As I predicted on Wednesday, most of the schools that didn't fill up in the main round of the high school admissions process are either brand new or have reputations that are mixed at best. But there are always hidden gems that still have spots open: either new schools led by educators with a strong track record or excellent programs inside middling high schools. In an article that it unfortunately must reprise every year, Insideschools runs down the options for the nearly 7,500 students who didn't get a high school match this week. The site is also asking its users to recommend schools on the Department of Education's three-page list of available spots. I see a handful of schools on the list that look like they might be solid choices for students still looking for a high school spot. One, The Cinema School, is the selective school in the Bronx that will be run in partnership with the Ghetto Film School. I was also impressed by Brooklyn's School for International Studies when I visited several years ago, and I've heard good things from students who have since attended. And the progressive Queens School of Inquiry, which is adding a ninth grade in the fall, was one of the more memorable schools I've visited; it was at QSI where I first encountered competitive speed-stacking. Do you see other schools you'd recommend on the list (which you can read in full below the jump)? If so, for what kind of student?
A play-based kindergarten class. Via Flickr Kindergarten used to be a time when children dressed up in costumes, built cities out of blocks, and pretended to cook feasts in play kitchens. But now 5-year-olds are more likely to spend their school days practicing basic literacy and math skills. In fact, kindergartners in New York City spend less than 30 minutes a day on creative play, several recent studies have found. The shift toward academic kindergarten might boost children's test scores in the short term but is not likely to make them successful in the long term, according to "Kindergarten in Crisis," a report released this week by the Alliance for Childhood, a coalition of child development researchers. From the report: The power of play as the engine of learning in early childhood and as a vital force for young children’s physical, social, and emotional development is beyond question. Children in play-based kindergartens have a double advantage over those who are denied play: they end up equally good or better at reading and other intellectual skills, and they are more likely to become well-adjusted healthy people. The trend toward academic kindergarten isn't news for anyone who's been paying attention to the city's public schools for very long. Back in 2006, my former colleague Clara Hemphill tackled the subject in a column in the New York Times.
A figure from Bill De Blasio's report showing how many teachers' salaries could be supported by each assessment expenditure. The Department of Education could foot the salaries of more than a thousand teachers with the money it spends measuring and promoting student performance, according to a report released today by City Council member Bill De Blasio. By reducing spending on developing, administering, and grading tests, and by cutting the department's media relations office, the DOE could save more than $57 million a year, De Blasio's office found. That would be enough to support the salaries of 1,038 teachers who earn an average of $50,000 a year. At today's City Council hearing about the DOE's budget, De Blasio, who is running for public advocate, told Schools Chancellor Joel Klein that he is "perplexed by the notion that assessment is somehow more valuable than front-line" school staff. The department's preliminary budget for the upcoming fiscal year includes potential teacher layoffs, but it does not call for substantial cuts to the DOE's accountability office. Klein defended spending on assessment even when budgets are tight, saying that teachers cannot do their jobs without good student performance data.
President Obama might have spoken too soon when he said the federal stimulus could prevent teacher layoffs in New York City. Depending on how state legislators choose to disburse the stimulus funds, the city could still be looking at a loss of 2,000 teachers, Schools Chancellor Joel Klein told members of the City Council's education committee this morning. The city Department of Education believes it is entitled to 41 percent of the state's $2.4 billion in education stimulus funds because it receives 41 percent of state funds overall, Klein said today at the council's hearing on the DOE's preliminary budget for the fiscal year that begins on July 1. This formula would give the DOE more than $500 million in stabilization funds, allowing it to avoid teacher layoffs. But he said some lawmakers "are taking a different view," instead suggesting that the city should receive a third of the state's stimulus money for schools because it serves a third of the state's public school students. Under this scenario, the DOE would receive just $360 million in stabilization funds, and about 2,000 teachers would have to be laid off. Klein, who was in Albany yesterday to lobby for the city schools, declined to identify the lawmakers to reporters after his testimony, saying that the negotiations are internal and ongoing. Either way, cuts to schools' non-teaching staff would be severe, Klein said, with a minimum of about 2,500 positions being lost in the first scenario and as many as 25 percent of school-based non-teaching staff positions being eliminated in the second. These positions include school aides, family workers, and other school personnel.
The logo of the Brooklyn KIPP school where teachers have asked to join the union. From the school's ##http://www.kippamp.org/home/##web site##. In their first-ever appearance together since they became locked in an organizing dispute in January, the KIPP charter school network and the city teachers union remained at odds earlier this week over a petition by Brooklyn KIPP teachers to join the union. In a conference before the state labor board, the union implored a judge to make the teachers' petition official. KIPP officials asked instead that the state conduct a secret-ballot election of teachers before deciding whether to grant them a union. A wide majority of teachers at KIPP AMP have already turned in cards confirming that they want to unionize. New York state law only requires that card-check majority in order for public employees to form a union. "We think an election is a fair way to accurately decide, in a democratic process. We believe in an election," David Levin, the superintendent of KIPP New York told me in an interview yesterday. Leo Casey, a vice president of the union, called the move a stalling tactic. "The bottom line is that they’re trying to drag it out, and they still refuse to accept that their teachers want to have a union at this point," Casey told me in an interview yesterday. "But the law is the law." The Public Employee Relations Board is expected to make a decision in the next 30 days. The skirmish is part of a larger battle between charter school supporters who believe the schools' selling point is the fact that their teachers are not represented by unions — and teachers unions, which across the country are fighting to recruit charter school teachers into their fold.
Eighth graders at many middle schools this afternoon enacted one of the more emotional rituals of New York City public school life: Comparing their high school placement letters. Back in December, each eighth grader submitted an application ranking up to 12 high schools, joined by a handful of high school freshmen hoping to change schools for tenth grade. Then the Department of Education's computer system matched applicants to schools based on their qualifications and preferences. (Check out Insideschools for a more detailed description of the matching process.) Today, students found out what result the computer spat out for them. The DOE announced today that 86 percent of the 86,169 applicants matched with one of their top five high school picks, and that 91 percent matched with a school somewhere on their list. About 6,000 students found out their high school options last month by scoring high enough on the specialized high school exam to win admission to one of those schools, or by winning admission to LaGuardia, the city's elite performing arts school. The DOE delivers match letters to middle schools, and the schools pass them on to their students.
Next year, the state's English tests could be missing one crucial component: writing. That's the conclusion that educators are drawing after the Board of Regents weighed a proposal earlier this month to eliminate the open-ended question section of the state's standardized tests — the only part of the third through eighth grade testing regime that asks students to write out their answers in sentences. The proposal is one of several ideas the Board of Regents, the state panel that sets New York's education policy, is considering in order to speed up the test-grading process, following a new federal regulation ordering states to tell schools sooner whether or not they are meeting states standards. (State test scores play a large part in making that decision.) Changing the way the tests are graded could also cut costs. The Regents have been studying how to meet the new federal requirement for almost a year. The prospect of scrapping writing first surfaced publicly when the Regents published the findings of a survey the board conducted to study the question. Of 22,000 parents and educators surveyed, 85% said the essay questions should remain.