Monday, August 25

New site for our blog

Faithful readers (and intrepid beta-testers) know that Insideschools' long-anticipated website redesign will launch later this week. We're aiming to get everything up and running ahead of the new school year -- eight days and counting!

As a preview, the blog is migrating to the new site today, Monday, August 25th. Here's a quick link to our new e-home, please pay us a visit. And you can always access the blog from the Insideschools home page.

As ever, we welcome your comments and appreciate your support. Thanks and see you on the new site.

Reminder: To comment on posts, please click over to the new site. Comments here are closed but the new blog's comment queues are wide open.

Friday, August 22

Weekly news round-up: charters, asbestos, and incentives

As parents and students begin gearing up for the new school year, the news this week was dominated by the standard – yet colossal and complicated – contemporary education debates, including charter schools, standardized testing, and incentives.

Mayor Bloomberg kicked off the week by announcing that 18 new charter schools would open in the city this fall. The Times opened a Q and A between readers and James D. Merriman IV, the chief executive of the New York City Center for Charter School Excellence. The Sun editorialized in favor of charter schools and private school vouchers. The Daily News wrote about Bay Ridge, Brooklyn parents who oppose a charter school moving into public school buildings.

A Newsday reporter who set out to prove that the Regents exams were easy by taking the U.S. History test unprepared scored a 97 and made his point. Meanwhile, students’ scores on the Advanced Placement tests were released, and the apparently mixed results of pay-for-scores programs vaulted the issue of monetary incentives back into the papers. Employees of the Princeton Review, a high-profile national testing company, made a serious computer error that resulted in 34,000 Florida public school students' private information available to anyone online.

Several disheartening stories involved special education students: allegations of abuse in one city school, asbestos in another, and concerns over special education bus service for the fall. A disabled teacher sued, claiming his epilepsy cost him his job, and a national story about corporal punishment (legal in schools in 21 states but not New York) found that special education students – as well as minority and low income students – disproportionately felt the paddle.

And a couple of journalists used the end of the summer to ask key questions about the future. What will happen to No Child Left Behind, now that Bush is on his way out and a new president is on his way in? Will mayoral control be renewed by the state legislature, especially since Klein and Bloomberg have largely ignored politicians’ education opinions? And where does Obama really stand on education, as supporters of several different ­– and sometimes competing – initiatives claim to be in alignment with the candidate? Education mysteries abound.

Pre-K spots STILL open, per DOE

The DOE has updated its pre-K registers and says there are half- and full-day spots open at some city schools. Have a look at their updated directory to see what's available; registration begins next Thursday, the 28th and wraps up on the first day of school.

Some parents have written in to say their kids didn't get placements or were offered pre-K seats far from their homes. The frustrations are real (and the time before school is short). Here's hoping that the Pre-K Borough Enrollment staff help resolve open questionsand that the DOE responds to the outspoken demand for seats in good schools by expanding pre-K opportunities.

Cash for school: The D.C. variation

Looks like Washington, D.C. schools head Michelle Rhee is borrowing another page from her mentor's playbook; see this story for her proposal, modeled on Klein's prototype, that students at 14 District middle schools earn up to $200 a month for steady attendance.

That's some kind of walking-around money for young teens and forces some tough questions: What do we teach kids when we pay them to show up? And where's the equity in rewarding some students but not others? What of the kids in schools who aren't getting paid to come to school -- do they strike for their 'due wages'? Badger their parents for allowances that match the city's incentive pay? The mind boggles.

Last-minute registration info from DOE

For students new to the city or returning to city schools after an out-of-school hiatus, the DOE is opening Registration Centers, beginning Monday August 25th. The centers will be open from 8am-3pm, but will be closed on Labor Day. A few caveats:

Registration centers can enroll all new high-school students and elementary and middle-school students without a zoned school. (Go to a registration center in the borough where you reside.) If you have a zoned elementary or middle school (call 311 or visit the DOE for information), register there beginning September 2, the first day of school.

Families of special-needs students who will be in collaborative-team-teaching (CTT), self-contained, or District 75 placements should visit their Borough Enrollment/Committee on Special Education office to register.

In order to register, parents and other guardians must bring proof of residence (see particulars here for what's required). Also bring your child's birth certificate (or passport), immunization record, and latest report card or transcript, if one is available. Special needs families are encouraged to bring their child's IEP and/or 504 Accommodation Program if they're available.

Registration centers will remain open until September 12th. And along with all the paperwork, don't forget to bring your child -- parents who show up sans students will not be permitted to complete the registration process.

Thursday, August 21

Fewer dangerous city schools

The good news, from the DOE and the State, is that crime in the city's schools is on the wane: Of 25 city schools described as persistently dangerous by the State last year, 15 were removed from the list in light of improved safety and lower crime. The downside is that 11 city schools remain on the danger list. New York City also added more schools (six) to the state's list than any other area of the state.

In counterpoint, Comptroller William Thomson asserts that as many as one in five violent/criminal/safety incidents that occur in schools go improperly or incompletely reported. City leaders hope that a proposed amendment to the City Charter will improve school security by directing complaints of police misconduct to the Civilian Complaint Review Board (not the current norm) and requiring regular reporting on school violence to the DOE and NYPD.

In an article today, the Post documents a number of District 75 schools on the state's list -- D 75 schools enroll special need students with the most acute needs. Reports of persistent violence in D 75 schools, where staff ratios are far smaller than mainstream schools, raise difficult questions on all sides. And an AP story from am New York sets New York's improvements against a national canvas, noting without irony that the other 49 states document a total of 21 persistently dangerous schools compared to New York State's 19 (although reporting criteria vary from state to state).

Notably, despite pop-media visions of metal-detectors and box-cutter-wielding teens, "persistently dangerous" schools include elementary and middle schools, too. Under the provisions of NCLB, parents can request safety transfers for students enrolled at "dangerous" schools. But time is short before the start of school; those interested in seeking transfers should contact their school this week to explore the process.

Pre-K round II news

Families who applied for pre-K seats in the second application round should have news by the end of this week; letters went out by mail yesterday afternoon, according to an email from the DOE's Andy Jacob.

Wednesday, August 20

Hark, budding Iagos and Hermiones

If your teen's looking for some last-minute summer culture, contact Mudbone about their Shakespeare workshops at the Public Theater (this week) and in the Bronx (this Sunday, the 24th).