Posts tagged "insideschools"
March 12, 2013
City eighth-graders who find out on Friday where they will attend high school had only the city’s data to consider when choosing where to apply. Next year’s applicants will have access to a different set of facts and figures — ones that focus as much on the student experience as on student performance.
They will be able to use Insidestats, a feature that the school information website Insideschools officially launched today. Insidestats is a consumer-oriented presentation of public data about high schools that is meant to complement, or perhaps even rival, the information the city distributes.
“We hope to offer a more nuanced picture, because different schools are good at different things,” Insideschools founder Clara Hemphill wrote today on the site. “Some schools take high-achieving kids and push them to ever greater heights. But others do a particularly good job with kids who need special education or English as a Second Language.” (more…)
June 28, 2012
When Jacqueline Wayans helped her second daughter pick a high school, they were confident about their choice.
After all, Wayans is a savvy parent who had worked for years visiting and reviewing schools for Insideschools, the online guide to city schools. Her older daughter had attended a city school with an arts theme and gotten a good education, and her younger daughter’s top pick, Manhattan’s High School for Fashion Industries, had gotten an “A” from the Department of Education.
It wasn’t until after her daughter enrolled that Wayans learned Fashion Industries only offered three years of math classes. And when the school added a fourth math class, she didn’t find out until it was too late that her daughter’s scores were too low for her to qualify. Now, when Wayans’s daughter starts college this fall, she’ll need to take remedial math.
“I just assumed that there was a four-year sequence,” Wayans said today during a panel discussion about metrics for assessing high schools that Insideschools hosted. “My older daughter had it at her high school and I just thought it was there.”
Wayans isn’t alone in trusting a small sliver of information to make the potentially life-changing decision about where to attend high school. Some parents and students choose schools by their names, their sports teams, or their neighborhoods, without digging deep to understand what kind of education the schools offer.
Now entering its second decade, Insideschools (where I also worked from 2005 to 2008) is preparing to launch a tool to help parents like Wayans — and those far less savvy than she is — make better choices. The tool, called “Inside Stats,” is a consumer-oriented presentation of public data about high schools that is meant to complement, or perhaps even rival, the information the city distributes. (more…)
February 24, 2012
When the Department of Education’s embargo of Teacher Data Reports details lifted at noon today, news organizations across the city rushed to make the data available.
The Teacher Data Reports are “value-added” assessments of teachers’ effectiveness that were produced from 2008 to 2010 for reading and math teachers in grades 3 to 8.
This morning, department officials including Chancellor Dennis Walcott and Chief Academic Officer Shael Polakow-Suransky met with reporters to offer caution about how the data reports should be used. They emphasized the reports’ wide margins of error — 35 percentage points for math teachers and 53 percentage points for reading teachers, on average — and that the reports reflect only a small portion of teachers’ work.
“We would never advise anyone — parent, reporter, principal, teacher — to draw a conclusion based on this score alone,” Polakow-Suransky said.
Most of the news organizations that filed Freedom of Information Law requests for the ratings plan to publish them in searchable or streamlined databases, with the teachers’ names attached. GothamSchools does not plan to publish the data with teachers’ names or identifying characteristics included because of concerns about the data’s reliability.
At least two other news organizations that cover education are also not publishing the data: the local affiliate of Fox News, according to a representative of Fox, and the nonprofit school information website Insideschools.
Department officials are asking schools not to release the reports to parents. They issued a guide today advising principals about how to handle parents who demand that their child be removed from the class of a teacher rated ineffective. (more…)
May 19, 2011
A change to the city’s high school admissions timeline could alleviate eighth-graders’ anxiety.
In the past, eighth-graders did not all find out at the same time where they had been admitted to high school. Some students — those who won admission to the city’s elite specialized high schools or to LaGuardia High School, a performing arts school — found out in mid-February where they got in. Students who didn’t apply to those schools or weren’t admitted didn’t learn what high school had accepted them until late March.
Starting next year, all high school applicants will find out at the same time in February where they are headed to high school, according to an Insideschools report about tweaks to the admissions process.
The change will likely come as a relief to students, many of whom found the two-part schedule stressful. In March, eighth-grader Audrey Bachman wrote in the Community section about “the empty feeling of not knowing” where she would go to high school after many of her classmates already knew their options:
But when I think about all of this, all this drama and emotion … all for one thing that is determined by some test? What 13-year-old should have to deal with this? The fact that the high school process in New York City is set up in a way that makes some kids feel like losers and some kids feel like winners in the end is not a very good life lesson.
March 9, 2011
Buried in a New York Times article about the suspension of George Washington High School’s famed baseball coach is a reminder of the steep challenge students face when trying to switch high schools.
Fernelys Sanchez was admitted to Lehman High School in the Bronx but wanted to play baseball for George Washington’s winning team, the Times reports. So he moved into his father’s apartment in Washington Heights. Then he tried — for more than a year before he succeeded — to win a transfer.
But a policy shift over the last several years means that the city’s system of school choice largely closes off once students are in high school.
“For whatever reason, it has become increasingly difficult, almost impossible, to get a transfer to another regular high school,” Pamela Wheaton of Insideschools told me two years ago. City officials say it’s not educationally sound for students to change high schools unless they absolutely have to.
The city gives three reasons students can transfer from one high school to another: a long commute, a safety risk, or a health issue. Sanchez’s family said he tried all of them: (more…)
January 25, 2011
A delay in special education reforms is the first sign that plans laid out before Chancellor Cathie Black’s arrival might not be carried out as intended.
The Department of Education was supposed to expand changes to special education from 260 schools system-wide this fall. But that plan has been pushed back to 2012, Black told principals in an email earlier this week. The move was first reported by Insideschools, which reported that special education advocates said the city would not have been able to scale up the changes successfully on its original timeline.
The slowdown is notable because it marks Black’s first departure from the script set out for her by her predecessor, Joel Klein. Since being appointed chancellor, Black has largely indicated that she will stay Klein’s course. In her previous “Principals Weekly” emails, she expressed commitments to many of Klein’s priorities, last week inviting more schools to join the Innovation Zone he launched last year.
The special education expansion plan was ambitious from the start. An internal review completed in July 2009 called for substantial reforms. But by February, when the city began explaining its plans to special education advocates, few details had been fleshed out. Changes to state special education requirements and unanswered questions about funding are contributing to the delay, Insideschools reported.
Black’s complete email to principals is below. (more…)
November 1, 2010
The website InsideSchools, which for years has provided independent information about schools for parents and teachers, has found a new home at The New School.
Founded in 2002 by Pamela Wheaton and Clara Hemphill, the site and its staff will be based out of the Center for New York City Affairs at the university, where Hemphill currently works. And as part of the move, the co-founders are retooling the site — updating its look and writing reviews that cater to parents who don’t have perfect English.
“The idea is that we want to make the site more accessible to people who don’t read very well and who might not speak English, so we’re going to try to have videos and pictures and try to have less text,” said Hemphill, the site’s senior editor, in a phone interview today.
“Of the schools the chancellor has opened, most of them are really geared for at-risk kids, so we wanted to make it easier for kids who have kind of limited reading levels to navigate,” she said. (more…)
July 1, 2009
Mayoral control is not the only city education institution that lapsed yesterday. The Web site Insideschools.org, which for years has provided independent information about schools for parents and teachers, has dramatically scaled down its operations beginning today.
The site launched in 2002 with funding that was always set to run out now. Unfortunately, in a year when advertisers, philanthropists, and foundations alike are keeping their pocketbooks close, Insideschools hasn’t been able to raise the capital to keep going. The site’s downsizing comes at a time when both critics and supporters of the Bloomberg administration say parents need more good information about their schools.
I worked at Insideschools for three years, from 2005 until I helped launch GothamSchools last year. Yesterday was the last day of work for many of my former colleagues and this morning, Helen Zelon, the site’s lead blogger, posted for the last time. Insideschools’ few remaining staff members and volunteers will continue to collect basic information about each school and monitor admissions news, a sometimes-herculean task in itself. But they won’t be able to visit and review schools or provide many of the services that their readers, tens of thousands of city parents, desperately seek.
Here at GothamSchools we eschew editorializing. But when it comes to getting school news to New Yorkers, we don’t mind saying more is better.
May 20, 2009
A frequent criticism of charter schools is that they succeed by “creaming” children. A new analysis by Insideschools finds that many city charter schools do have significantly fewer needy students than other public schools.
Vanessa Witenko, a former colleague of mine, analyzed data from city charter schools (although she had trouble obtaining some data) and found that most do not enroll homeless students, offer special programs for students still learning how to speak English, or provide special education services that are legally required for some children with special needs.
Here are a few key excerpts.
On why charter schools enroll just 111 of the city’s 51,000 homeless students:
“The application period is February and March and the lottery is held in April,” said [Jeff] Litt [of the Carl C. Icahn charter schools]. “A mother who comes [to the shelter] in June is too late, so their kids go to the neighborhood school.” Homeless families may have priorities other than seeking alternatives to their neighborhood schools, he said. “They have daily survival needs. I don’t know if they have the time to research who we are, what we are, how to get in.”
On some charter schools’ use of Collaborative Team Teaching classes, intended for some children with special needs, to educate children who are learning English: (more…)
April 21, 2009
A public school principal in Fort Greene is asking for a public, face-to-face meeting with concerned community members after Internet and newspaper reports described dissatisfaction with his leadership.
One report, in the Brooklyn Paper, said unhappiness with the principal, Sean Keaton, of the Clinton Hill School, P.S. 20, is behind a surge of interest in the nearby Community Roots charter school. Another report, at Insideschools.org, includes a parent describing Keaton as “authoritarian,” “hostile,” and “abusive.” The frustration comes as a flood of middle class families are moving to the Brooklyn neighborhood – and often searching for options outside P.S. 20, their zoned school. The Brooklyn Paper reported that only 27% of kindergarten-aged students zoned for P.S. 20 attend it.
Parents posting in the comments sections of the Times blog and at Insideschools said they feel Keaton shuts them out of the school. One said that he has a “closed door policy to the parents.” (more…)