openings and locations.
Friday's post: Eva Moskowitz, head of the Success charter network, will outline her plans for the new Cobble Hill Success Academy, at noon on Saturday at the Carroll Gardens Library. And, just like last year on the Upper West Side, she'll be confronted by neighborhood parents protesting the siting of a charter school in their neighborhood of largely high-performing schools serving a mostly middle class population.
A poll of 500 Cobble Hill residents conducted by the Success Network in September showed that 63% of residents supported “opening a new Success Academy charter school that will serve grades K through 8.” Other residents disagree, citing concerns that the charter school will take resources away from local public schools. They plan an 11 a.m. protest to "stop the co-location of charter schools in neighborhood schools".
Nine schools in Manhattan's District 2 and 11 schools in District 10 in the Bronx are so overcrowded that they cannot accept incoming zoned students in some grades. In all, the Department of Education approved capping enrollment for 73 elementary and middle schools as of mid-October, according to data released by the DOE. In schools where there is no room, zoned students may be bused to nearby schools.
Kindergarten was the grade most frequently capped, but at MS 80 in the Bronx, there was no space left on any grade, 6-8. PS/IS 194, a K-8 school in District 11, was similarly affected with all grades but 1st capped.
We at Insideschools face a mighty task — keeping up with all the city schools.
If we visited one school every school day, it would take us nearly 10 years to get to all 1,700 of them. Increasingly we depend on the Insideschools community — public school parents, students and educators-- to let us know what’s happening. What did we get right, what didn’t we get right? What’s changed since our visit? Our paid staff consists of two full-time editors, plus freelance writers and part-time reporters, and we can't do it alone.
The Department of Education identified 20 elementary and middle schools as "struggling" and targeted for "early engagement conversations" the first step in a process that could result in their closure. Yesterday's announcement by DOE official Marc Sternberg came a week after the release of 2011 Progress Report grades.
Schools that were put on notice received low grades (D, F, or C) on the Progress Reports and have low standardized test scores. A few of the schools, 11 of which are in Brooklyn, are relatively new and small, created to replace failing schools. Middle School of the Arts in Crown Heights replaced MS 391 and the General D. Chappie James elementary and middle school in Brownsville, in 2008 replaced the low-performing PS 183. Aspire is one of three replacement schools for MS 135 in the Bronx.
Interested in next year's Gifted and Talented programs? If your child will enter kindergarten through 3rd grade in fall 2012, you may register beginning today, Sept 26, for G & T testing in January and February. The Department of Education has scheduled information sessions in October, but you can save yourself from an evening in a hot, crowded auditorium if you read the Gifted & Talented Program Handbook online. The handbooks are also available at enrollment offices.
If you read through the directory and still are confused, then you may want to speak to a DOE official in person. Evening sessions--one in each borough except for the Bronx where there will be two--are held in large school auditoriums. Parents generally fill up the seats quickly, so go early if you plan to attend. The sessions run from 6 to 8 p.m., and begin on Oct. 5 in Manhattan. (See the schedule below).
Applying to middle school in New York City is usually not just as simple as enrolling in your neighborhood school. Many districts offer a choice of schools and students must fill out an application. Some districts have zoned schools; others do not, but even in the districts with zoned schools, there are always other options.
How do parents find out about these options? The Department of Education sponsors middle school fairs in all districts that offer school choice. At these evening fairs (from 5:30-7:30 p.m.) families and 5th-graders meet representatives from each school. While fairs are a great way for parents and students to meet with staff and students and to ask questions, they are no substitute for attending a school tour or open house. Check schools' websites, or call schools to find out about their tour and open house schedule.
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."
As spruced-up kids headed for school today, many toted large plastic bags and backpacks filled with school supplies, paid for by parents who may have spent upwards of $100 to fulfill their teachers' wishlists.
At nearby PS 321, where a hyper-active parents association raises hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, mothers and fathers crammed the aisles of office supply stores and drugstores, buying dozens of items.