Explore Charter School

the end

New York

High-needs enrollment targets could challenge some charters

A screenshot from the state's proposed enrollment targets calculator. It shows the range of target enrollments for a school enrolling 150 students in Brooklyn's District 15. The state is preparing to take a step forward in implementing a two-year-old clause in its charter school law that requires the schools to serve their fair share of high-needs students. When legislators revised the charter school law in 2010, their main objective was to increase the number of charters allowed. But they also added a requirement that charter schools enroll “comparable” numbers of students with disabilities and English language learners, populations that the schools typically under-enroll. What comparability would mean has never been clear — until now. Last week, the state unveiled a proposed methodology for calculating enrollment targets, and it intends to finalize the algorithm at next month’s meeting of SUNY’s Board of Trustees, which oversees charter schools. The targets would vary from school to school and be determined based on the overall ratio of high-needs students in each district. The proposal includes a calculator that determines enrollment targets for any school based on its location, the grades it serves, and the size of its student body. Under the proposed methodology, a charter school with 400 students in grades five through eight in Upper Manhattan’s District 6, for example, would have to enroll 98 percent students who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, 15 percent students with disabilities, and 44 percent ELLs. In District 2, which has more affluent families and fewer immigrants, a similar school would be expected to enroll 64 percent poor students and 13.4 percent ELLs. But it would still need to have 15 percent of students with special needs.
New York

Bridge-building no metaphor at engineering-themed high school

Ninth-grader Ikiya Devonish prepares to load weight onto her group's bridge, with the help of City Tech Professor Anthony Cioffi. Many schools have summer "bridge" programs to bring new students up to speed. City Polytechnic High School of Engineering, Architecture, and Technology has ninth-graders build actual bridges. The two-year-old school's summer orientation program includes a bridge-building competition where incoming freshmen can showcase their newly acquired engineering skills. The orientation kicks off an intensive program that condenses all of high school plus a taste of college into three years. That's a steep challenge for many students at the Downtown Brooklyn school, which admits students without considering their grades or test scores. But school officials say about three-quarters of the small school's first entering class is on track to spend a fourth year studying full-time at the New York City College of Technology, the high school's partner, free of charge. Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott attended this year's competition today, offering congratulations and consolations as students pushed their popsicle-stick bridges to the breaking point. Tension mounted as students, teachers, and supporters watched to see whether any bridges would bear more than last year's record 109 pounds. One bridge did: The winning team, Building Fanatics, loaded 114 pounds of geometry textbooks onto their structure before it collapsed. Stephon Stevens, a ninth-grader who came to City Poly from Explore Charter School, said the team guessed that moving popsicle sticks from the bottom to the top of the bridge design would make it stronger. Four of every five students at City Poly are boys, in keeping with a trend that cuts across many of the city's career and technical education schools.
New York

After early win, PS 9 parents lose bid to keep charter school out

New York

In a first, new charter to absorb students leaving closing school

City officials are planning to replace a struggling Brooklyn elementary school with an unusual charter school next year — the first in the city to give admissions preference to students stuck in the closing school. If the citywide school board, known as the Panel for Educational Policy, votes to phase out P.S. 114 in Canarsie, Brooklyn starting next year, two new schools will open in the building. One will be a typical zoned elementary school for all students in District 18. The other will be Explore Charter School — the first charter school in the city that will give admissions preference to students at the low-performing school it replaces. When most New York City charter schools open, they typically give admissions preference to students who live in a certain district. These districts usually encompass several neighborhoods and a handful of public schools, allowing the charter to draw students from all over the region. But Explore plans to operate differently. Current kindergarten, first-grade, and second-grade students at P.S. 114 will be given preference in Explore's lottery, which means they have the best chance of getting one of 224 seats. If there's still room, second preference will go to students who are zoned for P.S. 114, but attend other schools (this is about half the students in the zone). After them, preference will go to students throughout District 18 who are attending schools that are being phased out for poor performance. "What's very different about this is we're saying to parents and kids in a school that's failing, here's an option that does not ask you to relocate or leave your community," said Morty Ballen, CEO of the Explore Schools network. "It's about you and your community; we're staying right here."
New York

Duncan: NYC reform initiatives a model for stimulus spending

Flanked by people who often find themselves arguing — Mayor Bloomberg, Chancellor Joel Klein, and teachers union leader Randi Weingarten — U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today offered praise for them all. At a press conference this afternoon in Brooklyn, Duncan said all three New Yorkers have helped make the city an example for how school districts across the country could "remake public education" with their share of $100 billion in federal stimulus funds. Some of the stimulus money is meant to plug deep holes in states' education budgets. But Duncan said he wants states to use other funds allocated in the stimulus package to adopt accountability-oriented reforms along the lines of some recent New York City initiatives, such as the creation of a comprehensive data system, called ARIS, and the introduction of a program that gives some teachers bonuses based on their students' test scores. The city Department of Education said in a press release today that it might try to use some of its stimulus money to expand those initiatives. Those programs could be funded through Duncan's discretionary "Race to the Top Fund," through which the education secretary will give grants to states that want to try new approaches to helping students do better. "I fully expect New York City and New York State to put together a great proposal" for the funds, Duncan said. "In many ways, you are already setting the standard — including the pay-for-performance program here pioneered by the leadership right here in this city." Secretary of Education Arne Duncan with students, parents, and teachers from Brooklyn's Explore Charter School Duncan departed from his prepared remarks to compliment Bloomberg's "extraordinary courage" in taking control of the city's schools and to say that he has learned a lot from Klein, whom he called "a good, good friend of mine." Duncan also called Weingarten "a remarkable leader" and said he and President Barack Obama will work closely with her. "She is going to be a strong, strong voice for reform," Duncan said. Video of the lovefest is above. Even if they don't see a cent of the Race to the Top Fund, New York City's public schools and colleges are slated to receive about $1.9 billion through the federal stimulus act signed into law this week, Duncan said today. That money would prevent teacher layoffs, fill in some budget gaps, add new funds for poor students and children with special needs, and support preschool, technology, and job training programs. The city DOE's full press release is after the jump.