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Saturday, March 28, 2009

High School Choice, Supplemental Round

If your child didn't receive a placement in the first high school choice round or you want to appeal a high school placement you should use the insideschools report as your guide. It is thorough and has some good suggestions for schools in every borough. If you don't like the school to which your child was assigned you may appeal, but it is very rare to have an appeal granted. Sometimes the numbers just don't work out and some very good schools still have spots. Sometimes really promising new schools need some help getting their numbers the first couple of years. Just because schools have spots left over doesn't necessarily make them undesirable programs, the same way that there are terrific students out there that didn't get placements. You just need to find each other.
These are some schools that I think may be attractive to Brooklyn parents:
Bedford Academy: This small selective school has a 4 year graduation rate of almost 95%.
Brooklyn High School for the Arts: This school has a focused student body that produces beautiful work. It is centrally located at the transportation hub by Atlantic Center.
City Polytechnic High School of Engineering, Architecture and Technology (City Poly High): This brand new school has a dynamic principal and a great partnership with Poly Tech. It is located right downtown and is poised to be a very strong program.
Science, Technology and Research (STAR) at the Erasmus Campus: This early college program is rigorous and successful.
Sunset Park High School: This brand new school is in a brand new building. A very experienced and talented principal and tons of community support make this school a good bet.
Global Learning Collaborative: This Manhattan school has a partnership with the Asia Society. The students will participate in project based, experiential learning.
High School for Language and Diplomacy: This new program also has the Asia Society as a partner. The principal is a former diplomat and Chinese will be integrated into the whole curriculum. I was very interested in this program at the New HS Fair.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Brooklyn School of Inquiry

This is information from the Brooklyn School of Inquiry's brochure.
"Within our self-contained classes, you'll find enrichment and a variety of accelerated teaching styles geared toward children with superior intellectual potential."

Their Philosophy: "Brooklyn School of Inquiry believes gifted and talented students require a curriculum of diverse content and great depth to realize their full potential. We are committed to the whole child: our goal is to balance the social, emotional and academic development of our students in an environment that nurtures creativity and fosters divergent thinking. We believe parents play a crucial role in the daily life and long-term growth of their children's school. It is through this vital home/school connection that we will partner with parents to build a sense of responsibility in children about the importance of attendance, punctuality and homework. Together, we will create a community that values sensitivity and respect for others. We support the development of self expression through dance, theatre, music, painting and drawing. Collaboration with many New York City cultural institutions enables us to promote the arts both in and outside of our classrooms."
The Academic Curriculum: "differentiated integrated curriculum, infusing Science, Social Studies and Literacy into thematic studies shaped by the New York State Framework for Grades K-8. The studies will include independent and group hands-on projects to foster questioning and the development of critical thinking skills. Math inquiry will involve interpreting, organizing, and constructing meaning of situations using mathematical models to develop number sense. Homework is a logical extension of the school day and serves to reinforce the skills, techniques, and information learned during school hours."
Language Arts: reading in all genres, and "writing projects including poetry, realistic and historical fiction, feature articles, comic books, interviews, persuasive essays and literary analysis and criticism." Readers and Writers Workshop.
Mathematics: "The curriculum is aligned with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics standards. The goal is to help students learn to apply mathematics to everyday life and the world around them and to become confident by communicating and reasoning mathematically, both verbally and in writing." City College Math in the City Contextual Investigations.
Social Studies: "Students explore their communities and study world and American history and culture, within thematic interdisciplinary units that integrate language arts, music and the arts."
Science: "Our hands-on discovery approach invites students to theorize, hypothesize, observe and draw conclusions using the F.O.S.S. differentiated kits."
Social and Emotional Curriculum: "our counseling program is designed to be preventative an developmental. Guidance counselors will see students on an individual basis as well as during classroom lessons where they'll teach skills and share information in small-group settings.
The program will also include:
Preventive and Developmental Social and Emotional Counseling Program, SENG Model (Gifted Parent Group), Technology Education, Chess Instruction, Arts Integration, Academic Intervention and Enrichment Program.

The description of the different subject areas is similar to the regular citywide curriculum, and programs that are present in many quality general ed schools in Brooklyn. The difference will probably come in the level of support (including developmental and emotional) and the method and rate of acceleration within these programs. If I get any more specifics I will pass them on.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

New Brooklyn Citywide G and T schools

According to insideschools blog the new citywide gifted and talented schools that we have been waiting for since last fall have been announced. Two of them will be located in Brooklyn. The Brooklyn School of Inquiry in Bay Ridge (correction: Bensonhurst) will be able to accommodate two kindergartens and two 1st grades next year. The TIER program at PS 20 will have space for one kindergarten and one 1st grade next year. If the citywide G&T policy remains the same the number of students attending likely depends on the number of children who score at the 97th percentile and above whose parents decide to send them to this program.

The Brooklyn School of Inquiry will be housed in a brand new building at 50 Ave. P in Bay Ridge (correction: Bensonhurst). It will open with kindergarten and 1st grade students in the fall and eventually go through 8th grade. The school will incorporate "looping" where a teacher follows a class for two years. According to Pamela Wheaton from Donna Taylor will be the principal. "She is an experienced teacher of gifted classes (she taught in the G&T class at PS 230 in Brooklyn) and is now doing a residency at the Anderson School." It sounds very promising.

The Technology, Inquiry, Enrichment and Research (TIER) program will be housed in PS 20 in the same building as Arts and Letters Middle School in Ft. Greene. It will also enroll kindergarten and 1st grade next fall and is planned to grow to 5th grade. A site is being sought for eventual middle school expansion (correction: "The Department of Education is working to identify nearby middle schools where students in these programs can continue after fifth grade.") The TIER program will be a part of PS 20 with Mr. Keaton as its Principal.

It looks like there will be another school located in the Ave. P building. Rather than being a G&T program, it is a CTT model school. The Academy of Talented Scholars will accept children into kindergarten and 1st grade next year and grow to 5th grade. They will develop skills through inquiry and project based learning, schoolwide enrichment for all students and differentiated instruction through Technology and Arts. Families interested in applying to the school should contact the Brooklyn Borough Enrollment Office.

Friday, March 13, 2009

NUTS again

This was one of my earliest posts, but I went to parent/teacher conferences last night and I think that it is still relevant.

I invented a new sport in my mind tonight. “In my mind” is my favorite kind of sport because I always win. I went to Parent/Teacher conferences at Murrow. We are blessed with a “Type A” perfectionist. I have nothing to complain to her teachers about and it is usually a 3-minute love fest. (Hey, I like my compliments cheap and often) The trick is to see all of the teachers in the 2 hours allotted. I need my teacher face time.

Let me explain the rules. You wait with hundreds of other parents in a giant shivering mass outside the school doors like it’s a Who concert with festival seating. (Imagine how those teachers feel, trapped inside with only an endless line of “issues” before them) If you are an “elite” NUTS player like myself, you have a list of teachers and room numbers coded by location. In a school the size of Murrow, this is key. You race to the farthest room, sign your name on the list outside the door and repeat on all lists in the near vicinity. Then you send your husband who is having trouble reading the map to sign up on other floors. (This may be a tactical error) If you are positioned outside the door when your name comes up on the list, you may go in and have your 3 minutes. If you arrive back to the classroom after your name has already been called you go to the end of the now endless list. The art of it is to fit in a couple of the less popular teachers between the majors. The team who finishes all their conferences in the least amount of time gets to go home and have a stiff drink.

10pts off for brow beating the poor student organizing the list outside the door.
5pts for doing the quick switch with the team right behind you on the list when you arrive just a minute too late.
2pts off for getting cornered by the candy sellers
10pts for giving them a $5 and not taking any candy
5pts for snagging a chair
10pts off for erasing names ahead of you on the list
10pts for visiting the phys ed. Teacher
Good Luck and may the GAMES BEGIN!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"What's up with School Choice?"

Hey Brooklyn District 13, 14, 15 PTAs!
I am offering a free talk to Elementary Schools this spring called "What's up with Middle School Choice?" I just finished the first one at PS 154 to a very positive response - "funny graphics", "can you do it again?... every year?... twice a year?" In just 20 short minutes a painless intro to the process your guidance counselor will go into detail about next fall.

Hi Middle Schools, do you want one too? I am happy to come to your PTA meeting and describe the High School Choice Process. It is a little longer, about 30 minutes, but it is in color! No power point - I go old school with real hand made visual aids. (I painted Broadway scenery for two decades, who needs new tricks?)

These talks are designed to calm and enlighten. Knowledge is power and understanding is the best way to chill. Then you can spend your summer at the beach reading the DOE HS Directory and not freaking out, because you "get it". write to book a date.

Friday, March 6, 2009


I was just running some numbers from the DOE's PreK directory.
The totals that I list here are not the number of applications or first choices. They are the total number of choices made on all of the applications. We don't have enough information to know definitively how difficult it is to get a spot in your zoned PreK, but comparing the differences in the various districts is interesting. When you compare the numbers of available PreK seats to the number of Kindergarten seats there is a wide discrepancy in many schools.

3403 applicants for preK seats in District 15 (Carrol Gardens, Cobble Hill, Red Hook, Boerum Hill, Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Sunset Park to Park Slope South) according to the DOE. This doesn't include the numbers for the Brooklyn New School and the Childrens school which we can safely assume are in the hundreds.

Total number of full time seats available are 743, this number DOES include the New School and the Childrens school.
Total number of part time seats available are 360 part time seats (2.5 hours) which are not popular with the majority of parents who work.

2350 applicants for preK seats in District 20 (Bay Ridge)
Total number of full time seats available are 242
Total number of part time seats available are 576

839 applicants for preK seats in District 13 (Brooklyn Heights, Dumbo, Ft. Greene, Clinton Hill, Western Bed-Stuy)
Total number of full time seats available are 642
Total number of part time seats available are NONE

1003 applicants for preK seats in District 14 (Williamsburg/Greenpoint)
Total number of full time seats available are 588
Total number of part time seats available are 108

Some of the total number of seats and the breakdowns are off because occasionally information for a program is listed as N/A. Not sure why.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Pre-K Registration

This is my report on the Public PreK Information Session
There is a session Wednesday March 4 at 6:30 at Brooklyn Tech HS. All sessions will cover similar material but it is a good forum to get your questions answered.

The directories and applications for Public PreK will be available on Friday, March 6 at your local Elementary School, online and at the District Enrollment Offices. The DOE is holding information sessions all over the city for the next 2 weeks. All the sessions will give the same info. Thank you to Kim Cobb and her great crew for really trying to make this process better and for giving props to the parents who worked so hard over the year to fix the system. After you read this and go to an info session and pour over your directory on Friday, if you have questions, the best way to get them answered is to write: While you are at it, say hi to Michael, who will probably be answering your question. You can call 212 374-4948 but it will take much longer. Remember, there are a lot of you and not a lot of them.

I went to the first information session last night and here are the main things that are different from last year.
You can apply for the PreK lottery online.
They have tried to make the application more user friendly.
You can apply to more schools.
There is a new column in the Directory that tells you how many families put each school as 1st choice last year to give you an idea of your chances (it doesn't tell you how many are in-zone families, or how many siblings were accepted) correction: it lists the number of families that applied for the school in round one (no matter what choice that they placed it as) as well as the number of seats in the preK program.
None of the paperwork is going to Pa. this year.

If your child turns 4 in the calendar year 2009 (their 4 year birthday is Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 2009) and you live in NYC, your child is eligible for Public PreK in Sept. 2009. This doesn't mean that there are enough seats to go around.

This is NOT a first come first served process. You have a little time to weigh your choices. The application deadline is April 3. All applications are treated the same whether they are returned March 7 or April 2.

1. You need to get your hands on a Directory. You can pick one up on Friday March 6 at your local PS, find it online or at a DOE office. The application is included in the Directory or online. The Directory includes programs at local Public Schools. These are the schools that you try for in the lottery. It also includes a list of CBO's (Community Based Organizations) You need to go to those programs individually and talk to them about their individual application processes. They are not included in the lottery.

2. You need to know what school zone and District that you live in. The zones are your immediate neighborhood and the District is the larger area. The zones have weird shapes and the school that is closest may not always be your zoned school. It has nothing to do with your zip code. You can find that out by calling 311 and telling the operator your exact street address. (This is easy and fast to do)

3. This process is a lottery, but there are priorities. If you have an older child attending the school you get first priority. To make things complicated (and fair) there is priority within the sibling group (first zoned sibs, then sibs with no zone or no preK at their zoned school, then out of zone in district, etc.) If you are in the zone you get second priority. If you are living outside the zone but inside the District you get third priority. If you live outside the District you have fourth priority. Essentially, if you want the priority you need to place that choice first. Because of the new Kindergarten pre-application process, children who will be attending K in fall 09 will be technically considered sibs in a school. There is a special place to list them on the application because they are not currently in the school.
You can list as many choices as you like, but the likelihood of getting a spot if you live outside the zone of a popular school is small. Keep in mind that PM half day classes are often the least sought after spots even in popular schools. The column in the directory that shows how many families placed a school as a choice and how many actual seats it has will be very telling in making your decision.

4. The application deadline is April 3. It seems like a really good idea to do the online application. They have done a lot to make it user friendly and to help you to avoid mistakes that might be made filling out the paper app. When you send it online they immediately send an email receipt and you can receive the result the week of May 18 as an email and a paper letter. If you want to make changes to your online app. after you have sent it you can log on again, change the info and resubmit it before the deadline. The last one you send is the one that counts. You can list multiple programs in the same school as different choices (eg. "AM" program is one choice, "Full time" is a second choice and "PM" could be a third choice). If you decide to fill out the paper application BE VERY NEAT. NO ABBREVIATIONS IN THE ADDRESS. Double check your code numbers. Mail it in the envelop provided (don't use any fancy envelops or return receipt or Fed Ex). Make copies of your application before you send it. You must wait for your receipt about 3 weeks. The placement decisions will arrive the week of May 18. When you receive your placement bring your child and 2 proofs of address, child's immunization record and Birth Certificate to register at the school according to the instructions you will receive. There will be no waiting lists, but there will be a second round if there are unfilled seats. Placement in a PreK program does not guarantee placement in that school for Kindergarten.

Heh Parents of Twins! Siblings who are the same age (twins, step siblings, foster children etc.) are considered together. There is a special place on the application to indicate that two siblings are filling out two applications at the same time. If one gets a seat the other will get one too as long as there is another seat available. If one gets a seat and the other one doesn't let them know at Enrollment and they will do their best to help. I really believe that they will.