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get out the vote
April 19, 2018
Can schools encourage students to be more involved citizens? A new study suggests yes they can.
A new study concludes that Democracy Prep, network of charter schools, makes students far more likely to vote once they turn 18.
By the numbers
March 12, 2015
District and charter schools post similar attrition rates, as enrollment debate presses on
New research shows that low-performing students leave charter and district at similar rates. But a debate about what that means for charters is growing increasingly feisty.
July 18, 2013
Democracy Prep students learn about end of apartheid firsthand
Democracy Prep alumni learn about different fossils found in Sterkfontein Caves, which is north of Johannesburg, South Africa. On the occasion of Nelson Mandela’s 95th birthday and Mandela Day, celebrated worldwide, GothamSchools is collecting tales from New York City schools about the former president of South Africa and his impact on his country. On her last night in Cape Town, Diana Vega sat in front of a glowing computer screen and explained over Skype what it was like to see Nelson Mandela's impact on South Africa firsthand. Vega is one of 11 recent graduates of Democracy Prep Charter High School who spent the last two weeks touring the country that Mandela shepherded out of legal segregation as president after decades as a political prisoner. The trip also took students briefly to Egypt, where they had a long layover at the height of the country's recent revolution, and to Lesotho, a small country inside South Africa that boasts ski resorts. The school's annual trips come out of its public funds, in keeping with the charter network's mission, according to founder Seth Andrew. Andrew, who recently stepped down as the network's CEO, said the trips allow students to experience the classroom lessons they learn throughout the year.
four years later
June 25, 2013
Pomp, circumstance, and Snapple for Democracy Prep grads
Unsurprisingly for a school that prides itself on taking students on trips in four continents before graduation, Democracy Prep Charter High School covered a lot of ground in its first commencement. The three-hour ceremony, held Monday at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, featured accolades for the 46 graduating seniors, a ceremonial passing of the hat for the charter network's founder, and a video screening by the secretary general of the United Nations. Ban Ki-Moon, the secretary general of the United Nations, delivered the keynote address. After speaking about the value of good education, he told graduates he has "always dreamed of appearing live at the Apollo," then whipped out a music video of Beyonce singing in a U.N. music video. The video was a humorous interlude in a ceremony packed with pomp and circumstance. Graduates wore yellow caps and gowns to reflect the school’s colors, and after reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, they and everyone in the audience were were instructed to “place your hands over your logos” to recite the Democracy Prep pledge, which begins, "I pledge allegiance to my future ..."
December 3, 2012
Inverting conventional wisdom, Korean leader lauds city school
Democracy Prep Charter High School students who recently took an exchange trip to South Korea, met with South Korean Prime Minister Kim Hwang-Sik during his visit to the school. Last month, students from Democracy Prep Charter High School were honored guests at Seondeok High School and Dong Seong Middle School in South Korea. Today, they honored a guest of their own: Kim Hwang-Sik, South Korea's prime minister. Kim met with school leaders; spoke with the students; and hobnobbed with Congressman Charles Rangel, who supported the exchange trip, during Kim's brief stop at the school this afternoon. He was in New York City to visit the United Nations as part of a tour of North America. All students at Democracy Prep High School study Korean, and last month, three dozen of them traveled to South Korea to see the country up close. They visited the schools, toured Buddhist temples, and stayed in the homes of South Korean families. One student told Kim that the trip had brought the Korean culture she had studied at school to life for her. "Now I want to travel more and ... see things with my own true eyes," she said. Democracy Prep Superintendent Seth Andrew told Kim that American education leaders often point to South Korea and Finland as two countries whose students far outpace students in the United States. Korea, he said, is the more instructive example of educational excellence because of its economic history.
October 11, 2012
Growth assured, Democracy Prep plans for a founder-less future
Superintendent Seth Andrew answers questions after the Democracy Prep admissions lottery event earlier this year. When the first crop of seniors at Democracy Prep Charter High School graduates next June, they won't be alone. The founder of the school's network of charter schools will be exiting alongside them. Seth Andrew, the founder and superintendent of the six-school network, has spent the last week making hundreds of phone calls to friends and professional contacts to let them know that he will be stepping down in June, seven years after launching a middle school steeped in civic values. Andrew's decision comes weeks after the U.S. Department of Education announced that Democracy Prep Public Schools would be one of two charter school networks to get federal funding to expand. Democracy Prep will get $9.1 million over five years to open 15 new schools in Harlem; Camden, N.J.; and potentially beyond. Andrew said the award made him confident that he could depart without destabilizing Democracy Prep — and relieved that the network would be able to grow using only public funds, a value to the network. "The organization is incredibly healthy," he said today, speaking by phone from Boston, where he had been meeting with Building Excellent Schools, the nonprofit that helped him start up his first school a decade ago. "This is the time to do a transition." Andrew opened his flagship middle school, Democracy Prep Charter School, in 2006 with a $30,000 grant from the city’s Center for Charter School Excellence (now named the New York City Charter School Center). He expanded to a high school in 2009 to accommodate his graduating eighth-graders and has since opened three more middle schools.
May 4, 2012
At Democracy Prep, counting words adds up to literacy growth
When Democracy Prep students stroll into school wearing t-shirts that read “I’m kind of a big deal” and “Don’t act like you’re not impressed,” they don’t get in trouble for not wearing their uniforms. Instead, they get applauded for winning the right to wear the celebratory shirts by hitting a major milestone on their journey towards reading 1.2 million words. Requiring students to log the pages or books they read is common practice in city schools. But the expectation is a bit different at Democracy Prep. Schools in the network regularly see students' math scores shoot up. But reading scores proved harder to budge. The network's founder and superintendent, Seth Andrew, chalked the phenomenon up to differences between the two subjects. In math, a student can be strong in geometry but weak in algebra, but literacy is built on more cumulative knowledge, he explained: In order to raise students' reading scores, they mostly needed to read more. In 2010, when Democracy Prep Harlem opened, literacy specialist Ajaka Roth and principal Emmanuel George thought about ways to make this happen. It wasn't by requiring students to read more books, they decided.
the odds be ever in their favor
April 20, 2012
Everyone’s a winner in one charter network’s admissions lottery
What do you call a lottery when everyone wins? An “Oprah moment,” according to operators of the Democracy Prep charter school network.
March 7, 2012
Eight months in, Bloomberg calls charter takeover a success
Seth Andrew, Democracy Prep's founder and superintendent, speaks at a fundraiser for Harlem Prep, a new school run by his network. Who's more important to New York City than Jeremy Lin, the city's sudden basketball sensation? According to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, one answer is charter school operator Seth Andrew, who runs the Democracy Prep network of schools. Bloomberg made the comparison at an Upper East Side fundraiser for Andrew's latest project: turning around one of the city's worst elementary schools, Harlem Day Charter School, which his network adopted last year in the state's first—and so far only—charter school takeover. In 2011, Harlem Day was arguably the worst elementary school in the city, Bloomberg and Andrew told their audience as servers floated around the darkened, East 60th Street restaurant offering dumplings and sushi rolls. Last spring, the State University of New York charter school authorizer granted Democracy Prep permission to take over Harlem Day, now called Harlem Prep. The Wall Street Journal reported last June that 40 percent of students were held back, including two-thirds of fifth-graders. Teachers at the benefit put that number even higher, with some saying they thought as many as 70 percent of students had repeated a grade after Democracy Prep took over.
February 28, 2012
City releases ratings for teachers in charter, District 75 schools
The Department of Education released a final installment of Teacher Data Reports today, for teachers in charter schools and schools for the most severely disabled students. Last week, the city released the underlying data from about 53,000 reports for about 18,000 teachers who received them during the project's three-year lifespan. Teachers received the reports between 2008 and 2010 if they taught reading or math in grades 4 through 8. When the department first announced that it would be releasing the data in response to several news organizations' Freedom of Information Law requests, it indicated that ratings for teachers in charter schools would not be made public. It reversed that decision late last week and today released "value-added" data for 217 charter school teachers. Participation in the data reports program was optional for charter schools and some schools entered and exited the program in each year that it operated, with eight schools participating in 2007-2008 and 18 participating in 2009-2010. At the time, the city had about 100 charter schools. The department also released reports for 50 teachers in District 75 schools, which enroll the city's most severely disabled students. The number is small because few District 75 students take regular state math and reading exams. Also, District 75 classes are typically very small, and privacy laws led the city to release data for teachers who had more than 10 students take state tests. District 75 also teachers received reports only in 2008 and 2010; the program was optional in the district's schools in 2009. Department officials cautioned last week that the reports had high margins of error — 35 percentage points for math teachers and 53 percentage points for reading teachers, on average — and urged caution when interpreting them.
February 22, 2012
Closure spurs talk of new strategy for struggling charter schools
Parents from Peninsula Preparatory Academy rallied against the city's closure decision outside Department of Education headquarters in January. Last month, as parents from Peninsula Preparatory Academy vocally protested the city's decision to close their charter school, Principal Ericka Wala quietly pursued an alternative. Wala discovered that a charter school in Harlem that had faced closure last year was saved when a different operator was allowed to take over its charter and management. Harlem Day lost virtually all of its teachers and got a new name and curriculum when Democracy Prep took over in 2011, but the students were allowed to stay. For Wala, the last point was the biggest draw: Peninsula Prep’s students are set to be sent back to neighborhood schools that mostly post lower test scores. "I was like, this is something we should explore," Wala said, even though it meant she'd almost certainly lose her job in the process. Both Wala and the school's board, led by Chair Betty Leon, told Recy Dunn of the Department of Education's Charter Office that they would resign if that's what it took to keep the school open. "We were willing to do whatever that would allow the school to continue to exist, in whatever capacity, so that there would be less disruption to the children," Wala said. Wala reached out to Seth Andrew, the founder and head of the Democracy Prep charter network, and asked him to consider taking over Peninsula Prep. Wala set up a time for Andrew to visit the school, but when he floated the idea to top city and state education officials they rejected it, according to a source who was briefed on the proposal.
December 21, 2011
After Kim Jong Il's death, a Korean language class shifts format
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-fW6kGV5uE&feature=youtu.be Students in Democracy Prep High School's Korean classes typically learn words that boost their vocabulary and develop basic grammar — standard fare for introductory foreign language instruction. But this week the lessons took a turn for the geopolitical. Youngjae Hur greeted his students yesterday with an unusual pop quiz in English and asked them to define words such as "despotism," "denuclearize," and "repressive." For Hur, North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il's abrupt death over the weekend offered the school a unique opportunity to infuse what students learn about the South Korean language and culture every day with the politics that have shaped life on the Korean Peninsula for decades. "It's important to let them know not just the skills to understand the language, but also the culture, the history, the politics," said Hur, a first-year teacher who moved to the United States from South Korea three years ago. "Especially at this special moment."
December 13, 2011
To one panel, unions are both moribund and living obstacles
Chris Cerf, Evan Stone and Seth Andrew at a Manhattan Institute panel this morning. Even though he received 6,000 applications to fill 60 teacher positions last years, charter school operator Seth Andrew said he still has trouble hiring the right people for the job. Andrew, who runs four Democracy Prep Charter Schools in Harlem said even the promise of a $65,000 starting salary – 50 percent above that of a city teacher's – did not attract the kind of teaching talent he wants for his schools. The reason, he said this morning, was that state laws — he called them "barriers" — require most prospective teachers to earn an education degree before they can to teach in a classroom. He said those degrees did not assure that a teacher would be effective, echoing an argument frequently made by advocates of non-traditional teacher training programs. "It doesn't matter how you enter the classroom," Andrew said. Andrew was one of four panelists at a breakfast sponsored by the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, that was held to celebrate the release of "Teachers Matter," a new book authored by senior fellow Marcus Winters. Ex-Schools Chancellor Joel Klein delivered a keynote address lauding the role school choice plays in school reform.
March 22, 2011
In a first, a charter operator will try to turn around a failing charter
Big block letters announce the entrance to Harlem Day Charter School, but next year they'll spell Harlem Prep Charter School — a reflection of a charter school authorizer's decision today to put the school under new management. For the first time, a charter school network is trying to turn around an already-failing charter school. Last year, when the State University of New York's Charter School Institute decided to close Harlem Day Charter School due to its low test scores, it solicited applications from charter operators who could reform the school. But there was a catch: whoever agreed to this proposal had to keep all of Harlem Day's current students rather than starting from scratch with a fresh group of kindergarteners. The risk was great enough that in a city of charter leaders eager for building space, SUNY's search turned up only one applicant: the Democracy Prep Public Schools network. Today SUNY officially gave Democracy Prep the go-ahead to take over Harlem Day and reopen it in July with the same students and a different approach.
February 10, 2009
Charter school principal: I don't "cream" my students. Do you?
Among those who have commented on Elizabeth’s post about journalist Jay Mathews’ seven KIPP myths are one of the charter school chain’s most vocal…
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