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Tuesday, 31 January 2012 10:39

Ask Judy: Going from private to public

Dear Judy,

I have a son in a private school and I would like him to apply to public middle schools. I have been told that he will need to take the public school New York state exam in the spring of 4th grade year in order to apply to public middle schools. Is this the correct procedure? Is it possible for him to take this exam? Can he take gifted and talented testing?

Private school mom

Dear Private School Mom,

No need for your son to take the New York State standardized tests. It is true that middle schools (particularly the selective ones) use 4th grade state test scores as a criteria for acceptance. But schools are savvy – they are aware that most private schools don't administer those tests. Instead, they will use your child's grades and attendance record as benchmarks for placement. There are other criteria that schools use for both public school and private school kids. Many ask kids to submit portfolios of school work. Some give their own exams or auditions, and many hold interviews -- a good chance for your child to show his best strengths. In these cases, standardized tests are just part of the mix.

Dear Judy,

My child scored in the 90th percentile on the G&T test last year, but didn't get offered a seat anywhere. What's the deal?

Gifted Mom

Dear Gifted Mom,

When dealing with the Department of Education, guarantees can be murky. Read the fine print and adhere to the rules:

Score in the 90th percentile or higher? Yes, you are guaranteed a district seat IF your child is going into kindergarten or 1st grade and IF on your application, you list every G&T option in your district. Ahead of you at the door are siblings of kids already enrolled. They have priority, based on the score they obtain. Then it is strictly by score. If there are more kids at the same score than there are places available, a lottery is held. If your child is one of those who does not get a place after that exercise is completed in all the district G&T programs, then there are two possibilities :

If there are enough kids who did not get placed, then the DOE might (and should) open an additional program. If there are not enough kids for a new program, then the DOE should offer a place in a neighboring district, where there are extra seats.

Some other factors:

If your top priority is for your child to be placed in the G&T program in his/her sibling’s school, make sure that school is your first choice on the application.

Twins, and presumably triplets, etc, are placed together if all are eligible. The twin or triplet with the highest score is the one who stands on the line. When placed, she brings her siblings in with her.

A placement exception request (PER) can be used to keep general ed and G&T students in the same school. In fact, you’d be wise to read the Gifted & Talented Handbook very carefully before submitting the application. There are many ins and outs that could apply to your situation.  

As for Citywide programs, there is no guarantee at all. Highest scorers are placed first, and if your child did not get placed in a citywide program and you did not list all the district options, s/he could miss out altogether.

Don’t get too anxious about placement right now. Keep calm, cool and collected while you help your child prepare for the OLSAT/BSRA tests -- make it a fun exercise and bring a relaxed child to the test.

Good luck!


Thursday, 05 January 2012 16:17

Ask Judy: Starting a dual language program

Dear Judy,

How does the DOE decide to start a dual language program? Are they proposed by interested parents?

ELL Mom.

Dear ELL Mom,

Parents do have a big role in establishing dual language programs: the Department of Education is obligated to start one if at least 12 parents of English language learners who speak the same home language request one.

Tuesday, 03 January 2012 17:28

Poll: Many schools skimp on art, does yours?

Close to half of city elementary schools do not meet state standards for arts instruction, even as the number of certified arts teachers in the schools has grown, according to the 2010-11 fifth annual Arts in the Schools Report released just before the holidays.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011 10:55

Ask Judy: When do I register for pre-k?

Dear Judy,

I am in District 15. I am trying to find out when PreK applications are due and don't see it online. Do you know? Thank you for any information.

Brooklyn Mom

Dear Brooklyn Mom,

The pre-k admissions calendar was just posted by the Education Department.You have time to sit back and enjoy the holidays. The application period begins on March 5 and the deadline to submit the application is April 6. Results will be sent out in June.

This means you have a good few months to consider your options. You'll find directories online of public school programs that offered pre-k classes this year, and community based organizations that have DOE subsidies to provide public pre-k. So far, the only pre-k directory online is for the current 2011-2012 school year.

Tuesday, 06 December 2011 12:19

Ask Judy: My child broke someone's glasses

Dear Judy,

My 4-year-old, kindergartner broke another student's glasses. Am I legally responsible to pay for the glasses?


Dear Distressed,

I believe that you are responsible, if not legally, then ethically. Sometimes its tough, but you do have to live with the consequences of your child's behavior. I suggest that the best way to handle this is to meet with the teacher and the other child's parents to work out a settlement. 

Tuesday, 29 November 2011 12:37

Get ready to apply to kindergarten

September is a long way away, but if your child turns five in 2012 it's about time to apply to elementary school. Applications are available at each school Jan. 9 and are due March 2. You must submit an application, even if you are applying to your zoned school.

According to the timeline on the Department of Education's website, children will receive their assignments the week of March 19 - 23. Exceptions: students eligible for Gifted & Talented programs will get their assignments in May, and those applying to charter schools will find out if they have won a seat after lotteries are held in April.

There are priorities for admission, with highest going to siblings of kids already attending, and lowest to kids from outside the district, with no siblings in attendance. The majority of kindergartners do attend their neighborhood schools but because of over-crowding in some neighborhoods there is no guarantee of admission to your zoned school. If there are more applicants than spaces available, a lottery is held. If you are not given a space in your zoned school, you are assured of a space in another district school and your child may receive busing. Space permitting, you can return to the zoned school in 1st grade or later.

Children with special needs also go through the general application process, with the anticipation that most schools should be able to offer needed special education services. The DOE is hosting a series of kindergarten orientation meetings for families of kids with disabilities, beginning on Nov. 29 and running through mid-December. Some sessions will be conducted in Spanish, Haitian Creole, Chinese, and Bengali. See the schedule here. Children eligible for District 75 programs serving kids with severe disabilities in a highly specialized environment will receive a placement right after their IEP meetings in the spring.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011 12:15

Ask Judy: Is Saturday detention allowed?

Dear Judy,

My middle school son tapped on the shoulder of a girl sitting in front of him, but she thought it was someone else and pushed that kid. The teacher sentenced all of them to detention. I think my son was unfairly punished, but what bothers me most is that the detention is on Saturday. Is it legal to hold Saturday detention? And if so, will there be lunch?


Dear Upset,

Your question convinces me that the school is failing in its obligation to communicate with parents.

If you look at the Department of Education’s Discipline Code, you will find that in school detention is listed as one of the possible disciplinary responses allowed, depending on the grade and infraction. In middle school, it is definitely sanctioned for disturbing the classroom peace and according to Marge Feinberg, spokesperson for the Department of Education, "Arranging detentions is up to principals."

Wednesday, 09 November 2011 15:54

Pre-K information sessions for parents

The Department of Education is holding borough by borough information sessions for parents with kids in universal pre-kindergarten programs, known as UPK. The goal is to help parents engage and support their child's learning and rather long range,  to "discuss ways in which families can help lay a solid foundation in preparing children for college and career." 

Along with information on Common Core standards, learning strategies and curriculum, there will be practical help with the elementary school application process.  Unfortunately, the December sessions begin after the final date to sign up gifted and talented testing, so a key element of the process will be missing. However, if the timeline follows last year's, general applications won't be due until March, so there's plenty of time to learn about the rest of the system.

UPK family forums will be held three times during the school year and each session will address a different topic. So far only the first session dates and locations are posted on the Education Department's website.  Questions? Contact [email protected] or 212‐374‐0351.

Oh, and there will be door prizes raffled at each site.

Tuesday, 08 November 2011 11:19

Ask Judy: Applying to middle school

Dear Judy,

My 5th-grader is applying to middle school and I want to know: Can I apply to schools out of district? How do I rank schools if most of the good ones say "you must place us first to be considered"?

Mom of a 5th-grader

Dear Mom:

Each district has its own process for assigning kids to middle schools. Fortunately, there are handbooks for each district explaining their process. Unfortunately, there are lots of issues that still need clarification.