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October 8, 2014
SUNY green-lights 17 more city charter schools, 14 for Success Academy
SUNY unanimously signed off on 17 additional charter schools set to open over the next two years. Fourteen of the charters went to Success Academy, the city's largest and most controversial network. The other three charters went to Achievement First, a Brooklyn-based network of schools.
December 7, 2012
UFT Charter School makes its case as renewal decision nears
Students from the the UFT Charter School spoke in support of the school's charter renewal Thursday night. The reviewers who will help decide the UFT Charter School's fate have seen the data, observed classroom instruction and studied its operations. On Thursday night, they heard from students, teachers and parents. “It hasn’t always been easy,” said Brian C. Saunders, speaking about his autistic eighth grade son, who has been at the school since first grade. “Sometimes it’s been difficult, but along every step of the way he’s grown. He’s matured.” Saunder's son has a longer tenure than most of the adults in his school, which has undergone four leadership changes since 2009 and a turnover of 30 teachers in 2011. During and after those years of disarray, the school faltered, test scores plummeted, and was found to be in violation of federal law for providing inadequate services to students learning English, according to a report released earlier this year. School officials say that there is strong evidence that the school was improving and on Thursday Saunders and two dozen others spoke about those changes. "Numbers don't always tell the story," said board chair Evelyn DeJesus. It might not make much of a difference. In New York State, charter schools must get permission from their authorizing body when its charter expires, a term that lasts five years or less. The board of trustees of the State University of New York, which originally authorized the school to open in 2005, will make its decision early next year. Renewal decisions are "heavily based on academic results," according to the SUNY Charter Schools Institute, which makes recommendations to the board.
September 27, 2012
With clock ticking, a charter school tries to turn itself around
Fahari Academy Charter School opened the school year with many new teachers and administrators as part of an effort to improve quickly. Last month, Radha Radkar expressed her excitement for a new year at Fahari Academy Charter School by discussing a task that, for most teachers, is an annual rite. “I’m decorating my own classroom,” said Radkar, a second-year English teacher. For Radkar and her Fahari colleagues, however, it was an unknown luxury. Last year, teachers didn't have their own classroom and had little time to prepare for their lessons. Instead it was teachers who rotated — while students stayed put — a small, but significant component of a broader culture that staff said contributed to the school's demise. Much has changed this year at Fahari as part of a comprehensive attempt to keep the school from closing. On Aug. 27, the Department of Education officially placed it on probation, primarily because of the sky-high teacher and student attrition rates that have plagued the school since it opened in 2009. Radkar said the school was anticipating the probation notice for months and had spent the summer preparing to open with many new programs and policies. Now, they have less than a year to show the school is taking steps to improve. By Monday, the school must submit an improvement plan detailing the changes underway at the school. "We are definitely in the middle of transition," said Radkar, who helped develop new reading and writing curriculum over the summer. "At the same time, our leadership is trying to figure out a direction this year."
August 20, 2012
On Gov. Island, a charter school sees an entree into crowded D2
Students attend the Harbor School's 2012 graduation ceremony on Governor's Island. Michael Duffy's nascent plans to open a charter school on Governor's Island have already hit one snag: parent opposition from the nearby Urban Assembly Harbor School, the only school on the island. Most school space-sharing showdowns begin with worries about cramped buildings and constraints on cafeteria and gym use. But the main concerns held by the parents opposing Duffy's proposal for the Great Oaks Charter School are the possible cultural differences that could arrise if the grades 6 through 12 school is approved to open in the building next door. The Harbor school is a marine science-themed Career and Technical Education High School with a state-of-the-art building and a $4 million technology center built with public and private donations. It moved to Governor's Island in 2010, after years in Bushwick, to have better access to the harbor, where various maritime classes and events are held. The move was costly, requiring millions of dollars from the city and private fundraising from the Harbor School's founders to renovate an unused island building. But the school became one emblem of the city's efforts to breathe new life into the island. It also raised the possibility of new space for the popular but crowded District 2. Duffy, who formerly oversaw the city’s charter schools office, saw an opportunity to follow the Harbor School's lead. He also thought the location, with the Statue of Liberty in view, would lend symbolic weight to the school's aim to have an enrollment of at least 25 percent ELL students, who would have seats reserved in the admissions lottery.
July 25, 2012
Instruction is key to new charter school's construction effort
To learn more about what's in each photograph, click to read the caption. When Ife Lenard and her crew first entered the third-floor classrooms that will house the Children's Aid Society Charter School this fall, they found a dusty rotary phone, a decades-old beer can, and lockers coated with grime from years of middle-schoolers' use. But Lenard, the founding principal, can already envision how the classrooms — now gutted — will look come September, when the school opens to 130 kindergarten and first-graders in a South Bronx public school building. That vision includes lots of floor rugs and tables for small-group activities, computer stations, fall colors such as "squash yellow," a terrarium, and an aquarium, Lenard said as she led a procession of Children's Aid Society officials, clad in bright orange hard hats, including director Richard Buery, on a walking tour of the school earlier this week.
September 15, 2011
State charter authorizers turning attention to neediest students
Amid mounting criticisms that charter schools do not serve the neediest students, the state's charter school authorizers are making a push to approve more charter schools that make those children a priority. This week, the Board of Regents gave its stamp of approval to several schools that describe their mission as serving high-needs students, such as children with special needs, who are homeless, or who are over-age for their grade. The schools include a school run by the Children's Aid Society, which plans to serve students in the high-poverty South Bronx neighborhood of Morrisania. That school was authorized by the State University of New York earlier this year, along with several other schools that will target their recruitment and services to high-needs students. SUNY also approved two ROADS charter schools, which say they will enroll students who are over-aged but lack the credits needed to graduate. Those join several other recently approved or opened schools that SUNY selected for their commitments to underserved children. Cynthia Proctor, a SUNY spokeswoman, said the new schools would still be held accountable for their academic performance, even though high-needs students tend to fall short more frequently on test scores and some other measures of success. "It is important to understand that the two goals are not mutually exclusive," she said.
September 13, 2011
Venerable social services group wades into school management
As a Bronx elementary school principal, Drema Brown routinely encountered students who were struggling to complete schoolwork without adequate health care, a stable address, or even electricity. Challenges like those held Brown back from boosting academic achievement. Even worse, she said, she couldn't solve the problems wrought by poverty, either. “I might take it for granted that I can just take my daughter to an eye doctor’s appointment and I have insurance that is going to get her that $300, $400 pair of glasses. But sometimes in a school something as simple as that could languish for an entire school year,” said Brown, who headed P.S. 230 in the South Bronx's District 9 from 2003 to 2007. Now a top official at the Children's Aid Society, the 158-year-old social services provider, Brown is leading an experiment in integrating health and social services into a school setting. Children's Aid is set to open its charter school in the Morrisania section of the Bronx next fall. The Board of Regents formally approved the school's charter earlier today. Plans for the school have been in the works since 2009, when Richard Buery became Children's Aid's president and CEO. Buery, who has a background in law and education non-profit management, asked CAS staff who worked with community schools to think about how a community school operated by CAS could have a longer-term impact than the agency’s usual school partnerships. The group already works with city schools to deliver social services and connect after-school programs. And since 2000 the group has run a full clinic in Morrisania, offering preventive services and a meeting place for families whose children are in foster care. But the new project marks Children's Aid's first venture into school management. The clinic “is a visible presence in the community with lots of welcoming faces," Brown said. "Our mission now is to a establish a school that feels the same way for kids and their families so that education becomes more attractive and a welcoming experience." That's a sentiment that hasn't always been present in the South Bronx, which has a longstanding reputation for poverty, crime and lackluster public schools.
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