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Tuesday, 27 November 2012 11:29

Ask Judy: Don't judge a school by its grade

Dear Judy  

We are researching schools for our child who will be entering kindergarten next year. All the reviews I’ve read have been wonderful; the teachers, the principal, kids, parents, new math program. So I was a bit surprised that it had a low grade on the 2011-12 NYC DOE progress report. Cou you could offer any more insight?

Prospective parent.

Dear Prospective parent,

Your experience confirms ours: don’t judge the school by its letter grade alone. The letter on a school’s report is shorthand for a number of different measures and it helps to have some technical knowledge and persistence to understand it. Your question is a timely one not only for families applying to kindergarten but for 8th graders looking for a high school too. High School Progress Reports for 2011-2012 were released yesterday!

Tuesday, 13 November 2012 15:52

Ask Judy: Any changes to kindergarten cut-off?

Dear Judy,

Has there been official word about making kindergarten mandatory and the cut-off birth date for admission? I heard there have been some changes in admissions rules this year.

Puzzled parent

Dear Parent,

There have been questions and confusion about this issue since last summer when the governor signed into law a bill authorizing New York City to "require minors who are five years of age on or before December first to attend kindergarten instruction."

The city has not yet acted to make kindergarten compulsory, but it has clarified that the cut-off birth date is still Dec. 31, not Dec. 1. While I can't say this is official, it is close.

Thursday, 25 October 2012 10:28

Ask Judy: Ranking specialized high schools

Dear Judy,
If Stuyvesant High School is your first choice on the SHSAT exam and your score is below the cut off for Stuyvesant but above the cut off for your second choice, Bronx Science or the High school for American Studies at Lehman College, will you get into your second choice or will priority be given to those students who made Bronx Science or American Studies their first choice even though your score on the SHSAT exam was higher? I've been told by principals at SHSAT schools that if you don't make their school your first choice you will be completely out of luck as priority will be given to students who did so. Please advise.

-- 8th grade parent

Dear 8th grade parent -

Yours is a timely question! Many 8th and 9th graders will be taking the specialized high school exam on Nov. 17 and 18 after a few test dates were postponed by the storm. Students must rank their choices at the test and they won't be able to change the ranking later. It's also a question we get every year. There is always a little confusion, despite the Education Department's best efforts to get the word out.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012 12:49

Ask Judy: Dual language in a popular school

Dear Judy

Can you advise as to how a public school (MS 51 in Brooklyn) can decide to have a French Dual Language program for two 6th grade classes at the expense of the rest of the district kids? What is the approval process? How does this happen? What is FLAM and how did it get involved.

District 15 parent

Dear District 15 parent

Establishing a dual language program takes lots of hard work and commitment by principals, teachers and parents. First, you have to develop a constituency for the program. This is where a group like FLAM comes in. FLAM, which stands for Français Langue Maternelle, is an association to promote the teaching of French in city public schools. It sponsors after school French programs in some districts, and a few elementary school programs. The group includes current parents of public school kids. Like other not-for-profit groups, it cooperates with the school and the district to create and support programs.

Tuesday, 09 October 2012 10:29

Ask Judy: Applying to middle school

Dear Judy,

My daughter is currently attending a private elementary school in District 2 in Manhattan. We live in Brooklyn, but we want her to go to a public middle school in District 2. And we are also interested in gifted programs. How do I find out about the schools, and the gifted programs, and how do I apply to them?

Puzzled parent.

Dear Puzzled parent,

You have a three pronged problem: applying to middle school from a private school, applying to middle school from outside the district and applying to middle school gifted programs.

Friday, 28 September 2012 11:27

Will a "Level 2" kill my chances for a top HS?

Dear Judy

We are in the process of searching for high schools and all the schools my child is interested in have a Level 3 or 4 on state exams for their entrance criteria. My child missed a 3 by one point on the ELA and received a 4 on the math, however he has perfect attendance and grades in the 90's. What can we do if he is only interested in the schools with the higher score? The schools that require a 2 for entrance are a bit intimidating to him because they have metal detectors and/or are in buildings with multiple schools. Please advise.

Worried Mom

Dear Worried Mom

Selecting schools for the high school admission application – finding schools that are a good  fit for your child, that you can get to without too much travel, that both you and he like – is a stressful situation. Remember, even a "double 4 kid" might not get into the school of his dreams. So concentrate on the possible.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012 12:26

Ask Judy: My 9th grader hates her school

Dear Judy,
My daughter just started as a freshman at a specialized high school and came home the first day convinced that she will never like this school or be comfortable with the fit. She is interested in transferring to a smaller school that fosters creative and analytic thinking, community, and independence.
My question is: How and when can a parent "know" that her child and the child's school are not well-matched? How would you advise proceeding?

Her father and I are concerned that if we wait too long to explore other options, any transfer spots for which she might qualify will be filled, that we will let he in for serious misery, and that she will just refuse to go to school (which she has threatened to do). On the other hand, it seems premature to conclude after a very short trial (today was her 4th day here), that we are dealing with a square peg/found hole situation, and not just an advanced case of what my mother would have called "the jitters."

I would also like to hear from other parents in this situation. My guess is that there are quite a few of us!

Sincerely, Freshman Mom

Dear Freshman Mom,

I put your question to a number of people – the mother of a high school student who did transfer after freshman year, a mother of two graduates of specialized high schools, a mother of an 8th grader who is researching schools right now, and the 8th grader himself. Here’s what the student had to say: “No one is going to like school the first day.” That is more or less what the others had to say as well. It takes time to adjust to any new situation and 9th grade especially is a huge change in a kid's life.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012 16:22

HS admissions help for foster teens

High School Goal Weekend – that’s what the Department of Education, Agency for Children’s Services and New Yorkers for Children are calling an extra effort to give a leg-up in the high school admission process to kids in foster families. The weekend coincides with the High School Fair, September 29 and 30 at Brooklyn Technical High school, in Fort Greene.  AFCS is  seeking volunteers, 21 years of older, to guide 7th and 8th graders through the choice of high schools and the application process.

Volunteers can serve one or both days at the fair, but must attend a mandatory orientation at the ACS Central Office, 150 William Street, 19th Floor, on one of three dates: Tuesday, September 18, from 6:00 to 8:00pm, , Thursday, September 20, from 10: am-12 pm, or Monday, September 24, from 6 to 8 pm.
 An online application is available here or email [email protected].  Applications due September 14!


Tuesday, 04 September 2012 13:38

Ask Judy: Too early to start thinking pre-k?

Dear Judy,

My granddaughter is three years old and my son and daughter-in-law are beginning to hunt for a pre-kindergarten for September, 2013 when he will be four years old. Can you offer any suggestions?


Dear Grandpa,

Your family is lucky to have an involved grandparent – I can see you are ready to research the field. There are a few steps that will lead you to the program that is right for your granddaughter and there is plenty of time to carry them out. However, be forewarned: Not all four-year-olds actually get a slot in a public school pre-kindergarten. Last spring 30 percent of the applicants were without a seat after pre-kindergarten acceptance letters went out. Although some seats opened up and parents could continue to apply over the summer, there are no guarantees.

Pre-k applications are last on the admissions line. In 2012 applications were due April 10 for programs located in public schools. The 2013 admissions calendar is not yet set but you can sign up on the Education Department's website for updates. As long as you meet the deadline, acceptance does not depend on when the application  was submitted. For pre-kindergarten in community organizations such as Y's or Head Start programs, admission is on a rolling basis. You apply directly to the CBO and there may be additional requirements and in some cases, fees.

Monday, 20 August 2012 17:29

Ask Judy: How to prepare for the SHSAT?

Dear Judy,

How can my 8th grade son study for the Specialized High School Admissions Test? We are new to the city and don’t know how to proceed. We have heard that you need a tutor and  don’t know how to find one, or if there is time for tutoring.

Bewildered Mom

Dear Bewildered Mom,

Many students postpone prepping for the SHSAT until school starts, so it’s not impossible for your son to begin now. In the two months he has left before the October test, he will have to juggle his homework with sessions by a paid tutor or devote regular time to a study program of your own devising. In the first case, there is a lot of money involved -- upwards of $100 per individual session, less for group sessions. In the second case, lots of self-motivation is required, plus a small investment in study guides.

You can find many private tutors by searching online. There is a website that offers recommendations by parents at Parents of New York Teens, services such as Partners with Parents, New York Academics and of course, the well known Kaplan, which also offers some free diagnostic tests and seminars around the city.