Former Gates Foundation education director Tom Vander Ark is behind one charter school’s application to open in New York City next year.
For years, Vander Ark shaped the educational giving for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, overseeing grants the organization gave to cities that agreed to build small high schools. Now a partner at an education public affairs firm in California, Vander Ark has supported such causes as lifting New York State’s charter cap and bringing more and better technology into classrooms.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Education confirmed that Vander Ark is behind the application for Bedford Preparatory Charter School, a small high school school that, if approved, would open in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn next school year.
An overview of Bedford Prep describes the school as being modeled on NYC iSchool, a small, selective high school that opened in Tribeca last fall as the first school in the city’s NYC21C initiative. Since then, the Department of Education has made plans to open eight more schools based on the iSchool model.
This fits neatly with Vander Ark’s vision of a high-tech school where students spend more time with computers than with paper and pens. A segment of the executive summary for Bedford Prep reads:
“Bedford Prep will be New York City’s first blended learning charter school … Bedford Prep students have the flexibility of enhancing their traditional classroom work with online course work in core subject areas. Students learn at their own pace online within a classroom monitored by staff which allows for differentiated instruction within a single classroom setting.”
The lead applicant for the school is Tamara Carpenter, a former lawyer for children in foster care and program officer for the Chicago school system.
According to the summary, Bedford Prep would open with a ninth grade class of 125 students and would eventually grow to house 500 students. Students would be admitted by lottery, but those who are considered “at-risk of academic failure” and those who live in district 13 would be given preference.
The executive summary also states that while the school’s founders would like to see it “permanently located in a DOE facility,” they are looking at private space as well. The document notes that nearby Boys and Girls High School has “shown especially disappointing results” on the Regents exams, and that many schools in the district have unused space.
Vander Ark and Carpenter did not respond to requests for comment.