A ‘Goldilocks amount of screen time’ might be good for teenagers’ well being

Finally!  Some guidance on how much screen time is okay for teenagers.  This study, by British researchers Andrew Przybylski at the University of Oxford and Netta Weinstein at the University of Cardiff, indicates that parental fears about too much screen time hurting young people’s development may be exaggerated.  I really like the way the researchers couched the results in giving kids a “Goldilocks amount of screen time.”  As with everything in life, moderation rules – not too little, not too much, but just the right amount.  The article below is from the University of Oxford and can be read on their website by CLICKING HERE.

A new study argues that while a lot has been said by scientists and paediatricians about the possible dangers of teenagers spending time on digital devices or computers, there is little robust evidence to back up their claims. The researchers say they are the first to systematically test for links between well-being and screen time measured continuously, separately for different digital activities and days of the week. They have proposed the Goldilocks theory: that there is a point between low and high use of technology that is ‘just right’ for teenagers when their sense of wellbeing is boosted by having ‘moderate’ amounts of screen time. The researchers suggest this may be because digital connectivity can enhance creativity, communication skills and development. Their findings also suggests that the relationship between screen time and well-being is weak at best, even when young people overuse their digital devices. The paper is published in the journal, Psychological Science.

Using a well-established self-report measure of mental well-being, researchers from Oxford and Cardiff universities analysed how 120,000 15 year olds in Britain felt after using digital technology and how much time they spent on different devices. Nearly all (99.9%) of the participating adolescents reported spending time using at least one type of digital technology on a daily basis. The teenagers were asked about time spent watching films and TV programmes, playing computer games, using the internet, or smartphones for social networking and chatting. The paper concludes that more than ‘moderate’ time can be linked with a negative effect on well-being, but they estimate this is a ‘small’ effect at 1% or less – equivalent to one third of the positive effect on well-being of a good night’s sleep or regularly eating breakfast.

The researchers tested their digital Goldilocks hypothesis against the data, finding that teenagers’ well-being increased as their screen time increased, up to a certain point. After that point, increased screen time was associated with decreased well-being. The study also highlights that the point at which screen times flipped between moderate and potentially harmful screen time were notably at higher amounts and less variable for days at the weekend. The research finds that moderate digital activity does not generally displace other activities essential for mental well-being; however, smartphones at the weekend could be harmful if a virtual social life disrupted other more rewarding social activities that could have taken place in a teenager’s free time.

Thresholds defining the point at which ‘moderate’ use becomes overuse and affects wellbeing negatively varied according to the digital device and whether teenagers played during the week or at weekends, says the study. It suggests time should be limited to I hour 40 minutes for weekday video-game play and 1 hour 57 minutes for weekday smartphone use. Watching videos and using computers for recreational purposes appears to be less disruptive so limits during the weekdays were 3 hours 41 minutes and 4 hours 17 minutes respectively. For weekends, the limit was 3 hours 35 minutes for playing video games to 4 hours 50 minutes for watching videos. The authors speculate that ‘moderate’ levels of digital screen use are lower on weekdays because the weekdays are relatively richer in opportunities for socialising and learning compared to weekends.

Lead author Dr Andrew Przybylski, of the Oxford Internet Institute at the University of Oxford, said: ‘Previous research has oversimplified the relationship between digital screen time and the mental well-being of teenagers. Overall we found that modern use of digital technology is not intrinsically harmful and may have advantages in a connected world unless digital devices are overused or interfere with schoolwork or afterschool activities. Our research suggests that some connectivity is probably better than none and there are moderate levels that as in the story of Goldilocks are “just right” for young people.’

Co-author Dr Netta Weinstein of Cardiff University commented: ‘To the extent that digital activities either enrich teenagers’ lives or displace more rewarding activities, they should have either positive or negative effects on their mental well-being. There have been theories that digital use is disrupting more satisfying pursuits. However, the role of digital technology has a central role in everyday life and online gaming is now a shared way of playing for teenage boys. There is good reason to think digital technology used in moderation is not disruptive and may even support development.’

For more information, contact the University of Oxford News office on +44 (0) 1865 280534 or email news.office@admin.ox.ac.uk

Notes for Editors:

The paper, ‘A large scale test of the Goldilocks Hypothesis: Quantifying the relations between digital screen use and the mental well-being of adolescents’, will be published in the journal, Psychological Science.
The researchers analysed data on teenagers’ screen use from the United Kingdom’s Department for Education National Pupil Database.

Children Work for Praise

Here is something TestingMom.com posted on our Facebook page and it got tons of “shares.”  I just love it.  Here is the source:  http://www.offgridquest.com/education/texas-school-triples-recess-time-and-see

One of the smartest thing that Dr. Marion Blank ever said to me was: Children work for praise.  Remember that.  It’s so simple and yet so profound.  When you are working with your child, playing with your child, raising your child, you don’t have to give them fancy rewards for doing a good job or being a good kid.  You, praising them, is about the most effective and valuable thing you can do to give your child confidence and belief in him or herself.  Remember that!  It’s quick. It’s easy.  It’s free.  It works!

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How To Get Your Child Into a Competitive Nursery School

If you are thinking about applying your child to nursery school in a city like New York or Los Angeles, where getting into nursery school can be as competitive as getting into an Ivy League, here are some of the most frequently asked questions parents ask on about the admissions process.

  1. Is getting into a private nursery school really that competitive?

It depends where you live. In New York City, it can be very difficult if you have your sights set on what are often referred to as “The Baby Ivies.” These are the nursery schools that supposedly feed into the most in-demand private schools that allegedly feed into the Ivy League Colleges (which allegedly feed into a highly successful and happy life – but that’s a whole other story!). Even if you live in Denver, Colorado, there are preschools that are very hard to get into. In a city like Denver, however, there are pre-schools that are easy to get into, so you can relax more there about this issue than you can in a competitive private nursery school city like Manhattan.

  1. Why is it so hard to get into some nursery schools?

Space is an issue. Nursery school classes must be kept small by law. Once an older sibling has attended a preschool, his younger sibling will almost always be admitted, limiting the number of spaces available. Unlike kindergarten and on, there are few public preschool options available. Also, like hot restaurants, certain preschools take on a cache and soon, everyone wants their child to go there.

  1. When do I apply for nursery school?

This depends where you live. In most cities, you can start looking one year before your child would start, in September. Believe it or not, there are schools that make you sign your child up as soon as he is born if he is even to be considered for admission the year he is eligible. In New York City, the most popular schools accept requests for applications the day after Labor Day and often run out of space before the end of the day. Other schools will take everyone’s request and then give applications away by lottery. There are also many programs that take applications long after Labor Day. My advice is to do a bit of research in your own market and find out what is customary there.

  1. At what age should my child start?

Early childhood experts say that children under age 2 who are developing normally and have loving, supportive families do not need to be in school. As long as you are engaged with your child, talking to him about things you do together, reading to him, exploring the world, and bringing him up in a stimulating environment, school isn’t necessary at such a young age. You may have a good reason for putting a child into nursery school before age 2 (i.e. you work full time and want your child stimulated during the day by a professional educator), but it generally isn’t necessary. Three is the ideal time to send a child to school. By then, kids are independent, able to separate and handle the physical demands of going to nursery school.

  1. What is the process to apply?

Again, this depends on where you live. You’ll need to do your research. Even in a market where there seems to be a customary way to apply, some schools may not follow the pack, so ask at each school that interests you. For example, some schools will require that you tour before they will accept your application. Others won’t schedule a tour unless you’ve already applied. If you are in a very competitive market, apply to multiple schools and get your applications in as soon as you can. In tough markets, they may close out application acceptance earlier than when they say they will if they get too many in to handle. Once your applications are in, make sure that you schedule your tour, your child’s visit, your interview or whatever they require before making an admissions decision.

  1. Do nursery school applications have essay questions?

In many markets, yes. You might find a question on an application such as, “Tell us about your child?” “What does your family enjoy doing together?’ “What separation experiences has your child had so far?’ When you are asked questions like these, take time to answer them thoughtfully. Many nursery schools don’t interview parents individually. In those cases, your answers may be the only way they can get to know your family. If they don’t give you enough space on the application, just attach a separate piece of paper with your typed answer.

  1. What should you look for in a nursery school?

Ideally, the school will be close to home for your convenience and also so that your child makes friends in the neighborhood. Consider the type of school you want, whether it is Montessori, progressive, traditional, religious or cooperative. If you aren’t sure, visit several different types to see what feels right to you.

Do you want a morning, afternoon or extended day program? How much do the programs in your neighborhood cost? When you visit the school, notice the vibe you are getting. Is it noisy? Calm? Chaotic? Are the children having fun? What are the teachers like? Do they have degrees in early childhood education? Do they look interested and engaged? How do they handle an upset child? What is the director like? Would she be easy for you to work with if there is a problem? What is the space like? Is it bright? Well organized? Are materials accessible to children? Is it Clean? Is the toilet area clean? Is there an outdoor play space? Does the school seem safe and secure? What is the parent community like? Are there chances to volunteer and be in the classroom? Are parents or babysitters dropping off the kids? What is your gut reaction? Can you imagine your child going there?

  1. What are the nursery school directors looking for in the families they accept?

The director is looking for families whose values are consistent with theirs and with the other parents already in the school community. She wants to be sure that you understand and agree with the school’s educational philosophy. When you choose a program, you should be looking for the right fit between the school, it’s community, and your family. The director is going to evaluate whether you fit as well. The director wants to know that you would be a reasonable family to work with if there is ever a problem. If you have something special you can offer the school (i.e. you own a restaurant where they could hold a benefit or you are a web site designer who could help revamp the school’s site), this will appeal to the director. She is also looking for a balanced class of boys, girls, ethnicities and personalities.

  1. Do nursery schools really interview 3-year-olds?

A nursery school interview is usually just a classroom visit where the teachers observe children at play. They want to be sure the kids are where they should be developmentally. They are assessing personalities in order to create a class that is balanced in that respect. They may also be watching how you handle any situation that comes up with your child. If he poops in his Pampers, do you pretend it’s another child or do you shrug your shoulders and jump in to change him (you laugh, but I’ve a child eliminated because the parents ignored their child’s BM).

  1. Will connections help me get my child into nursery school?

Families with no connections manage to get their kids into nursery school every day. That said, if you do have friends with kids at a school that interests you, ask them to put in a good word for you and your child. You can also ask a teacher at the school, former parent, or board member to vouch for you. If you are the kind of family that will likely donate to the school, let someone else tell the director this – not you. In nursery school, connections are more likely to help than in the later grades.

  1. If my child attends an in-demand preschool, is she more likely to get into a top private school or gifted program?

The preschool directors of in-demand schools are likely to have established strong relationships with admissions directors of private schools so they can be very effective in getting your child placed in a top program. At the same time, your child will need to have qualifying test scores, a solid recommendation from her preschool, a good interview, and you will have to impress the director in your interview.

To get your child into a gifted program, your child will need to make qualifying test scores. The most important thing you can do to effect this is to send her to an excellent early childhood program. You can also learn the abilities your child needs to test well and make sure she has these by reading Testing For Kindergarten, by Karen Quinn (moi!) or by becoming a member of www.TestingMom.com .

  1. I’m planning to send my child to public school. Does it really matter if I send him to a top preschool?

Even if your child is going to a public school, charter school, or magnet school, he will be evaluated for placement in slow, average, and advance reading, writing and math groups as soon as he begins. He will have more opportunities to learn if he is placed in an advanced group. The key is to make sure your child attends a quality preschool so he is ready to hit the ground running as soon as he starts kindergarten.


How Children Learn by Playing Board Games

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Children love competition. Board games give them the chance to learn to win or lose (with grace, we hope!).  When children play board games, they are strengthening their mathematical, vocabulary, thinking, memory skills – and that’s just the beginning.  By rolling the dice and moving their player on the board, children gain greater numerical understanding.  Moving five spaces helps a child master counting and addition.  Candy Land can be played by children as young as three, and it is often the first game little children learn to play.  Instead of rolling dice, they draw colored cards and move their game piece by matching colors along the colored candy path.  Games like Clue help kids build deductive reasoning skills.  Cranium Cariboo teaches letters, numbers, shapes, and colors.  Games show children how to follow rules, take turns, devise strategy and exercise fine-motor control while moving their game piece around the board.  Some of my favorite games for kids are Candy Land, Connect Four (great for building thinking and fine motor skills), Hiss (wonderful for building patterning abilities), and Chess.  These days, children as young as three are learning to play Chess!  Playing Chess builds critical thinking, spatial skills, numerical abilities, problem solving, memory, patience, logical thinking, pattern recognition skills, and more.  Children who play Chess score higher on standardized reading and math tests, which is why it is required curricula in thirty countries.  If you think your child may enjoy Chess, give it a try.  If you happen to live in NYC, I recommend checking out the folks at Chess at Three.  If you are looking for a board game to build all the skills kids need for kindergarten readiness, I recommend IQ Fun Pack, which has over 25-games-in-1 and three different game boards!  Disclaimer here – I invented the game myself and it is designed to prepare children ages 3 – 6 for tests and kindergarten!  CLICK HERE to learn more about it.

How to Find a Great Nanny

This article appeared in today’s NY Times. CLICK HERE to read it at the Times website. I thought it was very helpful for those in the market for a nanny. It mentions Tammy Gold, who wrote a book called “Secrets of the Nanny Whisperer.” If you are in the market for a nanny, that might be just the read for you before you hire someone. She talks about thinking about the type of nanny you want to hire based on your personal needs. There are 3 kinds – a parental unit nanny, a partner nanny, and an executor nanny. Looking back, we needed a parental unit nanny when we hired Bev, who was with us until our kids started high school. I was working full time, as was my husband, and we needed another full-time parent substitute who could be there when we couldn’t. Beverly Knowles absolutely filled the bill for us. I know that we were lucky to find her. She came to us through an agency. She had already raised two sets of children from other families. She’d held both jobs for many years, so I knew she was committed. But it was the way Bev held Schuyler during our interview that sold me. She immediately had a bond with her and I knew she was the one.

We were so lucky with Bev (see her picture below).
She was absolutely committed to the kids, their fierce protector on the playground, and my right arm when it came to being there when I needed her. To this day, my children (who are grown up now) think of her as a member of their family. They take her dinner, have Thanksgiving with her when we can’t, call her when they need a shoulder to cry on. My children and Bev all live in NYC now, while I’m out in California. So it warms my heart to know that they have a member of the family present for them. Sam ended up in the hospital a few years ago with food poisoning. Bev was by his side until I could fly out there. I don’t know how I would have raised my children without her. I think that the reason we were able to stay together all those years (while many of my friends would have arguments with and break up with their nannies) was because both of us let the little things go. Sure, there were times when I was frustrated or annoyed with something Bev would do. I know she felt the same about us. But we both let those small things slide and focused on the big picture and what was truly important. It was kind of like having another marriage partner. We managed to stay together for the long term. If I could justify having Bev in my life today, I would. But I guess it’s a little odd for a grown woman to keep her nanny when the children have long ago left the nest. Anyway, here is the article. I think you’ll find it interesting and helpful.

Finding a Nanny Who Fits With Your Family, by Paul Sullivan

IF you’re lucky enough to have a nanny like the one Shachar Scott has, one who was with her at the hospital when her twins were born more than three years ago, does everything she wants, keeps her informed when she travels and gets along brilliantly with the family, stop reading now.

For everyone else with a nanny, listen up: You’re probably doing it all wrong. Maybe you’re expecting too much or not being honest about yourself and your children. Maybe you’re missing the cues that your nanny is fed up with your micromanaging and is going to leave any day now. Or maybe you picked the wrong kind of nanny from the start.

Whatever the case may be, the row you’re hoeing can be tougher than people who are juggling day care or parental help might think (though don’t expect any sympathy). One of the reasons is most parents don’t understand what their nanny wants, does and expects in return.

Or so says Tammy Gold, in her new book, “Secrets of The Nanny Whisperer: A Practical Guide For Finding and Achieving the Gold Standard of Care for Your Child” (Perigee, 2015). Ms. Gold is a family therapist in Short Hills, N.J., whose practice has grown to include coaching, consulting and crisis management for nannies and the families who employ them.

Her book serves as both a how-to and a how-not-to guide to the unregulated and unaccredited world of nannies. The International Nanny Association estimates there are 1.2 million nannies in the United States, but Ms. Gold said the real number is double or triple that, given how many nannies are paid off the books. The average pay, she said, is $12 to $15 an hour.

Parents looking to hire a nanny may envision a Mary Poppins type, quirky but full of love and lessons. But just like the Banks family in the books and movies, many families have to settle for Katie Nana, the nanny who storms out before Mary Poppins blows in. In real life, Ms. Gold said, nannies typically stay from one to two years.

Relationships that last longer generally work because the nanny is able to adapt through a child’s developmental stages, and the parents’ needs and home remain relatively constant.

The people who call someone like Ms. Gold for help are typically first-time parents who are clueless, or families who have already cycled through several nannies and want to know what they’re doing wrong. (She said her typical client had gone through three nannies in a year, though she had one client who had eight nannies in 13 months.)

One of the big mistakes parents make is failing to carefully consider their needs before setting out to find a nanny — then picking the wrong kind of nanny. There are three types, Ms. Gold hypothesizes: a parental unit nanny, a partner nanny and an executor nanny.

The parental unit nanny essentially takes over for both parents when they’re at work. Executor nannies are best for stay-at-home parents who can tell them exactly what to do. The partner nanny is in between, for couples who sometimes work from home and want to be more involved and other times are at work and need someone to run the house.

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Problems arise, for example, when parents hire a parental unit nanny who needs to be in charge but are home themselves giving direction.

“People think you need a nanny with a college degree or a nanny who is supersmart or a nanny who is young,” Ms. Gold said. “My nanny is none of that. She had raised two sets” of children from two families over the years.

The nanny has now been with Ms. Gold’s family for 10 years and three children.

Part of the problem, Ms. Gold said, is that people do the search backward and find nannies through referrals before they know what kind of nanny they want. Better to first make the list of essential qualities, as well as traits to be avoided, she said.

Nadia Wallace, a former litigator who now owns a yoga and Pilates studio in Brooklyn, equated the process to buying an apartment in New York City: You might get the top three criteria on your list, but Nos. 4 and 5 are going to be difficult.

Punctuality was one of the top traits that she wanted, said Ms. Wallace, whose husband, too, was working full time. She also placed a priority on finding someone who was keenly aware of her two children’s safety. “I wasn’t looking for a gourmet cook. I thought kindness and judgment and maturity were much more important.”

Her nanny lasted more than five years and is leaving now to go to college full time.

Most nanny-parent relationships fail over communication. When the relationship turns bad, Ms. Gold said, it resembles a marriage headed inexorably for divorce, with both sides misunderstanding the other.

Many more parents are guilty of overestimating the perceived value of how beautiful their home is or other benefits — like the free meals, a fancy car to drive and the occasional vacation with children in tow. “I have to be blunt with families: The nannies don’t care,” she said. “It’s a job to them. They need to balance the bad with the good.”

And nannies, Ms. Gold said, often resist enumerating problems with the family until they pile up. “I call it the nanny rules of 10,” she said. “They don’t vocalize their needs at an anger level of 2 or 3. They wait until they get to 10 and they leave.”

As much as some employers might say the nanny is part of the family, Ms. Gold pointed out that class differences and often cultural differences separate nanny and parent.

For example, while Ms. Scott travels for her job as a senior marketing director for West, an advertising agency based in San Francisco, she said her nanny travels more than two hours each day to get to the Scott home in Jersey City, N.J. She then works from 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and travels back. That’s two very different types of travel.

Like most things in parenting, people stumble. Many approach hiring a nanny like Andrea Barzvi did. She knew the nanny wasn’t perfect but she thought she could make it work.

Ms. Barzvi’s nanny has worked out, sort of. She wasn’t a perfect fit after six months, but Ms. Barzvi kept her on because she and her husband both work and she feared getting a worse nanny. Having had a second child recently, she has come to realize that the nanny, who is older and less mobile, just can’t keep up. She also locked the baby in the house one day.

“Most people would be quicker to let their nannies go,” she said. “Personally, I feel terrible putting someone out of a job. Are you ever going to find that perfect nanny?”

Her current nanny is still caring for her children, but knows she is searching for a new one.

Not all parents are model employers, either. Jessica Summer Thompson has been a full-time nanny since 2007 when she finished her degree at Columbia University. Her longest job was three years and she had another for over a year. But others lasted just a few months or weeks.

“It can be the best job in the world, but I often say the parents can be more challenging than the children,” she said. “It can be a balance of finding the right fit so the parents don’t feel I’m trying to replace them and be the head of the household. But I do have to be in charge.”

Ms. Thompson said families should look at their search for nannies the way companies pursue different types of employees, from the long-serving to the ones who can fill a niche but will leave when that job is done.

“Some want a person to be with them from changing diapers through middle school,” Ms. Thompson said. “If you’re looking for someone who is going to be the type of nanny I am, who is not there for quite as long but for the older years can bring tutoring to the table, that’s what you look for.”

She added, “It’s about figuring out the best need for you and your family and finding the best fit for you.” That, of course, is the challenge.

Update on NYC Gifted and Talented Program and more…

Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña plans to preserve the hallmarks of New York City’s gifted programs, the immensely popular classes and schools that draw high achievers but have been criticized as shutting out low-income children.

Ms. Fariña, in an interview this week covering a variety of issues, pledged to continue using a contentious gifted admissions exam for 4- and 5-year-olds that was put in place under former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. She also promised to preserve the number of gifted programs citywide.

“What exists right now is serving the purpose of communities, and I have no intention of touching it,” she said during an interview at the Education Department headquarters on Monday.

She outlined plans to improve academic options for low-income students, including getting teachers at high-performing schools to advise teachers at struggling ones, and strengthening instruction in algebra, where many middle and high school students founder.

But Ms. Fariña, a longtime teacher, principal and administrator who got a quick introduction to politics this year, was careful to note that she intended no changes that could drive middle- and upper-class families from the system.

She said she opposed eliminating zone-based elementary school admission, which has been pushed by some advocates as a way of increasing racial diversity.

“You would find parents who have invested in certain places,” she said. “You’re not going to tell them this is your zoned school but you can’t go.”

And while she said she planned to expand tutoring for low-income children seeking entry to the city’s elite high schools, she said she would not mandate the return of an admissions program that allowed some disadvantaged students into the schools even if they did not score high enough on the entry test.

Some advocates had hoped Ms. Fariña would overhaul the gifted and talented programs, which they see as a critical front in the effort to reduce inequality in the school system. As principal of Public School 6 on the Upper East Side of Manhattan in the 1990s, Ms. Fariña ended a popular gifted program, arguing that students would be better served if they were mixed by ability.

In recent years, the city has struggled to increase the number of black and Hispanic students in gifted programs. In 2007, under Mr. Bloomberg, the Education Department instituted a citywide test that it hoped would make the admissions process fairer, replacing a system in which districts set their own standards. Instead, it wound up widening racial and socioeconomic disparities, with students in wealthier districts qualifying for gifted seats in far greater numbers than their poorer counterparts.

“The inequities in the current makeup of our gifted and talented programs are a citywide disgrace,” said James H. Borland, a professor of education at Columbia University. Professor Borland suggested that the city judge students relative to the performance of their neighborhoods, rather than the whole city.

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Ms. Fariña said she was eager to bring strategies used in gifted programs, including project-based learning, to schools across the city. She said bright children outside gifted programs could be served by other means, including clubs, lunchtime programs, and science, technology, engineering and math enrichment.

“There’s a lot of other ways to reach the needs of these kids,” she said.

Nearly six months into her tenure as schools chief under Mayor Bill de Blasio, Ms. Fariña said she was focused on improving the quality of teaching, especially at low-income schools. She said she was proud of her efforts to require new principals to have more teaching experience, to reduce the role of standardized tests and to negotiate a teachers’ contract that included bonuses for educators who take on leadership roles.

“We have changed the climate in terms of people feeling good about the jobs they’re doing,” she said.

Mr. de Blasio has promised to involve parents and neighborhood leaders more actively in the work of schools. On Tuesday, he announced a $52 million grant to create 40 community schools, which combine traditional academic programs and social services with the aim of addressing issues like chronic absenteeism.

Given a new state law requiring the city to provide free space to new charter schools or to help pay their rent, Ms. Fariña said she did not expect battles over space to end anytime soon, given the scarcity of available classrooms and the city’s efforts to expand prekindergarten programs.

Job protections for teachers may also emerge as a topic of contention. A California court recently found teacher tenure laws unconstitutional, and legal scholars expect copycat cases.

Ms. Fariña said she did not believe tenure laws hindered education. But she said principals had to be vigilant and work to remove ineffective teachers from the classroom.

“Getting tenure might be a goal, but also removing tenure when necessary is also a goal,” she said.

Ms. Fariña said that she was enjoying her job, and that she would stay on at least through the end of Mr. de Blasio’s current term. She said her biggest regret was a remark she made at the height of a snowstorm in February. Defending a decision to keep schools open, she said that it was a “beautiful day” outside, even as snow and freezing rain continued to hit the ground.

She said that the line had become a conversation starter, and that strangers shouted it to her on the street. “It’s going to be on my tombstone,” she said, “and I can live with it.”

Which NYC Schools Want the ERB for 2014-2015?

In Fall, 2013, it was announced that ISAAGNY (the Independent School Admissions Association of Greater NY) would no longer “require” private schools to administer the ERB for Kindergarten admissions.

In a statement, ISAAGNY announced:

“In the coming months, ISAAGNY will reach out to experts in the field to determine their interest in assisting our organization with the development and implementation of a new protocol that will better meet the needs of our membership, and will reflect the latest research and current thinking around early childhood screening and assessment.

The ISAAGNY Board will invite ERB to our October retreat in order to solicit their ideas for administering assessment alternatives, and we have created another Task Force charged with developing a new protocol by late February of 2014 so that it can be introduced to our membership in time for the 2014–2015 admissions season.”

In February, ISAAGNY did meet. There, it was decided that there would be no single alternative to the ERB that private schools in NYC would be required to use – schools are now free to shape their own admissions process. They expected that some schools would stick with the ERB, while others would use different assessment tools to evaluate their young applicants.

Here is what we know to be true. We have confirmed that a group of schools will still require the ERB as part of its application process. Another group of schools will not require the ERB – they will administer their own test during the school visit. They may or may not release information about what alternative assessment tools they will rely on in place of the ERB. Of this group, some will say that you may “optionally” send in your child’s ERB scores if you have them; Others will advise you not to submit them.

This puts parents in a difficult spot. If your child is applying to even one of the schools that is requiring the ERB, then your child will need to take the test. If your child takes the test and does well, you will also want to submit the scores to any schools that say they will “optionally” accept the test. Even if a school says it isn’t accepting the test, we recommend that you send your child’s scores to them if he or she does very well. If they don’t want to consider them, they won’t. However, if the scores are positive, that’s one additional “plus” that will be added to your child’s file.

If your child takes the test and doesn’t do well, you need not send the results to any school that isn’t requiring ERB scores. However, if you are interviewing at several schools and you are asked what schools you are applying to, schools will know that your child took the test if you mention that you are applying to schools that are requiring the ERB. If these schools will “optionally” accept the test and you don’t send them your child’s scores, they may assume that your child didn’t do well. Just keep this in mind during school interviews.

As of May, 2014, here is what schools have said regarding whether or not they want the ERB as part of the kindergarten application. We gathered this information by calling the schools and checking their websites; however, the information is a bit of a moving target. For example, we called Brearley last week and they said they wanted the ERB. Aristotle Circle told us just today that Brearley called them this morning to say that they wouldn’t be requiring the ERB. So while this list may be true today, it may change over the summer. We recommend that you double check the school website when you are applying as requirements may change between now and fall:

Allen Stevenson – yes
Avenues – yes
Berkley Carroll – yes
Birch Wathen – no, but “send if you have them”
Brearley – no
Browning – no
Buckley – no
Chapin – no
Collegiate – no, but “send if you have them”
Columbia Grammar – no
Corlears – yes
Dalton – no
Dwight – no
Ethical Culture – yes
Friends – no
Grace Church – no
Hewitt – no
Horace Mann – yes
Little Red – no
Mandell – no, but “send if you have them”
Manhattan Country School – no
Marymount – yes
Nightengale Bamford – yes
Packer Collegiate – yes
Poly Prep – no
Ramaz – yes
Rodeph Shalom – yes
Rudolph Steiner – no
Sacred Heart – yes
St. Ann’s – no, but “send if you have them”
St. Bernard’s – website currently says “yes,” but we are hearing that they will not require it for Kindergarten (so double check in the fall)
St. David’s – yes
St. Luke’s – no
Columbia – no
Soloman Schechter – accepts a variety of tests including the ERB
Spence – no
Town – yes
Trevor Day – yes
Trinity – no
United Nations International School – yes
Village Community – no

* Even though not every school we called told us to “send ERB results if you have them,” we still recommend sending them if your child does well.

We will keep you posted about what we learn as more information is released. Expect a lot of uncertainty in this first year after the decision was made to let schools shape their own assessments. In the future, we should have a much better sense of what the various schools will be doing and how parents can make sure their kids are ready for whatever evaluation they’ll be given.

What to do if you are applying to schools that will do their own testing
If you are applying to schools that are doing their own testing, it will be more important than ever for your child to have the skills schools are looking for youngsters to have when entering their programs. If your child is applying to private school, visit www.TestingMom.com’s “Kindergarten Readiness” section to know what abilities selective schools are looking for in the students they accept for admissions. Schools will be looking at your child’s skills in these areas: language, information, memory, math, visual-spatial reasoning, cognitive thinking, fine-motor, along with other kindergarten-readiness skills from social skills to pre-reading to academic abilities. By working on these skills, your child should be ready for whatever evaluation your child receives during a school visit, even if you don’t know the exact form the assessment will take. The www.TestingMom.com website has all the materials and information you need to make sure your child is up to date on the skills that may be assessed. You should also work with www.TestingMom.com’s ERB preparation materials if you are applying your child to any schools that will still wants to see ERB results. Another tool you can use to prepare for the ERB is the IQ Fun Park Game, available at www.TestingForKindergarten.com.

Here information about the “ERB” test for kindergarten and early grade admissions that will continue to be required by many private schools in NYC:

The ERB officially calls the test “The Early Childhood Admissions Assessment” or “ECAA.” The underlying test that is administered is the WPPSI™-IV test. The ERB recently revised its “What to Expect on the ECAA” brochure to reflect the changes it is making on the test for NYC kids applying to private kindergarten for the 2013-2014 school year. They are using the 8 subtests from the WPPSI™-IV test to assess Manhattan children applying for kindergarten admissions. For those of you who have been doing practice questions with your child for the WPPSI™-III test, don’t worry – many of the ERB subtests are very similar to what was on the WPPSI™-III test. If you visit the ERB website at http://erblearn.org/parents, download the ECAA What to Expect brochure, and you will get an idea of the types of questions your child will be asked. You can also register to have your child take the ERB test at this site if your child won’t be assessed at his or her nursery school.

Some schools (such as Horace Mann) have said that they will still require students to take the ERB. Other schools may still require the test to be given – this is to be determined.

If your child is entering Pre-K to 1st grade, he will be given 8 subtests for a full scale IQ score and the assessment should take about 40-50 minutes. Here are the 8 subtests that will be administered:

Verbal Subtests

1) Vocabulary
2) Similarities
3) Information (replaced “Word Reasoning” from WPPSI™-III test)
4) Comprehension

Non-Verbal Subtests

5) Block Design
6) Matrix Reasoning
7) Bug Search (replaced “Coding” from WPPSI™-III test)
8) Picture Concepts

If you would like to talk to an expert about any aspect of private school admissions in NYC, CLICK HERE to schedule a private consultation with Karen Quinn.

Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence™ – Third Edition (WPPSI™-III) and Fourth Edition (WPPSI™ – IV) are trademarks of Pearson Education, Inc or its affiliate(s), or their licensors. TestingMom.com is not affiliated with nor related to Pearson Education, Inc or its affiliates (“Pearson”). Pearson does not sponsor or endorse any TestingMom.com product, nor have TestingMom.com products or services been reviewed, certified, or approved by Pearson. Trademarks referring to specific test providers are used by TestingMom.com for nominative purposes only and such trademarks are solely the property of their respective owners.

The Time to Start Education Isn’t PreKindergarten, It’s Birth, by Ginia Bellafante

This article appeared in the NY Times on April 6, 2014. CLICK HERE to read it at the Times website. If only there could be a local, no a national campaign, as this writer envisions, “prompting mothers and fathers to read to their babies, to use everyday experiences to teach children new words, new ideas, addition and subtraction, and so on.” A child’s education does not begin with pre-K. It begins at birth and it starts with talking to and reading to your child. That’s just the beginning, but it is an important start. If only all young mothers knew this.

Last year, when I was visiting a public school in Sunset Park in Brooklyn for teenagers with boundless difficulties, my host, a poet who teaches at various city schools, mentioned a student who had become pregnant. Hoping to start a library for the child soon to arrive, the poet told the young woman embarking on motherhood that she would like to give her some books — books of the kind her own grandchildren growing up in a very different Brooklyn had by the dozens. The offer was met skeptically. “I already have one,” the girl said.

The successful fight for universal prekindergarten in New York City, a feat the White House called remarkable last week, will allow the city to add 21,440 classroom seats for 4-year-olds this fall and 20,000 more in the fall of 2015, according to the Education Department. As ambitious and important as this initiative is, it cannot, by design, solve the problem of the high school student who thinks one book is enough, and does not yet understand the extent to which parents are obliged to serve as instructors and educators, expanding vocabularies through talking and reading — through exposition and illumination — long before the advent of formal schooling.

In February, Russ Whitehurst, the director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution and former director of the Institute for Education Sciences at the United States Department of Education, testified before Congress on the subject of early education, making the point that universal preschool programs yield disproportionate benefit to middle-class families who may shift children from care they pay for themselves to care that is publicly funded. It is hard to imagine that money will be wasted here, largely because what it means to be middle-class in New York scarcely resembles what it means to be middle-class elsewhere, and because there is so much status attached to the experience of private education that the 92nd Street Y nursery school will surely never find itself short of demand.

And yet the attendant point is a crucial one: that we should concentrate our energies on helping the most vulnerable parents and children beginning at, or before, birth. Programs for 4-year-olds and even 3-year-olds, as Mr. Whitehurst put it, “come too late.”

This is hardly a revelation, and yet there has been a squeamishness on the left to create sweeping policy out of the kind of intimate intervention implied, a fear of the judgment and condescension ferried in exporting the habits of West End Avenue to Central Brooklyn or the South Bronx. No one wants to live in a world in which social workers are marching through apartments mandating the use of colorful, laminated place mats emblazoned with pictures of tiny kangaroos and the periodic table.

But at the same time, the notion that parenting is something that could be, and ought to be, taught is rooted in the history of progressivism. This idea serves as the centerpiece of “Fighting for Life, ” the memoir of S. Josephine Baker, first published in 1939 and recently reissued by the New York Review of Books. Dr. Baker was an early feminist, a graduate of Vassar and the Women’s Medical College in Manhattan who in 1908 began to run the city’s new Bureau of Child Hygiene.

In that role, Dr. Baker sent nurses into the slums and then across the city to visit mothers within days of their giving birth to teach them how to care for babies, to encourage breast-feeding and consistent bathing, and to dissuade unhealthy practices like allowing children to play in gutters and serving infants beer. During the first three years of Dr. Baker’s tenure, the infant death rate in the city declined by 40 percent.

As a medical intern and as a city health inspector, Dr. Baker had involved herself in the lives of the poor, witnessing horrific episodes of maternal misconduct but drawing from them compassion rather than contempt. In one instance, in Boston, Dr. Baker wrote, a woman arrived at the hospital about to give birth with her feet burned and blistered because, warming them in the oven, she had fallen asleep while drunk.

“Having borne children and lived and fought and made love regardless, they took that method of dodging consequences,” Dr. Baker wrote of the penchant for drink among the underclass, “but one could not honestly blame them for making use of alcohol as an anesthetic.”

The paternalism of our previous mayor stirred so much anger and resentment in large part because it was virtually impossible to imagine him saying anything like that. But it is easy to envision someone like Mayor Bill de Blasio, who made compassion so thematic in his campaign, spearheading parenting initiatives that might find national resonance (as Dr. Baker’s did) — prompting mothers and fathers to read to their children as babies, to use everyday experiences to teach small children new words, new ideas, addition and subtraction and so on.

He could say that he understands how hard it is to make time for things that might not seem immediately necessary, but that in the end can make the difference, if not between literal life and death, then between the prospects of a good life and a flattened one.

Email: bigcity@nytimes.com

Fewer Pupils Qualify for Gifted Programs, by Al Baker

Parents: Scores are out and fewer NYC students qualified for G&T this year. If you would like to read this article at the NY Times website, CLICK HERE. Scores may have gone down because the NYC DOE now puts more weight on the verbal portion of the test, which puts kids who speak multiple languages at a disadvantage.

Fewer Pupils Qualify for Gifted Programs

APRIL 4, 2014

The numbers of children qualifying for seats in gifted programs in New York City public schools declined this year, the Education Department said on Friday, though they were still far higher than when citywide admissions testing began a few years ago.

Of the 14,605 children tested this year for admission to gifted kindergarten classes in September, 4,590 scored high enough to qualify, a decrease from the 5,390 who qualified a year earlier, according to data released Friday by the Education Department.

As recently as 2008, only 2,230 students qualified. Since then, there has been a rise in the number of children taking the test and in eligibility. Students must score in the 90th percentile to qualify for gifted seats in their districts, and in the 97th percentile to be eligible for one of the five citywide gifted programs. But because so many children score so high, even most of those who score in the 99th percentile do not win citywide seats.

Last year, the department changed one of the two admissions tests, which are given back-to-back in one session. A major reason for the change was to combat the advantages of children receiving pretest tutoring, but the number of students qualifying still increased. This year, the department changed the way it weighted the two tests, giving equal footing to its verbal and nonverbal sections “to improve the psychometric balance across the two tests,” a spokesman said.

Michael McCurdy, a co-founder of TestingMom.com, an online service that provides practice test materials and advice for parents, said he believed the change might worsen the existing racial imbalance in gifted programs. That is because the verbal parts of the test “seem to have more bias to high-language, English-speaking-only households,” he said.

The Education Department did not release results for each racial and ethnic group. But some of the largest percentage drops in the numbers of children qualifying for gifted kindergarten seats occurred in predominantly black and Hispanic areas of eastern and central Brooklyn and the northern Bronx. The Brooklyn districts covering Canarsie and East New York saw numbers drop by more than half.

The schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, ended a program for gifted students at Public School 6, on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, when she was the school’s principal in the 1990s. Asked whether she was contemplating any changes in the gifted programs, or in the admissions process, the department said only that the policies were still under review. Before 2008, the department used a system in which each of the city’s 32 districts could set their own criteria, including schoolwork and teacher recommendations, for admission.

In a statement, Devora Kaye, a department spokeswoman, said, “We continue to look at alternative ways to identify gifted students through verbal and nonverbal assessments and promote geographical diversity in these programs.”

The number of gifted seats changes each year based on demand and space, but many of those who qualified will not receive one.

Last year, about 3,000 incoming kindergartners were offered seats in gifted classes.

NYC Families – Lots of Pre-K Spots Are Opening Up – Apply Now – April 23 Deadline!

Attention Parents of NYC Preschool students: 21,440 new spots will open up for Fall, 2014 now that De Blasio got $300 million in funding for free kindergarten Classes in NYC. 20,000 more seats will open up in 2015. Here is the note I received about it. Be sure to check out those links if you are looking for pre-K in the City!


We are happy to announce that new full-day, public school pre-kindergarten (pre-k) programs will be available this September! For a list of these new full-day options, please see our Pre-K Expansion Guide, which is available on the pre-k website or at an Enrollment Office next week.

The deadline to submit your public school pre-k application is Wednesday, April 23. If you already submitted an application and want to apply for one of these new programs, you can update your program choices through your online application account or by submitting a new paper application at an Enrollment Office.

If you have any questions, please contact ES_Enrollment@schools.nyc.gov or visit our pre-k website. You can also find translated versions of Pre-K Admissions resources on the following pages: Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Urdu.

We look forward to supporting you through this exciting process!

Pre-K Admissions Team

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