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My inbox has been flooded with questions about high school acceptances since 8th graders must decide by April 12 what high school offer to accept, or which school to apply to in Round 2. I've received several questions from families of students who were accepted by specialized high schools in addition to another school; others from parents who wonder why their children did not make the cut. This week I'll answer three of them.

Q: We have a dilemma, my daughter is now in Hunter and can continue there for high school. But she also got into Stuyvesant. Hunter is a long commute, Stuy is close to home; Hunter is smaller, less competitive and she has friends there. Stuy is stronger in Science, which is her strength. It also has a range of extra curricular activities that Hunter cannot match. Would it be folly to leave Hunter for a larger, less personal school?

You have a happy dilemma, and you have certainly laid out the pros and cons. It is really up to you and your daughter to make the decision. Have you been to see Stuyvesant? Did you get a good feeling about the atmosphere , kids, and teachers there? Are there any other kids your daughter knows going too? Keep in mind that students at large schools -- such as Stuyvesant -- often find their own community of frends and supportive faculty that make it seem smaller-- whether in sports, the math club, or SING. Yet, many families in 6-12 schools find it's easier just to stay put!

Friday, 08 March 2013 12:57

Ask Judy: Are state exams mandatory?

Dear Judy,

I have daughters in the 4th grade who are supposed to take the state exams this year. I'm told future middle schools will look at these exam results to determine acceptance. The stress my daughters are under during "test prep" is crazy. Is this exam really mandatory?

Fourth grade mother

Dear Fourth Grade Mother,

Yes, the standardized tests are required. Chancellor's Regulation A-501 makes that clear.

Whether or not you think that this system is right, I would advise you to have your daughters take the test.

Fourth grade tests are important because middle schools look at them to decide on admissions. Kids apply to middle school in the fall of 5th grade--before the results of the tests given in the spring of 5th grade are available.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013 10:13

Ask Judy: Opting out of kindergarten

Dear Judy,

I am very concerned about the the direction that kindergarten is going. When will people realize these are babies, who deserve to play and learn at their own pace, mostly out and about in the world? Five year olds should not be taught material that's intended for 6-year-old brains, developmentally. Five year olds should not be asked to sit doing worksheets for hours a day, but that's what most teachers are doing now. Must I send my child to kindergarten? I would prefer to keep her away from all formal schooling until she is 6 or 7 (like the kids in Finland) but I am afraid I would be breaking the law.
Kg concerned

Dear Kg concerned,

The last time I explored this with DOE staffers, I was assured that the object of the law was not to "go after" the parents who do not send their child to kindergarten. Their concern is for the kids who were not let into crowded schools because kindergarten was not required. You may keep her out of kindergarten but you must enroll her for 1st grade (unless you decide to homeschool -- more on how to do that below.)

Tuesday, 12 February 2013 15:16

Ask Judy: Taking a chance on a new school

Dear Judy,

My daughter will be entering kindergarten in 2013 and we have been zoned to a brand new school which is still under construction. I am wondering if I should take my chances for the new school, try for an established out-of zone-school or move to a neighborhood with an established school.
KG Mom in Manhattan

Dear KG Mom
New schools are enticing, and a bit scary. You picture a spanking new building with spic and span furniture, up-to-date facilities, bright lights and new technology. But you don't know much about the learning that will go on there. Like other parents, you probably have an idea of what you would like for your daughter. Some parents look for rigorous academics, some care more about the arts, others would like their kids to learn a second language and others look for great special ed programs. (And ideally there are schools that cover all those bases!)

Most parents want small classes and that is usually one of the plusses of a new school. True, in an established school you know what you're getting: usually a seasoned principal, set routines and an active PTA. But, in a new school, working with other families and staff, you will have a hand in developing programs and partnerships that will allow the school to thrive. If the principal is open to it, you can help set the tone and work closely with the school leaders. (Read about how some parents are already doing at PS 118 in Park Slope, which will open in September. They've set up a group called "Founding Families" and have their own Facebook page.)  With just one or two grade levels, there will be an intimacy rarely found in a larger school.

Thursday, 31 January 2013 15:18

Plan now for winter break

Hurricane Sandy did away with the traditional week long winter vacation that celebrates both Lincoln’s and Washington’s birthday’s and conserves schoolhouse energy at the same time. This year all students get is a four day weekend. Here are some suggestions to make the most of it and take the opportunity to explore some free or very low cost -- and lesser-known -- attractions. Most are closed on Mondays, however, so plan those excursions for the weekend or Tuesday. 

Federal Reserve Bank: Act quickly for a chance for older kids (16 plus) to visit the fabled gold depository and learn more about the institution that has been so much in the news since the economy went south. Call  212-720-6130 for immediate information about ticket availability—a 3-4 week wait for tickets is typical but either you’ll be surprised or you can reserve for a future date. Tours last approximately an hour, and begin on the hour from 9:30 am - 3:30 pm daily.

The Wall Street area and the 9/11 memorial, South Street Seaport, and Chinatown all have charms of their own – you can stroll about or make plans to visit museums and landmarks.

Monday, 28 January 2013 20:33

Ask Judy: How do 8th graders get HS news?

Dear Judy,

Can you tell me when the high school placement results will come out? How does the school tell the kids the news?

8th grade Mom

Dear 8th grade Mom,

Results of the high school applications are due out March 15 (alas, for some parents, that date is later than when private schools let their applicants know.) The placement results, in sealed envelopes, are picked up by each middle school from their local enrollment office. Along with the letters comes a list of all applicants and, in some cases, the schools use this list to determine how the letters are distributed.

Schools vary in the way they distribute the letters and the news, so you'll need to ask your 8th grade guidance counselor how your school handles it.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013 11:34

Ask Judy: When should I move for G&T?

Dear Judy,

We currently live in Brooklyn but now we are considering moving to either Riverdale (Bronx), Astoria or Long Island City for reasons of work.

Our daughter is applying for G&T Kindergarten level (she is taking the test next weekend). By when do we have to have physically moved in order to be zoned correctly for the upcoming 2013-2014 academic year? For example, do I need to have an address for April 1st? Does it matter that the address is specifically located within a G&T program school (like PS 122?)

Moving Mom

Dear Moving Mom:
 
It would be best if you move by April 1 because that will give you time to to change your address in the online registration system before you receive your application. That way you would be offered the correct application for your new district. You may have a few weeks leeway to move before April 19 when applications are due back, but you would have to make contact with the central enrollment to let them know about the new address. You won't need to show proof of address until you register in June but you would need to have a correct new address where you can receive mail before then.
Wednesday, 09 January 2013 15:32

Ask Judy: 1 adult to 100 kids = rowdy recess

Dear Judy,

My 1st grader and her friends were 'play lunch box fighting' when she got hit with a lunch box between the eyes and her glasses broke on her face. When I spoke to the principal about filing an incident report she said the incident didn't warrant one because "accidents happen." She said that there was only one adult supervising 100 kids at recess and that he couldn't possible see what was going on with all the children. What is the required adult to student ratio during recess? I called the DOE and district advocate but no one had answers. I was hoping you would have the answer.
Alison

Dear Alison,

I did some research about supervision at recess and was surprised not to find any reference to a required ratio of adults to children outside of the classroom.

The UFT teachers contract spells out the number of students that may be in a classroom under the supervision of a teacher but it does not cover recess rules. It is usually not the classroom teachers who are out on the playground at lunchtime. A UFT staffer told me that each school's safety plan should explain the number of adults required to supervise recess, and that it varies from school to school.  DOE spokesperson Marge Feinberg confirmed this in an email: "The ratio is at principals' discretion, and schools have to specify their own recess and lunchroom supervision in their safety plans. "

Tuesday, 11 December 2012 15:57

'Tis the season...what to give the teacher?

It's holiday gift-giving time again!

From mid-December on, schools are in a holiday mode. During these last days before the traditional 10-day break, there are performances, decorations and parties. Most parents and kids find it a good time to thank teachers for their hard work and maybe to cheer them on for the next term.

Luckily for elementary school teachers, there is usually a class parent to organize a classwide gift and then it is easy to conform to the city rules on gifts for teachers. Middle and high school kids see different teachers for different subjects and gift-giving becomes less common and more complicated.  In any case, before a gift is given, it's helpful to know the city's rules.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012 13:05

Ask Judy: I'm being bullied & want to transfer

Hi Judy,

I go to a high school in Brooklyn. I am a freshman. I have been asked by three older student to do drugs. I hate the environment and feel really unsafe going to school every day. I want to transfer but they are saying I need to wait until my year is over. I can't stand the thought of going one more day. I am really scared. I can't sleep anymore.
Worried

Dear Worried,

Drug use in schools is alarming.  Most schools have a program, and specialists known as SAPIS, to combat it, but that is a long term solution and I think that your particular situation should be remedied immediately.

What you describe is bullying and intimidation. I know it is tough to publicly report the kids involved but here is a way to report confidentially: contact the person who is listed on the Respect for All poster in your school. Respect for All is the city's anti-bullying program. If there is no poster visible at your school, email [email protected] to get the name of your school's representative.