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Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday announced his strategy to support the city's schools that are "most in need of help." In conjunction with some additional coaching, oversight and a longer school day, 94 "Renewal Schools" identified for their poor test scores, graduation rates, and School Quality Reviews will receive $150 million to become "Community Schools" that provide additional programs and social services to meet the needs of the "whole child, whole school, whole community."

Yesterday's announcement doubles down on de Blasio's campaign promise to establish 100 new community schools by the end of his first term. This summer, he repurposed state funds dedicated to attendance improvement and dropout prevention into a competitive grant to fund 45 new community schools. When those schools (to be announced soon) and the additional 94 Renewal Schools are underway, the number will far surpass de Blasio's goal and will establish New York City as the largest system of community schools in the nation.

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New York City’s Education Funders Research Initiative asked our parent organization, the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School, to identify key priorities for education reform under Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio. On Thursday, the Center for New York City Affairs released the results: a new report called "Building Blocks for Better Schools: How the Next Mayor can Prepare New York's Students for College and Careers," co-authored by Insideschools founder Clara Hemphill. The paper analyzes the successes and failures of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s education initiatives—and proposes six key areas on which the next administration should focus attention and resources.

A top priority: Make sure young children can read. This is a first, crucial building block for school reform efforts.

Other priorities include:

  • Use the Common Core to build a true, skills-based college preparatory curriculum.
  • Revise the accountability system to use a wider range of measures, and to be more responsive to schools and families.
  • Keep principals' control of hiring, budgets and curriculum—but provide them greater supervision and support.
  • Strengthen neighborhood schools and create new structures to connect all schools—neighborhood, magnet and charters alike—within given geographic areas.
  • Build early and ongoing support for college and career guidance.

Read more about "Building Blocks for Better Schools" and download the paper on



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 Dear Judy,

I will be leaving on sabbatical to India next year, Sept and Oct. 2015. My child will be going into 6th grade. I am wondering if I can take her out for these two months and get an educational plan from the DOE, so upon our return, my child will have an easy transition back into her school?

Sabbatical mom

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The Youth Justice Board is looking for teenagers who want to create policy changes to improve the lives of New York City public school students. The Youth Justice Board is open to New York City students age 14-18. In the 2013-2014 year, the Board will study chronic absenteeism and implement policy recommendations to defeat absenteeism in New York City schools. 

The 2012- 2013 Youth Board made ten recommendations to Chancellor Dennis Walcott on how to reduce chronic absenteeism. Suggestions ranged from taking a closer look at school security to providing peer mentors to students who are frequently absent. Read the full list of recommendations here.

“Next year’s [board will] focus on implementing select recommendations from the report. After receiving training in research, public speaking, and leadership skills, members of the Youth Justice Board will work to bring ideas from this report into reality. One possible project might be creating informational materials for young people and their parents that help them connect daily school attendance with positive future outcomes,” said Linda Baird, director of the program.

Students commit to the Justice Board for a 10 months and receive a stipend. Applications are due by Friday, July 12.

Apply hereApplication materials also available online at  For more information about the program, or to request hard-copies of application materials, please contact Linda Baird at (646) 386-5925, or via email at [email protected]

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Why do 40 percent of New York City high school students miss a month of school each year? The Center for Court Innovation went directly to the source and asked 17 high school students serving on its Youth Justice Board to research the issue. On Tuesday night at City Hall, students made ten recommendations to Chancellor Dennis Walcott on how to reduce chronic absenteeism. Suggestions ranged from taking a closer look at school security to providing peer mentors to students who are frequently absent.

The problem is huge: More than 20 percent of New York City students in grades kindergarten through 12 are chronically absent for a month out of each year --that's five percentage points higher than the national rate.

The Youth Justice Board brings “the voices of young people into issues that affect their lives,” said Steven, a rising senior at Benjamin Bennaker High School. The diverse group of teens represented all five boroughs. The students came up with their recommendations after a year of research that included meeting with student focus groups, teachers, parents, and policy makers. One issue they identified: metal detectors and security at the front door.

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Dear Judy,

I know that kids are required to go to school a certain amount of hours and days. Can you tell me how many hours of school are required and if they are different at different grades?


Dear Mary,

Your question opens a complex set of issues – bound up in state law and regulations, allocation of state aid and New York City's own variations, developed with the United Federation of Teachers and codified in their contract.

Students in New York state are required to attend school from age six. (In NYC the age is five, except that parents can choose to opt out of kindergarten and start their six year olds in 1st grade instead.)

When figuring out the length of the school day and hours of instruction, keep in mind that state laws define minimum hours.  Increased number of days and hours are allowed, provided that the union agrees. Charter schools are not bound by these rules, indeed most charters have extended instruction time, and many non-charter public schools do as well.

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After weeks of back and forth, the yellow school bus strike will officially begin on Wednesday, Jan. 16, Mayor Bloomberg announced this afternoon in a press release.

Officials from Local 1181 Amalgamated Transit Union, the school bus drivers' union, confirmed that the strike is happening during a press conference, according to Schoolbook.

Yesterday, the city posted information online detailing what to do in the event on a strike and says it will hand out metrocards to all children who normally ride yellow school buses to school. The Mayor's office is also posting fairly up-to-the-minute news via official Twitter account and Tumblr blog. Or call 311.

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Thursday, 03 January 2013 11:44

Future of NYC schools event with Quinn

On Tuesday, Jan. 15, Insideschools and the Center for New York City Affairs will co-host a conversation with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn on the future of schools in New York City.

Quinn will discuss her vision for "building a 21st century school system," including college and career readiness. She will also participate in a Q & A with Insideschools' founder and senior editor, Clara Hemphill. This event is one of a series of events with potential 2013 mayoral candidates sponsored by the Center for New York City Affairs at The New School.  (See a write-up of a 2012 event with mayoral hopeful Tom Allon here.) 

Quinn also spoke about city education policy, along with other potential mayoral candidates, at a GothamSchools event in November. See a rundown of that event here.

The Jan. 15 forum will be at The New School, at 65 West 11th Street, from 8:30 am to 10 am. Tickets are free but you must reserve a seat; RSVP here: Do it soon! It's a small venue and seats are going fast.

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Monday, 05 November 2012 17:18

Warm return to downtown school

Carmen Valdi lined up outside of PS 20 on the Lower East Side with her daughter on Monday morning, ready to return on the first day of school since Hurricane Sandy hit. Electricity came back on in Valdi's Lower East Side apartment on Friday but she still had no heat. She didn't expect the school to be any better off. "We're just coping," she told Insideschools.

But to Valdi's surprise, the school security guard welcomed Valdi and other parents and kids into a heated building.

Eight-seven percent of students showed up on Monday at the Essex Street school, said Principal James Lee. Not as good as PS 20's average 95% attendance rate but higher than the citywide attendance rate for Monday, for which the final tally was 85.2%, according to Education Department spokesperson Erin Hughes. 

Lee -- whose Seward Park home still lacks heat and hot water -- greeted parents and school staff on the way into school asking: "how did you do?"

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Monday, 20 August 2012 10:30

Poll: Should seniors have a full day?

When school starts on Sept. 6, many 12th-graders will have longer schedules than their predecessors because of a newly-enforced city and state rule. We reported last week that some principals will need to hire new teachers to fill out the schedules of hundreds of seniors who, in the past, would have taken only three or four classes needed to graduate. Others are looking to fill those extra hours with credit-earning activities like community service.

What do you think? Should 12th graders who only need a few more credits to graduate attend a full day of school?

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