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We are researching schools for our child who will be entering kindergarten next year. All the reviews I’ve read have been wonderful; the teachers, the principal, kids, parents, new math program. So I was a bit surprised that it had a low grade on the 2011-12 NYC DOE progress report. Cou you could offer any more insight?
Dear Prospective parent,
Your experience confirms ours: don’t judge the school by its letter grade alone. The letter on a school’s report is shorthand for a number of different measures and it helps to have some technical knowledge and persistence to understand it. Your question is a timely one not only for families applying to kindergarten but for 8th graders looking for a high school too. High School Progress Reports for 2011-2012 were released yesterday!
Does size matter when it comes to high school? A November City Limits article makes the case that mid-sized high schools -- those enrolling between 1,000 and 1,300 students -- are the "sweet spot" for students: small enough that students get personal attention, but large enough to offer many sports teams, clubs and a wide variety of courses.
In the years since Mayor Bloomberg and his chancellors have been closing poorly performing schools, they have replaced them mostly with small schools, of fewer than 600 students. They have not replicated some of the most sought-after mid-sized schools, such as the perennially popular Beacon High School in Manhattan, or High School for Telecommunications Arts in Brooklyn. In fact, only 20 out of some 554 New York City high schools enroll between 1,000 and 1,300 students, according to Class of 2013: Life in the "Sweet Spot"," an article written for City Limits by Helen Zelon.
As part of her year-long City Limits series about this year's high school seniors, Zelon profiles four students who attend Telecommunications. They say they appreciate the diversity of their classmates and course offerings -- things they might not have gotten at smaller schools.
This week and next, 8th graders will make their final decision on where to apply to high school. Size is certainly a factor to consider, but their choice mostly comes down to small or gigantic -- not the mid-size "sweet spot" Zelon writes about.
Read the full story on City Limits: Class of 2013: Life in the Sweet Spot: Amid the debate over whether small high schools have fixed—or added to—problems with large city high schools, four students at "Tele" are happy to be stuck in the middle.
The fifth graders, dressed in white shirts and navy slacks or shirts, sit in neat rows as the teacher offers up some basic principles of division. "How can you divide 0 into 64 pieces?" she asks, before telling them to write a definition in their notebook–taking care to write neatly and use complete sentences.
Down the hall, an English teacher offers explicit directions to another group of children. "If you do not have your written material, wait and put your hand in the air," she says. "Every binder should be zipped and standing next to your desk."
This middle school, Brooklyn Ascend in Brownsville, goes beyond academic basics–students read Shakespeare and study art, Spanish and music. But it smacks of discipline and tradition. The school's founder, Steven Wilson, says such routines avoid wasted time.
"We have a tremendous amount of work to do here to overcome deficiencies" that the school's largely low-income, black students arrive at the school with, Wilson says. "Teachers leading very purposeful activities are the way to allow our students to catch up and make a middle-class life."
For almost a decade, schools such as Brooklyn Ascend have represented the face of charter schools in New York City. Overwhelmingly black and Hispanic, they stress academics and discipline in their efforts to push children in the city's most blighted neighborhoods to excel academically.
Now, though, charter schools in Brooklyn have entered a new phase. Led by Eva Moskowitz, whose Success Academy network is the city's largest and most controversial group of charters, operators have started to open charter schools in more diverse and affluent parts of the city, including Williamsburg, Cobble Hill and Fort Greene. To attract parents in these areas, some schools now stress diversity and a more progressive curriculum...
(Read the rest of this story, "Charters Target Middle Class Brooklyn" on City Limits.)
The Department of Education will make up for the five school days and instructional time lost due to Hurricane Sandy, by taking away several vacation days and offering online classes to middle and high school students who have been severely impacted by the storm.
The February President's Day holiday week will be shortened by three days and elementary and middle schools will be in session all day on June 4, previously slated to be a half-day clerical day, the chancellor announced yesterday in a letter to families.
Today, the chancellor said that middle and high school students who missed even more days of school because they were displaced from their schools or homes, will be offered online courses to help make up for time away from class and to help prevent "learning loss." Online classes will be offered in English, math, economics, calculus, world history and Spanish, according to a DOE press release. The city's libraries will provide internet access to students who need it. The courses will be taught by teachers in iZone, the DOE's program which provides online tools to many schools, and others experienced in online instruction.
Q: We are trying to decide between two high schools for my son, who is a bright and articulate young man with very strong science and math skills. Both high schools stress science. One has been around for 50 years, a "specialized" high school with a very good reputation. The other is one of the newly-organized programs in an old neighborhood high school. Which school will college admissions offices look at better? What are the benefits and negatives of each program?
A: For the benefits of each of these high schools, you ought to go to the information on the individual school page on Insideschools. There is no "right" answer for all students. Which school will involve more commuting? How large are the classes? What is the overall atmosphere of each school?
In terms of college, the answer is this: when college admissions readers look at your son's application, they will look at what he was offered, and what he classes he took.
If, for example, a school offers 15 AP courses, and he took only two, they will not be terribly impressed. They will see a picture of academic fear, even if his grades are strong. They will not compare your son's record, say, at the specialized school with applicants who chose to attend the neighborhood school. They will only look at him in the context of his own school.
To better inform colleges, every high school in the U.S. prepares a document called the profile. A "profile" can range from a slick, full-color brochure to a simple photocopied sheet. But the information contained is always standard: the size of the school, the number of students, the number of teachers, the courses offered, the grading scale used, the percentage of graduates who go on to higher education, and the colleges and universities where the students have been accepted and enrolled. More elaborate profiles will also contain information on average SAT scores, Regents scores, AP statistics, clubs and other extra-curricular activities and any special distinctions the school has earned.
Here are some other questions to consider: What are the average Regents exam scores at these schools? Where have the recent graduates of each school gone on to college? Which school offers more of the extra-curricular activities that will give your son the opportunity to shine? If he is a math-science kid, does the school have a competitive math team?
Beyond looking at college acceptances, remember that your son will be in high school for as long as he will be in college. These are important years, and he should enjoy them. Visit each school and think of where he has the better chance of having an exciting and stimulating and happy four years! It might help him to be able to speak with currently-enrolled students in each school. He has a little more time now that the due date for high school applications has been pushed back a week to Dec. 10.
Eighth graders will have a little more time to explore their high school options after the Department of Education announced Friday it would extend the application deadline until Dec. 10, one week later than the original due date of Dec. 3.
The DOE cited "hardships due to Hurricane Sandy" in an email message to families. Students may list up to 12 schools on their applications and turn them in to middle school guidance counselors by Monday, Dec. 10. This is the latest of several storm-related delays in the application season. This weekend 8th and 9th graders are taking the specialized high school exams, postponed from October because of Hurricane Sandy.
Students may use the extra time to tour schools and go to open houses, which were cancelled or postponed when schools were closed for a week.
Families researching high school options should also check out Insideschools videos about choosing a high school and our new list of noteworthy special education programs. We have posted new reviews and slides shows of dozens of high schools, the latest of which are posted on our homepage.
UPDATE November 20: For a rundown of what the mayoral candidates had to say at the Monday night forum, see the Class Size Matters blog and the New York Times. Bottom line: sparks did not fly and there was more agreement than disagreement on the issues. None would "do away" with mayoral control.
The annual Blackboard Awards will celebrate their 10th anniversary on Monday, Nov 19th, with a cocktail reception and panel discussion among mayoral hopefuls Christine Quinn, Bill deBlasio, John Liu, Tom Allon, Scott Stringer, Bill Thompson and Adolfo Carrión Jr. The forum — moderated by Insideschools' alums Lindsey Christ and Phillissa Cramer — will likely be the first of many education roundtables for the candidates.
Sponsored by Manhattan Media and Fordham University, The Blackboard Awards will honor their picks for the city's best schools, teachers and principals and will be hosted by MSNBC anchor Richard Lui at Fordham Law School on West 62nd Street. The panel starts at 4 pm, followed by a cocktail hour at 5:30 and the awards at 6:15. RSVP info is on our calendar.
Also on Monday night, Advocates for Children will host a meeting for parents to discuss what education issues they'd like to see the next mayor tackle: "Shaping an education agenda for the next mayor." RSVP info here. Parents interested in the topic should mark their calendars for December 8th, as well, for a parent-organized "Charette" on the same topic.
Are you looking to have a voice in deciding policy issues for your child’s education? Have you been concerned about what mayoral control of the schools has done to parent participation and what it will be like under future mayors?
The event will focus on the question: What might REAL “parent engagement” look like in NYC’s public schools?
Organizers Liz Rosenberg, Kemala Karmen and Dionne Grayman -- all mothers from Brooklyn -- are inviting parents from every district to join them in an all day forum called a “charrette”-- defined as an “intensive creative brainstorming session in which a mixed group of stakeholders generate workable ideas and collaborate on an action plan.”
The day after Hurricane Sandy blew through the eastern seaboard, a social worker in Manhattan was frantic to track down a little girl on Long Island. The child is 2 years old and lives with her foster mother in a neighborhood that had been slammed by the storm. She had a tracheotomy when she was a baby, and needs a feeding tube to eat and an oxygen machine to breath. No one knew whether the family had been evacuated or where they were.
When the social worker finally reached the foster mother, it turned out she was at home, without heat or electricity. She’d been trekking to a nearby hospital to keep the girl’s medical equipment battery pack charged. “It wasn’t sustainable,” says Arlene Goldsmith, executive director of the child’s foster care agency, New Alternatives for Children. “But we hated the idea of separating her from the foster mother. That’s the last thing you want.” Instead, the agency—which had sent its fleet of seven vans to Connecticut to fill up on gas—was able to get hold of a generator. Once she had power, the foster mother also took in the girl’s brother, who’d been made homeless by the storm.
Even in normal times, child welfare is largely a system of crisis management: The city pays social service agencies not only to find foster homes for kids, but to provide services that prevent families from falling apart, working with parents before they come at risk of losing their children.
(Read the rest of this story, "Child Welfare in the Storm: What Happens to Vulnerable Families after a Disaster? "on the Child Welfare Watch blog)
Has there been official word about making kindergarten mandatory and the cut-off birth date for admission? I heard there have been some changes in admissions rules this year.
There have been questions and confusion about this issue since last summer when the governor signed into law a bill authorizing New York City to "require minors who are five years of age on or before December first to attend kindergarten instruction."
The city has not yet acted to make kindergarten compulsory, but it has clarified that the cut-off birth date is still Dec. 31, not Dec. 1. While I can't say this is official, it is close.