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July 9, 2012
Schools that build summer "bridges" for students pay a price
Ninth-graders at PTECH work on algebra problems in May. On a muggy August afternoon last year, nearly 75 Bronx students could be found playing orchestra instruments to the tune of Duke Ellington's C Jam Blues in the auditorium of M.S. 223. They were gathered to mark the close of three weeks of arts, music, and math instruction they received through the school's first summer "bridge" program. M.S. 223 is one of dozens of city middle and high schools to invite to incoming students for summer classes meant to immerse them in school culture and prevent them from forgetting what they learned the previous year. "Summer bridge is important because we think of our model as a year-round school," said Rashid Davis, principal of Brooklyn's nascent Pathways in Technology Early College High School. "That way we’re not dealing with that summer learning loss than can go from two to four months of material, especially for high-poverty students. We can't expect them to magically come in here with the skills they need." Indeed, researchers have pegged students' regression — known as the "summer slide" — at the equivalent of two months of school or more. City officials recognize the challenge: This summer, the Department of Education is piloting a small program in the South Bronx for students who are struggling but not failing. But the funding for that program, Summer Quest, comes from private donors. Public funds, for the most part, are earmarked only for the thousands of students across the city who are required to attend summer school because of low test scores or poor grades. That means schools that develop programs for incoming students who aren't already in trouble are on their own to scrounge up funding.
May 1, 2012
School EMS referrals, on the rise, catch City Council's attention
Sonya Turner knew her daughter struggled in school, both socially and academically. But when an assistant principal called one afternoon last October to say that her daughter, Cashmiere, had turned suicidal and needed to be sent to the Emergency Room for psychiatric evaluation, Turner said she didn't believe it. When she visited the school that afternoon to follow up, she was told she would not be allowed to speak with Cashmiere until she met with school administrators. Turner refused and angrily confronted school officials until she had to be restrained school safety officers. "I was livid, I was cursing, I was very irate," Parker said. "If anyone should have been admitted to a psychiatric ward it should have been me, not my child," In the end, school officials sent Cashmiere to the ER anyway. She is one of hundreds of students who each year are forcibly referred to emergency medical services by principals who believe that they could be dangerous to themselves or others. Those numbers are on the rise, education department officials told City Council members at a hearing on mental health services in schools today. During the 2010-2011 school year, principals and assistant principals sent students to the E.R. 947 times, a 12 percent spike from the previous school year. "We have work to do because that number is not going in the right direction," said Deputy Chancellor Kathleen Grimm said in her testimony.
March 13, 2012
For students who want to attend pricey programs, a site to help
Watley, a ninth-grader at a city high school, is hoping to attend a technology camp at New York University. Adrian wants to attend a youth leadership conference. And Sheridan thinks a physics program at the University of Pennsylvania would help her move towards her goal of studying aerospace engineering. But all of the opportunities cost money that the students don't have. That's why their schools directed them towards Wishbone, an organization developed by a former teacher to help students independently raise money for out-of-school and summer programs. Wishbone, which launched its website yesterday, follows in the tradition of DonorsChoose and GrayMatter, which allow donors to earmark funds to specific school and student needs. Like those groups, Wishbone depends on the graciousness of strangers to fulfill the wishes of those fundraising, but Wishbone's innovation is to focus on the non-academic side of the student experience. Already, 15 city students are raising funds. One student's campaign — Sheridan's — is marked urgent because she has just 16 days to raise nearly $2,000 to pay for the physics summer program. (A video featuring Sheridan is below.) Reed Matheny, Wishbone’s outreach coordinator, said the organization sees itself as supplementing more established groups. “We’re putting that same philanthropic energy that’s out there in the country towards supporting individual students in out-of-school opportunities,” Matheny said.
February 27, 2012
Study: With a little push, students get a lot more out of recess
A Recess Enhancement Program coach leads students in an activity at P.S. 134 in Manhattan. (Photo courtesy Asphalt Green) When recess facilitators encouraged city students to jump rope or play tag during recess, girls were more likely to get moving and boys were less likely to get into fights, according to a study released this week. The study looks at the Recess Enhancement Program, a decade-old program in which coaches enter city schools during their recess periods to organize and facilitate games that encourage physical activity. The program is run by Asphalt Green, a non-profit trying to combat childhood obesity, and currently operates in 34 city schools. The program was founded in 2001 at six schools and is set to grow to 75 schools by 2013. The study, conducted by a professor and graduate students from Hunter College, used an observation rubric to compare "enhanced recess" at 20 schools to traditional recess at 12 schools. The researchers found that students in traditional recess programs were four times more likely to verbally attack each other and show other signs of aggression. They also found that overall vigorous activity was nearly 50 percent higher among girls and boys ages 9 to 11 at schools where REP coaches offered games. Just over one in five children in New York City's elementary and middle schools is considered obese, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control. New York was the only city to see its childhood obesity rate decline in the last five years. Farid Reyes, principal of P.S. 103, brought REP into his Bronx elementary school when he became principal in 2010. A combination of unstructured indoor and outdoor recess was offered at the Wakefield school in years past, but the changes after introducing the new program were well worth its $2,000 price tag, he said.
December 13, 2011
Annual arts report shows no budget toll on programs, funding
Principals allocated slightly more funding to the arts last year, according to a new report from the Department of Education. But arts spending is still much lower than it was before citywide budget cuts two years ago. The total school-based spending on arts last year was $316 million, up from $312 million in the 2009-2010 school year but down from $326 in 2008-2009. The tally is contained in the city's 2010-2011 Arts in Schools Report, an annual collection of facts and figures that the DOE released today. “This year’s report shows that thanks to the hard work and resourcefulness of our schools and cultural partners, we continue to make steady progress in offering arts instruction to more students,” Chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a statement. Other notable data points: Fifty-four percent of elementary schools provided instruction to all grades in four arts disciplines — theater, music, visual arts, and dance — up from 51 percent in 2010 and just 40 percent in 2009.
February 18, 2010
After-school program builds bridges for public housing residents
As after-school programs have fallen victim to budget cuts at many schools, one program to build science and math skills has found an unusual home…
August 4, 2009
Getting HS students into college requires dedication, and staff
The Brooklyn high school profiled in the Daily News today doesn't get its students into competitive colleges by "maniacal dedication" alone. The Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice also has a robust college counseling program that outstrips what's offered by most city high schools. The school's college placement office has two staff members who edit essays, help students find internships to build their resumes, and organize trips to colleges near and far. Most schools of SLJ's size, with about 100 students in each grade, are lucky to have a single person dedicated solely to helping students navigate the college admissions process. Susan Knight, SLJ's director of college placement, told me about the school's college program after a panel discussion this spring about how to boost achievement at city high schools. During our conversation, a college counselor from another Brooklyn high school approached Knight to ask her how he could replicate SLJ's success on his own. It would be a challenge, Knight said: She hired additional an additional staff member only after persuading foundations to cover the salary.
May 15, 2009
Schoolchildren taking to the streets tomorrow to make art
UPDATE: Here's a video of Saturday's street-painting event: Art classes might be getting squeezed in some city schools, but they are still happening in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn — at least on Saturdays. Fort Greene kids are set to paint the street in front of their school tomorrow as part of a city initiative to beautify local roads. The art teacher from one of the schools, Community Roots Charter School, has been working with a local artist and her second graders to develop a plan for drawing a street mural that looks like a neighborhood map. The event, taking place in front of the building shared by PS 67 and Community Roots, is being sponsored by Livable Streets Education, which like GothamSchools is part of The Open Planning Project.
March 4, 2009
Under Mayor Mike, Chancellor Joel, more kids stay after school
The number of New York City schoolchildren enrolled in high-quality after-school programs has risen from 48,000 in 2001, when Mayor Bloomberg was elected, to 140,000, according to a nonprofit dedicated to expanding the programs. At a snow-dampened event on Monday, The After-School Corporation celebrated its 10th anniversary by honoring philanthropist George Soros, who originally funded the group, and thanking Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel Klein for their help bringing after-school programs to 600 city schools. During a 6-minute video that depicted city leaders as superheroes, the group noted that under Bloomberg, New York City has become "the largest municipally funded after-school system in the country."
January 5, 2009
Now in NYC, Citizen Schools offers volunteers, offbeat instruction
A Boston-based program that pairs adult mentors with middle school students who want to learn how to design video games or launch a business is now bringing its brand of mentoring to New York City kids. Citizen Schools, a decade-old organization that facilitates apprenticeships for students in almost 20 cities nationwide, set up shop at four middle schools this year, two each in Brooklyn and East Harlem. At each school, the organization is offering professional instruction, an after-school program, and classroom support, according to Nitzan Pelman, Citizen Schools' New York City executive director. The centerpiece of Citizen Schools' programming is the apprenticeship, in which adult volunteers spend 12 weeks teaching students about a particular subject before the students present their work to a panel of experts on that subject.
December 11, 2008
“Be careful of schools and walkers,” first graders tell drivers
Our colleagues at Livable Streets Education (like us, an initiative of The Open Planning Project), have been “encouraging students to explore and…
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