Private Panic Thanks to the New York Observer (www. observer.com), a little-reported education crisis is getting the coverage it deserves. It seems that this year, at least 60 children, perhaps as many as 150, have failed to gain admission to some of Manhattan’s most prestigious private elementary schools. “Nursery schools that once placed their students in elite institutions as a matter of course are telling the bewildered and angry parents to look at public schools,” William Berlind reports in the April 19th issue. “It was a difficult year for everybody,” Dr. Elisabeth Krents, director of admissions at the Dalton School First Program, admits to Berlind. Desperate parents are freaking out. Sandy Bass, publisher of the Private School Insider, says her phone hasn’t stopped ringing. “I got phone calls from people that were not even subscribers,” she tells Berlind. “They’d say, ‘Oh, my God. My child didn’t get in.’ ”Largely because of New York’s overheated economy, more parents this year have more money to spend on independent school tuition. Plus, there are more families these days with three or four kids, which, as one school director notes, “raises the sibling situation.” But will these children actually end up in public schools? Probably not. “We don’t consider this over at all,” Patricia Girardi, executive director of the Parents League, tells the Observer. “We like to think that these children will be placed between now and September. The dust hasn’t settled yet.”
Wired: Are computers changing the way children learn? No question about it, argues Amy Virshup in the premiere issue of Offspring (April/May), a parenting magazine created by the editors of Smart Money. Virshup cites numerous examples of how children—both at home and at school—are doing things on computers that their parents never dreamed of. The problem is, which software programs to use? Many parents don’t have a clue. Drill-and-skill programs have their place, but Virshup argues that the best titles allow children to explore open-ended questions. “Is there a right answer?” she asks. “If so, leave the box on the shelf. The best strategic problem-solving games can turn out differently every time, depending on the choices players make.” Virshup makes a few specific software recommendations, and an accompanying sidebar offers a grade-by-grade guide to the best children’s Web sites. (For 2nd graders, there’s The Nine Planets, a multimedia tour that incorporates history and mythology. Eighth graders may want to check out the Library of Congress’ American Memory site, which features, among other things, more than 1,100 Civil War photographs.) Elsewhere in the issue, Walecia Konrad chronicles the battle over “Connected Mathematics,” a middle school math curriculum that eschews rote memorization in favor of reasoning and problem-solving. “Critics of the program,” Konrad writes, “say that it develops an overreliance on calculators and computers and spawns kids who have no grounding in basic skills.” In Plano, Texas, upset parents have sued the local school district, charging that their First Amendment rights were violated when they were not allowed to distribute information against the curriculum at school meetings. But that hasn’t stopped the district from expanding the program from a pilot group to all of its 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students, Konrad observes.
Vol. 11, Issue 8, Page 14Published in Print: May 1, 2000, as Clippings