Wednesday, April 18, 2012

English Programs - Which are the Best?

My daughter was accepted to apply for both citywide and district gifted and talented programs.  And, in true DOE fashion, we have, essentially, five days to make our decision.  I say essentially, because we learned she was accepted last week, but the DOE was on vacation last week.  So, this week, my husband and I are joining the frazzled mass of parents at open houses.  And we're being hit with all kinds of information about protocol and strategizing the program ranking, transportation options, sibling preferences, seat availability and all sorts of complications that only New York City could invent.  I learned the difference between district programs (who have enrichment), and city programs (that offer acceleration as well as enrichment).  I could even tell you the difference between acceleration and compaction.  What we want, of course, is a good education for our daughter.  And for parents in NYC who seek a quality education, the choices are tough, tougher, and downright shitty. 

Before we even entered this rat's nest, we had to fight for a place at our zoned school.  Our zoned school, the reason we purchased a house in a pricy neighborhood, announce in October that they were overcrowded and, naturally, they were this close to passing a resolution to move the zone border.  Actually, they didn't tell us as much as we found out.  And, again, naturally, our house, bought specifically so that our daughter could attend this school, was this close to being placed outside this border, for the year my child was to enter the school.  Four hundred petitions, hours spent on hold to get the run-around from DOE officials, unanswered emails, and many impassioned speeches later, the rezoning was voted down.  Rejoice! 

Then came the lotto.  Since the zone was not redrawn, the school now needed to restrict the number of children admitted into kindergarten (actually, the size of zone has nothing to do with the overcrowding, but that's another story).  This is where our luck changed.  Tootie Pie was admitted to the school.  Cue the confetti!  Wonder at your good fortune!  Argue about which parent will enroll her!  And, then, the results came from the gifted and talented: 99th percentile.  Which is why I've now become that parent, the very person I could not stand: the hyperinvolved, earnestly asking overly specific questions, dangerously armed with a little knowledge, panicked, overambitious parent.  Or, at least, I will be until Friday.

So, we are attending the open houses.  Maybe this is a mistake; getting our hopes up for dream schools that will never meet our expectations.  My husband and I are math teachers, and so we know the terminology and programs being thrown at parents, and we feel pretty smug that we have a grasp of at least one small part of this overwhelming puzzle.  However, English Language Arts is a different story for us; they're really razzle-dazzling us here, and unlike with the math, we don't know what any of it means, or if it's good or bad.  Does anyone know a good English program being used today?  Fountas and Pinnell, balanced literacy, writer's workshop, write source, leveled reading: aren't these all fancy words for the ELA equivalent of "fuzzy math"?  Do students learn grammar, spelling, vocabulary, and punctuation anymore?  ELA teachers, please weigh in.  Quickly!!!


  1. A balanced approach....the sign of the times. It all sounds good to me. And no ~ there are no more grammar books. You're hoping that you're child's teacher can teach the rules about 's! That's the hard part. But with guided reading, you hope that she learns Bloom's taxonomy and learns to think at a higher level. Inferring, synthesizing, drawing conclusions, summarizing, etc...Oh what fun! I think she's in good hands! Go Laura! It's a great problem, if you ask me! xoxo



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