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Tuesday, 25 October 2011 12:17

Ask Judy: My daughter needs help in math

Dear Judy,

My daughter scored below a 3 at the State test for math. She is in 5th grade and not doing well with math. I requested to put her in the extended time help period but was told that the school only has extended day for ELA. I was told that there is something called Academic intervention and I asked for that. Is the school not obligated to provide extra math help for those who do not meet the standard requirements? How can I ensure that the principal will provide her with extra math tutoring? Is there any other department within the DOE that I can contact if my daughters school does not offer the help I requested?

Bronx Mom

Dear Bronx Mom,

Yes, indeed there is a requirement to provide academic intervention services for kids who score in the level 1 or 2 range on standardized tests. Like many policies these days, it is up to the principal to put it in place. I imagine that budget shortfalls have a lot to do with reducing the service, but that should not stop the principal from providing help to a student who needs it. Since you have already spoken to the principal, do what the DOE recommends: contact your school's network leader. The network leader is listed on your school’s online report card.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011 12:57

C4E hearings begin in all districts

The Department of Education is holding public hearings for parents, educators and others to comment on this year’s Contracts for Excellence plan. The C4E, as it is known, contains plans to provide help to the neediest students in seven areas: class size reduction, time on task, teacher and principal quality initiatives, middle school and high school restructuring, full-day pre-Kindergarten, and model programs for English Language Learners.

The Contract for Excellence process was established by the legislature after the State Court of Appeals agreed that the city and 20 other urban districts had been shortchanged for years by the state’s education funding formula. Additional funds are due to the city provided the DOE comes up with plans for their use. According to the State Education Department,…the allocation of funds must continue to be for one of the seven C4E-allowable programs and must continue to predominantly benefit pupils with the greatest needs: i.e., (i) students with limited English proficiency and/or English language learners; (ii) students in poverty; (iii) students with disabilities; and (iv) students with low academic achievement.”

Tuesday, 11 October 2011 15:42

District 3 to hold elementary school fair

District 3 is holding an elementary school fair to showcase its 21 public elementary schools. On Saturday, Oct. 15, principals,  teachers, students and parents will be on hand to talk up their schools and explain the admissions process. District 3 schools include neighborhood schools, schools that have brand new magnet-themed programs to attract students from outside the zone, French and Spanish dual language programs and gifted and talented programs.

The fair is sponsored by the Community Education Council (CEC) and the district President's Council. It runs from 10 am to 1 pm at PS 165, 234 West 109th Street, between Broadway and Amsterdam. It is the first such elementary school fair that we have heard about this year. Any others planned? Post the event on the calendar and share the news through in comments below. Also see the District 3 forum for individual school tours.

Thursday, 06 October 2011 14:19

Ask Judy: Is recess required?

Dear Judy,

Our neighborhood school (in Brooklyn) does not have outdoor recess time. The children never have a chance to play outside. Every day they must sit in the cafeteria for 50 minutes in silence. Absolutely no talking allowed. To me, it seems abusive. There is a huge yard adjacent to the school, but the administration refuses to let the children go outside. I wonder if there are any regulations in regards to recess time, or it is up to the schools. Thank you.

Mrs. K

Dear Mrs. K:

You might be surprised to know that the Department of Education does have a policy that calls for recess every day, preferably out of doors. I am surprised, not only that that your school does not allow kids to go outdoors after lunch, but also that sitting silently in a cafeteria passes for recess. Most schools provide indoor games and activities when kids don't go out, because of bad weather or the kids choose to stay in. While there are many parent complaints about kids being made to watch videos of questionable quality at recess, that's another story.

Monday, 26 September 2011 12:49

Libraries: Kids off the hook for overdue books

Public libraries are letting children and teens off the hook for fines for overdue books.

In a welcome-back to school outreach to city kids, the New York Public Library System, (NYPL) Brooklyn Public Library and Queens Library, decided to overlook outstanding library fines as long as borrowed materials are returned. The offer is good until October 31.

Kids under age 17, in all five boroughs, (NYPL includes the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island), can clear their records and regain a working library card with the return of books. Usually, if you owe $15 or more, you can’t borrow books until you pay up. Under a program called, “ Start A New Chapter” funded by McGraw-Hill, whatever you owe will be erased. The libraries estimate that across the city, nearly 100,000 kids and teens will benefit from the program.



Monday, 19 September 2011 12:24

Ask Judy: Regents exams in 8th grade?

Dear Judy,

I have 8th grade twins in middle school. One is in a combined Collaborative Team-Teaching/SP (honors) class and does not seem to have Regents classes in anything. The other is in a regular SP class and has Regents classes in Earth Science and math. How does whether you take the various Regents exams in 8th grade affect high school curriculums, high school choices, and does it eventually effect the college credit situation too? Can you clarify please? Thank you.

- Twins mother

Dear Twins mother,

If the twin in the CTT class has an IEP, it is crucial that you make sure that the high school he chooses will have the resources and modifications he needs to take the Regents exams. As Insideschools expert Clara Hemphill put it: "I think parents should insist that their child get the most demanding curriculum they can handle. The tendency for the school system is to lower promotional standards for kids with iEPs and as a result they just fall further and further behind. What parents need to do is demand that kids get the extra help they need to meet the higher standards. If the school cannot provide extra help, they can sometimes get the city to pay for private tutoring.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011 12:17

Imagine! Free books for preschoolers monthly

Imagine! Free books every month for every child under 5!

Thanks to a partnership between the Dollywood Foundation and the Department of Education, The Imagination Library is now available in New York City. Registered pre-school children receive a book in the mail (or by UPS) every month until they turn 5. The first book is The Little Engine that Could by Wally Piper and the last book is Look Out Kindergarten Here I Come, by Nancy L Carson.

Under the rules of the library, “A community [read DOE] must make the program accessible to all preschool children in their area. The community pays for the books and mailing, promotes the program, registers the children, and enters the information into the database.“ That way the library keeps track of the books and children’s ages. The foundation is responsible for the delivery system.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011 01:00

Ask Judy: What to pack for kindergarten

Dear Judy,

I'm a little lost as to what to pack for the first day of kindergarten (and subsequent ones). It's a half-day so I presume snack but not lunch and do they need pencils and supplies or are they provided?

First time kindergarten parent

Dear Parent:

There is no standard answer to your question. Each school has a different take on the first day. One principal told us that at his school, kindergartners can stay for lunch, either to eat the school fare or a bag lunch, but parents should let the teacher know who will stay and who will be picked up before lunch. Snacks are usually organized by the class mother, who isn’t yet selected, so if your child needs food mid-morning, mention it to the teacher and give her the cheese sticks or goldfish to dispense. (Take a look at Jane Brody's column in today's Science Times for safe snack and lunch suggestions.)

Wednesday, 10 August 2011 12:55

Ask Judy: Must seniors attend a full day?

Dear Judy:


My son starts his senior year in high school this September. Now that January Regents are re-instated, he will probably have only one or two classes left to acquire enough credits to graduate I have heard that even if he does not need the credits, he must attend full time. Is that true?

Senior Mom


Dear Senior Mom:


I would count on your son attending full time, even though his necessary credits are complete.

For one thing, there are state requirements for how many hours of instruction are required daily:  51/2 hours in grades 7-12: Here’s what the state regulations have to say:


"The daily sessions for pupils in grades seven through 12 shall be a minimum of five and one-half hours including time spent by students in actual instructional or supervised study activities, exclusive of time allowed for lunch… [ Double sessions schools may have 41/2 hours of instruction.]" 

Monday, 01 August 2011 17:43

State changes teacher evaluations

New York State is changing the way it evaluates teachers and principals. Starting in the 2011-2012 school year, the state will use a new system to evaluate teacher effectiveness based on factors like classroom performance and student achievement on standardized tests. The new system will affect how teachers and principals progress in their careers. Depending on ratings, teachers and principals may be given extra professional development, granted tenure or fired. Principals will also be judged on the school's performance.

This coming school year, teachers of grades 4-8 ELA and math and their principals will be evaluated under the new system. In 2012-13 all teachers and principals are scheduled for evaluation under the system.

Under the new system, each teacher and principal will receive an annual professional performance review (APPR) resulting in a single effectiveness score on a four-point rating system of "highly effective," "effective," "developing," or "ineffective." Under the current, less nuanced system, teachers either received satisfactory or unsatisfactory scores.

This year, still being rated with the old ratings system, about 97% of all New York City teachers received "satisfactory" ratings. These numbers correlate with the amount of NYC teachers denied tenure this year, which was also around 3%, and are likely a result of "the city's sustained push to usher more weak teachers out of the system," according to In 2010, the city introduced a four-point rating system for awarding tenure similar to the system the state will put into effect next year, and the number of teachers who recently received tenure dropped dramatically compared to past years.

According to the state Board of Regents, the following factors will determine "teacher effectiveness" ratings:

  • Student growth on state assessments or a comparable measure of student achievement growth (20%)
  • Locally-selected measures of student achievement that are determined to be rigorous and comparable across classrooms (20%)
  • other measures of teacher/principal effectiveness (60%) including multiple classroom observations for teachers and broad assessment of leadership and management actions for principals.

You can read more details on the New York State Education Department website. Advocates for Children posted fact sheets in English and Spanish to help parents understand the system and to monitor it for fairness.