Gearing up for the new school year? August is the new September.

We’re still in the dog days of summer and summer vacation is in full swing – kids are in camp, summer hours are in effect at the office and it’s hot -- real hot. If school starts after Labor Day there is still one month left of summer for the kids. So why am I seeing first day of school photos all over my social media accounts already? It seems like school starts in August ,or even July, in many parts of the country. Here in the northeast public school starts September 8th but most charter schools kids have either started school this week or will be headed back in the next week or so.

It's back to school time for some but not for others. When it comes to independent schools most, if not all, begin after Labor Day, the official end of summer fun. For the thousands of kids in pre-k this year who’s parents are considering private school for kindergarten the time to consider applications is now.

Applying to one of these schools is a multi-step process that involves completing written or online applications, screening tests, school tours, separate parent and child in-person interviews and financial documentation (if requesting financial assistance).

Consider these facts:

  1. Most people apply to 8-10 schools
  1. Between parent tours, parent interviews and child playdates, there will be 24-30 visits to schools during a roughly three-month period
  1. Including a modest 30 minute travel time, working parents will miss 56-65 hours of work during this time (not including time to complete applications and other required paperwork)

Our annual kindergarten admissions panel & school fair is a one-stop shop where you can meet admission directors and gather all of the information you need for a successful application. Some schools stop accepting applications early once they’ve reached a maximum number so getting an early start puts you ahead of the masses. The event takes place Monday, August 29, 2016, 6pm at Ephesus Church, 101 W 123rd Street. You don't want to miss this!

List of school fair participants:

Allen-Stevenson School

Bank Street

Brearley School

Browning School

Buckley School

Calhoun School

Collegiate School

Convent of the Sacred Heart

Dalton School

Elizabeth Morrow

Harlem Academy

Hewitt School

Hunter College Elementary

Manhattan Country School

Pono

Spence School

St. Hilda's & St. Hugh's

Town School

NYC Students Must Attend Kindergarten The Year They Turn Five

The NYC DOE has a new regulation that states students must attend kindergarten in the year they turn five by December 31st, according to NY1.  This seems to contradict a new law enacted in 2012 that set the cut-off date for kindergarten in New York City at December 1st.  According to this law it would seem that kids who are five years old by December 1st attend kindergarten in the year they turn five.  Others would wait until the following year.  But a key word in the law is "authorize".  The law states:

The board of education of the Syracuse city school district AND THE BOARD OF EDUCATION OF THE CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK [is] ARE hereby authorized to require minors who are five years of age on or before December first to attend kindergarten instruction.

Authorizing the DOE to make a change to a rule is not the same as requiring it to do so and it seems that the DOE has chosen not to change the cut off date from December 31st to December 1st.

What this means is, of course, that there will be some kids who start kindergarten in September who are just 4 years old but will turn 5 by the end of the year as is currently the case.  Currently, parents could opt to not send their children to school that early and have them start kindergarten the following year when they were 5 in September.  It's not easy to find a public school in New York City that does this, but they do exist.  Starting this year that will no longer be an option.  If parents want their child to attend Kindergarten they must do so in the year they turn 5.  No exceptions.  If they opt not to send them to kindergarten then then must start in 1st grade the following year.

Starting school at such an early age is not appropriate for every child, especially those that have not yet developed the impulse control to be a part of academic learning environment.

What are your thoughts?  Do you agree with the DOE?  Should kids start kindergarten at age 5?


	

Subtract vs. Minus–The Language of Math

Success!

Here's an equation:  8-2=6

Conventionally we would say, "Eight minus two equals six."

Is it incorrect to say "Eight subtract two equals six?"
My son said the latter at school, as I have done while working with him, and was told that it is incorrect by his teacher.
Is it?  Is it also wrong to say "Eight add two equals ten"?  Are the words minus/subtract or add/plus interchangeable when we read equations or is it wrong to say anything but plus or minus?
I posed that question to a math discussion group and got a range of responses.  Some people said that it's grammatically incorrect to say subtract because it's a verb and minus is not and there is already one verb, equals, in the sentence.
Others said that either is correct but subtract is more precise and that mathematical expressions don't have to conform to english grammatical structure.  It was quite a lively debate.
The clearest most concise response I received came from Alison Coates of the Middle School Mathematics Institute.  Here's what she had to say:

Perhaps this is a quibble, but math is not easily discussed in lay language properly.   That is the reason we use symbols for math: the symbols of math are the "language" of math, and our collective unwillingness in the US to prepare students for symbolic manipulation is a big reason that they have more and more errors, until their errors in reasoning swamp truth.

Without any verbalization, 8 - 2 = 6 is precise, succinct, and correct. It is distinct from 2 - 8 = -6.

It is only when we try to verbalize this that we get into trouble.

There are a couple related issues here worth teasing out:

1. We should teach children to "read" the above equation as a transliteration of the symbols, so someone on hearing the verbalization of the equation writes down the correct one.

In English, we verbalize the above as "eight minus 2 equals 6".  While we may wish to discuss or explain sums, differences, etc., in the end, a student must know how to name these symbols properly so they can write down the appropriate expression correctly without confusion.  That symbol is a minus (sign), and + is a plus (sign). We read 3 x 4 = 12 as "three times four equals 12."  This is separate from how we converse about these concepts.

2.  Precision matters.  The problem with various English expressions and their inexactness as a substitute for mathematical precision is often only seen over time, far too late to fix misconceptions.

I have met many 7th graders who do not know decimals are fractions.  They have never been told "a decimal is a fraction with a power of ten as the denominator".  They almost always, to a one, verbalize the symbol 4.56 as "four point five six".  They have no idea that .56 is the fraction fifty-six hundredths.  Being forced to say it properly until absolute demonstration of mastery of place value in decimals and of recognition of decimal as fraction is critical.

Likewise, I have met many second graders who can not solve, “Anne has two more cars than her brother Charlie.  Anne has 8.  How many does Charlie have?” because they have been taught that subtract is "take away".  But there is nothing here being taken away in their view.

I'm sure most members here have thoroughly hashed out the errors in "a fraction is a part of a whole"--and you may think this is a different kind of language error, but to most teachers, it isn't.  If you as a teacher are afraid to introduce the definitions of equality or commutative properties, you aren't going to be comfortable with a fraction defined on a number line precisely.  (For those who don't know what's wrong with "a fraction is part of a whole", incredibly short answer: it leads student to think that all fractions are less than 1.  Because how can more than a whole be part of a whole?   What's 9/8--what's the part, what's the whole?   Most students will answer "it's really 1 1/8", and they think only 1/8 is the fraction.)

My "favorite" example of how misuse of language completely ruins a child's understanding of math is of a 6 yr old girl in a (nominally?) Montessori program who was bringing home page after page of 3 digit by 3 digit vertical algorithm addition problems, and doing them correctly.  But then her mother asked her to solve (horizontally) 9 + 2 = ?

and she said (yes, direct quote): "Eleven, but the answer can't be greater than 9."

She could explain place value exchanges at "the bead store", and she could compute with carrying correctly, but when the teacher taught her about adding, the teacher failed to distinguish between *we only have 10 digits to write with" and "the total number of allowed objects can never be greater than nine".

So the girl went about adding e.g.

372

+159

correctly

and simultaneously thought 9 + 2 = 11 was illegal.

Getting these details right for a child is difficult work, but they matter very much.

 

Allison Coates

Middle School Mathematics Institute

www.msmi-mn.org

NYC District 3 Magnet School Program Parent Workshop

SCHOOL CHOICE:  CHOOSING THE RIGHT PUBLIC SCHOOL FOR YOUR CHILD

 

The NYC District 3 Magnet School Program is having the first of a series of parent workshops this evening to help demystify the public school choice process.

These workshop aim to help local families understand all of the public school options available to them and teach them how to go about finding the right schools for their children.

In addition, they will help parents understand what Magnet Schools are, how the enrollment process works, and how they can apply.

DATES AND LOCATIONS

February 6, 2012 and March 5, 2012

115th Street Library, 5:00 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.

203 West 115th Street, NY, NY 10026

 

February 13, 2012 and April 3, 2012

District 3 Headquarters, Joan of Arc Auditorium, 5:00 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.

154 West 93rd Street, NY, NY 10025

(Between Amsterdam and Columbus)

 

NYC District 3 Magnet Schools applications are currently available at www.D3mag.net

Hunter Announces SB5 Cut Score Today

The following message was posted on Hunter's website today:

This year's modified Stanford-Binet V testing for Kindergarten 2012 admissions has concluded. The eligibility score for progression to Round 2 (on-site assessment) has been set at a Sum of Scaled Scores (SSS) of 148.

Letters will be mailed on December 19th informing eligible families of their appointments for Round 2.

Congratulations to everyone going on to the 2nd round!

Update on School Bus Strike

© Todd Klassy

After the Mayor's press conference last Friday and Chancellor Walcott's letter home warning of "an immediate system-wide, and in our view, illegal, strike by our bus drivers' union—local 1181—that could impact yellow bus service for more than 152,000 students citywide", parents are left wondering what will happen with school bus transportation.

Leonie Haimson over at NYC Public School Parents blog has an excellent article giving us some background as to how this situation came to be.

Key points:

-       at issue is inclusion of employment protection provisions (EPP) in contracts for school bus drivers

-       the Doe always maintained that contracts had to have the EPP provision which required the winning bidder to keep the drivers from the incumbent according to seniority.  The rationale was that without EPP the union would strike

-       In July, however, the city made an about-face, asking Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to veto a bill it had helped develop that would have extended the protections to bus contracts for preschool students who receive special education services

-       Mr. Cuomo did just that in September, citing a decision by the State Court of Appeals that including such protections drives up cost and drives away competition

-       The protections are part of the contracts, which expire in December 2012, that govern the transportation of about 138,000 students from kindergarten through 12th grade.  The new request for proposals that went out on Friday, after the Mayor's press conference, do not include the provision.

According to the New York Times, “Most of the students who would be affected by the strike live in Brooklyn and Queens, some of them outside the city’s public transportation grid. About 102,000 of them are in elementary school; of those, approximately 30,000 have special needs, and some of them require specific travel accommodations, limited travel time and door-to-door service.”

Parents to Improve School Transportation support an EPP in school bus contracts. In their statement, "An Employee Protection Provision is something parents support because we want trained, experienced and decently paid workers handling the youngest children with disabilities.  This EPP has been in the K-12 contracts since 1979; it didn't cover pre-K only because pre-K wasn't universal at the time.  This summer, both houses in Albany passed a bill to extend EPP to pre-Kindergarten and Early Intervention busing, but Cuomo vetoed it at Bloomberg's request."

Here is a statement from the school bus union ATU Local 1181 President Michael Cordiello.

See complete article here.

Manhattan Borough President Wants to Improve NYC Kindergarten Admission Process

An email on one of my parent listserves a few weeks ago said "Help!  Confused about the K admissions process."  This is not uncommon feeling  at this time of year as many parents are knee deep in the private school applications process.   However, many are surprised to hear that, with the exception of Hunter and G&T programs, the public school application process doesn't happen until the beginning of the next year, long after the private school process has ended.

The public elementary admissions timeline for 2012 is:

January 9, 2012 – March 2, 2012 Kindergarten Application Period
March 19, 2012 – March 23, 2012 Families Notified About Assignment Offers
March 26, 2012 – April 20, 2012 Offer Acceptance Period

Recently, Scott Stringer, Manhattan's Borough President, has  undertaken an initiative to help simplify the kindergarten admission process, something near and dear to all New York City parents.   Nothing casues more anxiety to NYC parents than where to send their child(ren) to kindergarten and how to go about getting in and registering.  In a letter to School Chancellor, Dennis Walcott, Mr. Stringer provides suggestions about how to simplify the process for  both families and schools.  These include adjusting admissions timelines to eliminate waitlists, automating admissions, standardizing applications and offering school directories tailored to each district.

Full story and copy of letter can be found at Gotham Schools, here.

We want to hear your comments.  Tell us your suggestions on how to make the process better for all involved below in our comments section.

Possible DOE Immediate School Bus Strike

School Bus

The NYC Schools Chancellor, Dennis Walcott, sent a letter to parents today alerting them to the strong possibility of an immediate system-wide strike by yellow school bus drivers.  Here is the text of the letter:

November 18, 2011
Dear Parent or Guardian,
We are writing to inform you of the strong possibility of an immediate system-wide, and in our view, illegal, strike by our bus drivers' union—local 1181—that could impact yellow bus service for more than 152,000 students citywide.

The New York City Department of Education (DOE) is issuing a bid to secure new yellow bus contracts to transport special education pre-kindergarten and early intervention ( "pre-school") children to their school programs for the 2012-2013 school year. Our current contracts are set to expire at the end of June 2012 and it is imperative that we move forward now to secure a new contract.

The bus drivers' union has told us that if the bid does not include an Employee Protection Provision—a measure which guarantees their workers civil service-type seniority rights in the event that their current employers do not win the new bid—they will go on strike, system-wide. This would result in severe disruptions, or possibly complete discontinuance, of yellow bus service.

In our view, this would be an illegal strike, and it is all the more unconscionable when you consider that New York State's highest Court recently ruled that we may not include an Employee Protection Provision requirement in our bids. Because the union has told us they will strike, we are immediately filing an unfair labor practice charge with the National Labor Relations Board and asking that it seek an injunction in federal court as quickly as possible.

We are deeply concerned about the impact of a strike on our students and families and we want you to be prepared in the event one occurs.

Any information we have about disruptions to bus service will be posted our website at http://schools.nyc.gov. We urge parents and guardians whose children rely on yellow bus service—for pre-K or K-12 service—to regularly check the website for updates. The information will also be provided to the media and to 311.

In the event that a strike occurs, the following protocols will take effect for families of students who currently receive yellow bus service.

For all students who currently receive yellow bus service from a designated school bus stop to school, we will be issuing Metrocards. Metrocards are being made available at schools and should be requested through the school's general office. We have already informed the Transit Authority that it may need to accommodate additional riders. We also ask families to consider alternative means of transportation to school in case of a disruption.

Parents of pre-school and school-age children with IEPs requiring transportation from their home directly to their school, as well as parents of children in grades K-2, may request a Metrocard for the parent or guardian to act as the child's escort to school.

For pre-school and school-age children who have an IEP requiring transportation from their home directly to their school, we are offering reimbursement for actual transportation costs. Parents who drive their children to school will be reimbursed at a rate of 51 cents per mile. Parents who use a taxi or car service to transport their child to school will be reimbursed for the trip upon completion of reimbursement forms that include a receipt for provided services. Requests for reimbursements should be made one week at a time on forms that will be provided in schools' general offices. The forms will ask you to indicate on which school days alternative transportation was taken and whether it was taken for both the morning and afternoon commute. Reimbursement forms as well as receipts should be sent to the Transportation Reimbursement Unit at 44-36 Vernon Blvd, Long Island City, NY 11101.

Field trips using yellow bus service will be cancelled if there is a bus service disruption. After school programs will remain open, but no busing will be provided.

This is a very difficult situation for the school system and we understand that it may be very upsetting to our students and families. Every parent or guardian must evaluate the needs of his or her child in terms of making the best arrangements to transport the child to school. Students who arrive to school late because of disruptions to yellow bus service will be excused for up to 2 hours. Children who are unable to attend school because of disruptions to yellow bus service will be marked absent with an explanation code that will ensure their attendance record is not negatively impacted.

We regret the possibility of what could be a major disturbance in the lives of students and their families. We continue to hope that the bus driver and escort union will not take such unwarranted action in response to what is the proper, legal course of action for the Department of Education to take on behalf of our students and the City taxpayers.

If you have further questions about this matter, please call our Pupil Transportation Hotline at 718-392-8855 or 311.

Sincerely,

Dennis M. Walcott

Chancellor