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Dyanthe’s Weekly Letters

Week of March 11, 2019

Dear Families,

For the past 6 years, our school has had a high opt-out rate with respect to NY State Math and English Language Arts tests.  Last week, I learned that last year and moving forward, all opt-outs will be weighted as 1s (well below proficient in standards) and will be included in our State Performance Accountability Data.  Opting out of the NY state tests will NOT penalize individual students; they will continue to be recorded as opt outs.  The DOE seems unclear about what this means for schools with high opt out numbers like TNS.  For now, TNS and others are on “potential Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI) Status.” I hope to have more information to share at our next PTA meeting on Thursday, March 21.

We will continue to support the families who choose to opt-out their children out of the tests and equally support those who do not.  TNS students who do not take the state tests will continue the important and meaningful work they engage in everyday.  Grade 3 – 5 families are asked to speak to their teachers about opting out of the State Tests during conferences so we can organize staffing and materials accordingly.   

Teachers and I will meet with families Tuesday morning at 8:35AM to discuss the implications of standardized testing and test prep in NYC elementary schools.  Our opt out numbers have allowed us to maintain higher standards for assessment and to enjoy greater academic freedom in curriculum.  Grace and Sofia will talk about the challenges and pressure teachers and students faced when when test prep and the state tests played an important role at TNS.  Anthony and Mara will share their experiences working at other NYC DOE schools. Please join us for this very important meeting.

Mark your calendars.  It’s a really busy week at TNS:

  • Olivia, Lindsey and Mildred leave with their class to the Manhattan Country School Farm Monday morning; they return Wednesday.  Jane’s class leaves Wednesday and returns Friday afternoon.

  • Family conferences are this week!  Please be sure to sign-up for a conference time with your child’s teacher.  Wednesday is late night conferences and Thursday is a DOE half-day for conferences.  Dismissal is at 11:45AM. If you have any difficulty signing up for a conference, please call the school office and we will help coordinate a time for you.

  • There is a bake sale with meal deals Wednesday during conferences.  Folks can grab a slice of pizza and a cookie for $5! Or choose Mac N Cheese with a side of ‘slaw for $5!  Lots of other baked treats will be available, and we will also have coffee and juice available. This is a fundraiser for the TNS Yearbook + Graduation.

  • Pie Day is Thursday!  This is a fundraiser for the Farm and Camp trips.  Slices will be on sale at drop-off and all afternoon.  The cost? $3.14 per slice of pie.  Coffee is $2, or $1 if you bring your own mug

  • The ECO Committee meets Friday at drop-off in the small cafeteria.

  • Hannah, Catlin, Shaniqua & Chelsea, Lindsey & Olivia, Matt and Joanne & Sofia’s classes go ice skating Friday.  

Have a good week,


Dyanthe’s Weekly Letters

Week of March 4, 2019

Dear Families,

Family conferences are next week!  Please be sure to sign-up for a conference time with your child’s teacher.  Wednesday is late night conferences and Thursday is a DOE half-day for conferences.  Dismissal is at 11:45AM. If you have any difficulty signing up for a conference, please call the school office and we will help coordinate a time for you.

Please join us Tuesday at 8:40AM in the PTA Room for a discussion about the ways TNS does not do assessment.  Many other schools get caught up with test preparation, so much so that it affects curriculum.  Dyanthe, Grace, Sofia, Mara and Anthony will share their thoughts about what we don’t to do at TNS, and their experiences with other educational environments focused on testing and test preparation.  This will be the third information session in a series organized with the Advocacy Committee. If you missed the first session on assessment at TNS or would like to revisit our teachers’ remarks please see the video recording available here:

One unique aspect of the Neighborhood School is parent access to classrooms at drop-off and pick-up.   Being in the classroom builds connections, both with the community and to the curriculum and the ability to escort your child to and from the classroom is something we value very much and is not typical of most DOE schools.  However, these are not times to have in-depth conversations with your child’s teacher.  Please reach out to set-up another time to meet if you have something important to discuss.  Noemi or I are also happy to support scheduling a meeting for you.

Mark your calendars:

  • The Diversity Committee is hosting a potluck on Wednesday from 5:30 - 7:30PM in Mara’s Room.

  • SLT meets Thursday at 8AM in Room 313.  All are welcome.  


  • Literacy Documents for families

  • Library Update

  • Teacher Differentiation Survey results and noticings

  • CEP (Comprehensive Educational Plan) work

We have PE in the upstairs gym this month.



Dyanthe’s Weekly Letters

Week of February 25, 2019

Welcome Back Families,

Our 4th and 5th graders leave for Camp Ashokan this Wednesday!  The Ashokan Center’s trails and outdoor campus offers students the opportunity to hike to the depths of the 350 million year old Cathedral Gorge and the Turnwood-Ashokan Covered Bridge.  Programming includes history, natural science including watershed studies and ecology, community building, the arts and stewardship/service learning and sustainability.  We expect that ALL students to go to camp.  The trip is an essential part a child’s TNS experience and reflects our values about how children learn best.  Please reach out to your child’s teacher, me or Noemi if you have any questions about your child participating in this trip.  

During Building Council last Friday, the principal of STAR and I met with custodial and kitchen staff about the Alternative School Menu which was adopted by TNS/STAR last spring.  While the kitchen staff has recently added tuna sandwiches as an alternative entree (in addition to PB&J, cheese sandwiches or hummus), since adopting the alternative menu, overall entree orders have decreased and food waste has increased.  Our kitchen manager, LaToya will present at this Thursday’s PTA Meeting.

It’s at this time each year that the Department of Education (DOE) Parent Survey comes out.  The DOE survey gathers information about family’s overall satisfaction with the school and the results are published and used to determine our official rating. Completion rates are also important as they reflect the level of parent involvement to the DOE.  Each TNS family needs to complete a survey so that the Chancellor knows that our parents are involved, informed, and are advocates for our children. Each student will receive a green envelope containing a hard copy of the survey to fill out along with postage-paid envelope. You can also complete the survey online using your access code (in the green envelope).  Thank you!

Mark your calendars:

  • The Diversity Committee meets Tuesday morning at drop-off in the small cafeteria.

  • SING is Wednesday at 8:45AM in the auditorium.  We will have a bake sale in the lobby beforehand.

  • The next TNS Restaurant Night is Wednesday from 4-11PM at Boticarios (58 East 1st Street).

  • Our PTA General Meeting is Thursday at 8:35AM in the PTA Room.



Dyanthe’s Weekly Letters

Week of February 11, 2019

Dear Families,

 Last year was our first time visiting the Manhattan Country School (MCS) Farm.  Early that fall, Grace approached the 3rd grade team and me about trying something different from the camp we had been going to for years.  Part of this came out of a shared sense of dissatisfaction with our recent experiences, but more so because we were in search of a place that would make sense for our younger 2nd and 3rd grade classes.  As it turns out, The Manhattan Country School Farm is just that place. It is a small working farm in the Catskill Mountains, 150 miles north of New York City, in Roxbury, NY. The 180-acre property features a farmhouse that sleeps 24 students, a textile studio, a nature lab, a greenhouse, a barn, a recreation building, a sap house, a chicken house, and a historic stone house. The farm is staffed by full-time farmers and educators.  During the winter, students care for the animals (chickens, cows, pigs and sheep); learn to weave; explore snow covered fields and mountains and frozen streams; and study traditional and contemporary life in the Catskills. Zero-mile meals and a closed-loop food cycle are daily experiences. By sharing in these activities, attending daily classes and performing household and barn chores, children come to function as a mutually reliant community.  It is also good to know that students from Manhattan Country School begin their overnight trips to the farm at age 7 and the school’s students use the farm throughout the school year. It’s a very special place and I am so excited that each 2nd/3rd class gets to spend 2 nights and 3 days there. All 2nd and 3rd grade families are strongly encouraged to join us tonight at 5:30PM to meet John McDaniel, MCS farm director and learn more about the program.  I’ve included some pictures from my time at the farm with Grace’s class last year:  one is on a nature hike and one is during free time, when students go sledding, visit the animals, jump in the haystack in the barn and play indoor games in the farm house.

We will have a Q&A for families who can’t make tonight or have additional questions with 2nd/3rd teachers, Grace and Jane this Wednesday morning after drop-off in the PTA Room.

Mark your calendars:

  • The PTA Exec Committee meets Monday at 8:40AM in the PTA Room.  All are welcome.

  • ⅔ Farm Trip Presentation at 5:30PM in the 4th floor gym.

  • Parent’s of Unique Kids Support Group meets twice this week: Tuesday morning at 8:30AM and again in the afternoon at 4:30PM.  

  • ⅔ Farm Trip Q & A Wednesday at drop-off in the PTA Room.

  • TNS Middle School Students Panel:  former TNS students will talk about how TNS prepared them for the academic and social expectations of middle school Wednesday at 6PM.  

  • The ECO Committee meets Friday at drop-off in the the small cafeteria.

  • There is no school February 18 - 22.  

Have a wonderful break.  We’ll see you Monday, February 25.



Dyanthe’s Weekly Letters

Week of February 4, 2019

Dear Families,

I want to express my deep appreciation to Wanda (Pre-K), Jane (2nd/3rd), Dianne (K/1st) and Joanne (4th/5th) for sharing their assessment practices with families last Monday.  Each year, I ask teachers who represent a range, both in terms of ages taught and classroom configurations to present so that you can get to know them better and see that there are consistent practices across classes and grades.  Teachers spoke about how formal assessments, looking at student work, the role of observation and working alongside children inform next steps and allow us to know children well. They also shared the ways students reflect on their learning and work throughout the grades.   A parent videotaped the conversation and it will be available on the website soon. Former TNS students will talk about how TNS prepared them for the academic and social expectations in middle school on Wednesday, February 13th at 6PM.  Speaking of assessments, Narrative Reports go home Wednesday!

Mark your calendar:

  • All this week, TNS to Puerto Rico with Love will once again have a handmade pop-up store to raise money for families in need in Puerto Rico.

  • There is NO SCHOOL Tuesday in honor of the Lunar New Year.

  • Mid-year Narrative Reports go home Wednesday.

  • SLT will meet Thursday at 8 AM in Room 313. Agenda:

    • Library plans for next year

    • Information Literacy (technology in the classroom)

    • Literacy at TNS:  we will look at three documents Dyanthe has shared as potential resources for families

    • New Business

  • It’s “Popcorn Friday” this week!

  • Friday night is Movie Night at TNS!  We are screening “The Incredibles 2” from 5 - 8 PM.