goodbyes

SUNY charter institute director to depart for New Orleans

(Photo courtesy Chartock)
(Photo courtesy Chartock)

The executive director of the State University of New York’s charter authorizer, Jonas Chartock, is leaving to lead a New Orleans-based teacher training program as it expands around the country, SUNY officials announced today.

Beginning in January, Chartock will head up the “Leading Educators” project. The group currently runs a professional development program in New Orleans aimed at keeping strong teachers in the classroom by grooming them for leadership positions that don’t take them away from students.

UPDATE: Chartock just weighed in with more details on the program. He will be charged with expanding the program around the United States, though he said that the group hasn’t yet finalized the first school districts and charter school chains where the program will initially grow. The national expansion won’t necessarily mean replicating the New Orleans program exactly as it is now, Chartock said, and part of his job will be to adapt the model for teachers in other school systems.

The program in New Orleans is currently part of New Leaders for New Schools, the Manhattan-based group whose co-founder, Jon Schnur, served as an advisor to U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, but will become an independent non-profit, Chartock said. The “Leading Educators” program is modeled after a similar teacher training program launched in the United Kingdom by Jay Altman, who now runs a charter network in New Orleans.

Chartock, who has led SUNY’s charter authorizer since 2008, saw the institute through this spring’s battle over raising the state’s cap on charter schools. He will also be leaving at a challenging time for charter schools and their authorizers, which are adjusting to revisions to the charter law.

Chartock is set to finish his work at SUNY in November, and SUNY officials said today they intend to launch a national search for his replacement.

SUNY Charter Schools Institute Director Tapped to Lead National Non-Profit Focused on Teacher Leadership

Albany – SUNY Trustees Chairman Carl Hayden and Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher congratulated Jonas S. Chartock on his exemplary leadership as he announced his departure from the SUNY Charter Schools Institute to develop an innovative non-profit organization.  Chartock will step down from his role as Executive Director of the SUNY Charter Schools to become the Chief Executive Officer of New Orleans based Leading Educators, an organization focused on supporting and developing teacher-leaders as change agents to ensure high academic achievement for every student. Chartock will lead the organization’s national expansion.

Chartock, 35, is a nationally recognized authority on education reform, school choice, and the professional development of quality teachers. Chartock has led the Charter Schools Institute with distinction, making quality improvements to Institute practices, expanding the Institute’s collaboration with state and national charter and educational organizations, and refining and executing the authorizing policies of the SUNY Board of Trustees.

Chartock will leave the Institute on November 15, 2010 and will assume his duties as Leading Educator’s first CEO on January 10, 2011.

SUNY will begin a national search for Chartock’s replacement.

“Jonas has led SUNY’s Charter Schools Institute with integrity and an unbeatable energy and enthusiasm for doing this work of charter authorizing right,” said SUNY Board Chairman Carl T. Hayden.  “He has successfully navigated the Institute through challenging times, all the while continuing to seize new opportunities for moving the organization to the next level. He will be greatly missed.”

“It comes as no surprise that Leading Educators would turn to SUNY as the source for its first CEO” said SUNY Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher. “I know Jonas will bring the expertise and innovative thinking he demonstrated at the Charter Schools Institute to his new role. We will miss him and wish him all the best.”

Prior to joining the Institute, Chartock was the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Charter School Policy Institute (CSPI) in Austin, Texas, a position he held since 2005. At CSPI, Chartock led a high quality, web-based policy and research enterprise dedicated to better understanding the concept of school choice. Prior to joining CSPI, Mr. Chartock served as Executive Director of Teach For America in Houston, Texas, where he was responsible for ensuring the effectiveness of over 500 first- and second-year teachers. He began his professional career as a teacher through Teach For America in the Compton Unified School District in Compton, California.

Julie Mikuta of NewSchools Venture Fund and a board member of Leading Educators, said, “We are thrilled that Jonas will lead the expansion of Leading Educators. This innovative organization will help schools keep the strongest teachers in the field, by effectively training them to lead other teachers in their schools to produce high levels of student achievement. Jonas brings a rare combination of skills and experiences that will enable Leading Educators to serve teachers and school systems nationwide.”

“This is a most exciting and bittersweet transition,” said Chartock. “SUNY has more than earned its reputation as a national exemplar in charter authorizing and it has been my privilege to lead this dynamic organization.  I hope to continue my support of the Institute and all of the wonderful people I met in my time there in my new role, dedicated to creating teacher-leaders for the benefit of all public schools.”

The National roll-out of Leading Educators is a partnership with Absolute Return for Kids, Teaching Leaders U.K., New Leaders for New Schools, NewSchools Venture Fund, and FirstLine Schools.

“I am excited to work to bring to scale a unique program that develops and retains our best teacher leaders in order to help more teachers significantly raise student achievement in their classrooms and across their schools,” explained Chartock.

Mr. Chartock is an Ed.D. candidate at the University of Texas at Austin, with an anticipated degree date of spring 2011. He holds an Ed.M. in School Leadership from the Harvard University Graduate School of Education; an M.A. in Education: Curriculum and Instruction from Chapman University; and a B.S. in Industrial and Labor Relations from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations.

To and Through

Newark’s post-grad paradox: More students are entering college, but few earn degrees

PHOTO: Patrick Wall/Chalkbeat
Newark Mayor Ras Baraka wants 25 percent of residents to have college degrees by 2025, up from 19 percent today.

When it comes to college, Newark faces a good news-bad news paradox.

More students than ever are graduating high school and enrolling in college, according to a new report. Yet fewer than one in four Newark students earns a college degree within six years of graduating high school — leaving many with limited job prospects in a city where an estimated one-third of jobs require a four-year college degree.

Now, city officials are promising to build on the report. They want to ramp up the rigor of high-school classes and create more early-college programs to increase the odds of students entering college and leaving with a degree.  

“How do we teach our children to perform — to graduate?” Mayor Ras Baraka asked at a press conference Wednesday to mark the official release of the report of Newark students’ college outcomes. “We got them in the door,” he said of students who attend college. “Now how do we make them stay?”

The city’s plans, to which Superintendent Roger León is lending his support, reflect a growing recognition that simply getting students into college is not sufficient — and can even backfire if they drop out before graduation, leaving them with college debt but no degree.

Until recently, the charge given to high schools in Newark and across the country was to foster “college-going cultures.” And these efforts showed promising results: On average, 51 percent of Newark Public School students who graduated high school between 2011 and 2016 immediately enrolled in college, up from 39 percent who did so between 2004 and 2010, according to the report by the Newark City of Learning Collaborative, or NCLC, and Rutgers University-Newark’s School of Public Affairs and Administration.

But entering college didn’t guarantee its completion. Of those students who started college straight after high school, only 39 percent earned a degree within six years, the report found.

As a result, educators and policymakers have begun to think harder about how to help students “to and through” college — to ensure they actually earn degrees. Toward that end, Baraka and the NCLC — which includes roughly 40 colleges, schools, nonprofits, and corporations — has set a goal of 25 percent of Newark residents earning college degrees or comparable credentials by 2025.

Today, just 19 percent of Newark adults have associate degrees or higher — compared to 45 percent of adults across New Jersey and 40 percent nationally.

Superintendent León, who began overseeing the city’s schools on July 1, said his main strategy for supporting these efforts will be to expose students to challenging work early on.

“If we don’t do something dramatically in classrooms to improve instruction and make it rigorous,” León said after Wednesday’s event, then students are “getting into college but they’re not completing it.”

Source: “Post-Secondary Outcomes of Newark High School Graduates (2011-2016)” report. Note: The four-year rate is an average of the classes of 2011 to 2013. The six-year rate is from the class of 2011. Graphic: Sam Park/Chalkbeat

For starters, León said he wants high schools to offer more college-level classes. In the 2016-17 school year, just 21 percent of Newark students were enrolled in one or more Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate classes — compared to 42 percent of students statewide.

He also vowed to raise the quality of instruction in the district’s traditional high schools. Only 14 percent of their graduates earn college degrees within six years, compared to 42 percent of graduates from the city’s selective magnet schools, the report found.

To do that, León said he will create specialized academies within the traditional schools modeled on the magnets, which have specialized themes such as science, technology, or the arts. The academies, which will partner with colleges, will most likely feature admissions criteria similar to those of magnet schools, which select students based on their academic and attendance records, León added.

And, for the first time, all ninth-grade students this academic year will take the Preliminary SAT, or PSAT, León said Wednesday. An additional 1,100 eighth-graders who passed at least one of their seventh-grade PARCC exams will also take the PSAT when it’s administered on Oct. 10.

Since 2016, the district has provided the PSAT to all 10th and 11th-grade students. But León said that giving the test to younger students will focus their attention on college and help identity those who are ready for advanced classes. The PSAT is designed to help students prepare for the SAT, which is used in college admissions, and to qualify for National Merit Scholarships.

The district, which was under state control for 22 years until February, is getting some assistance in its effort to improve students’ college outcomes.

For instance, KIPP, the national charter-school network with eight schools in Newark, is sharing its strategies for helping students choose the right college with guidance counselors at three district high schools.

And the higher-education institutions in the Newark City of Learning Collaborative, including Essex County College and Rutgers University-Newark, plan to create more “dual-enrollment” programs that allow high-school students to earn college credits, said NCLC Executive Director Reginald Lewis.

“We’re all going to do a better job,” Lewis said, “of making sure that once Newark residents get in our doors, that we help them persist.”

Time crunch

In victory for teachers union, Newark superintendent scraps longer hours for low-performing schools

PHOTO: Patrick Wall/Chalkbeat
Superintendent Roger León at Hawkins Street School, one of the schools that will lose its extended hours.

Newark’s new superintendent is eliminating a program that extended the hours of struggling schools, which the teachers union has long attacked as ineffective and unfair to educators.

Teachers at roughly 30 schools will no longer receive $3,000 annual stipends for the extra hours, a provision written into the current teachers contract, which extends to 2019. Instead, all 64 district schools will get extra funding for before and after-school programs, Superintendent Roger León said in an email to employees on Tuesday.

The changes will go into effect Monday, Sept. 10, resulting in new hours for the affected schools just days after the new school year began. The district is still working to adjust pickup times for students who are bused to school, according to León’s email. A few of the schools will phase out their extended hours later in the year, the email said.

“We will not continue to do the same things as before and be surprised when the results do not change,” León wrote, adding that cutting the extra hours would save the district $5 million.

In an interview with Chalkbeat Thursday, León said the move is intended to create more uniformity among schools and the services they provide. Now, all schools will get additional money to pay for programs outside of the regular school day, which schools can tailor to their individual needs, though students who are struggling academically will continue to receive “intensive” support, he said.

“Ultimately, the idea would be by October having completely different after-school and before-school programming that meets the needs of each respective school,” León said.

The extended time was first included in the teachers contract in 2012 as part of a larger improvement plan for the targeted schools, which was developed by Cami Anderson, Newark’s former state-appointed superintendent. The plan also designated some low-performing schools as “renew” schools, where teachers had to reapply for their positions and work longer hours.

Anderson also closed some schools and gave principals new hiring authority. Both actions left dozens of tenured teachers without positions, so Anderson created a fund to pay those teachers to perform support duties in schools. In 2014, that fund for “employees without placement” cost the district $35 million out of its nearly $1 billion budget, though by last year the fund had shrunk to $8 million for about 100 unassigned teachers, according to officials.

León said in Tuesday’s email that he was also eliminating the fund, which he said would save the district another $6 million. The teachers union president said he believed all the unassigned teachers now have placements, but the district did not respond to a request to confirm that.

León is also removing the “renew” and “turnaround” labels from low-performing schools, citing their “progress and student achievement,” according to the email.

“I applaud everyone’s efforts at renew or turnaround schools and acknowledge what has been accomplished,” he wrote.

Now that León has abolished his predecessors’ school-improvement program, he will be expected to create his own. Many schools remain mired in poor performance, even as the district overall has made strides in recent years.

When the teachers union agreed to the extended hours in its 2012 contract with the district, it was hailed nationally as a major breakthrough in efforts to revamp troubled schools. But even as the union agreed last year to keep the provision in its current contract, union officials have assailed the turnaround effort as a failure.

NTU President John Abeigon told Chalkbeat on Thursday that the program had been a “scam” and “nothing more than extended childcare.” He added that the stipend teachers received amounted to about $7 per hour for the extra time they worked.

In 2016, a district-commissioned survey of 787 teachers at schools with extended hours found that two-thirds of teachers at schools where the extra time was spent on student instruction said the time was valuable. But in a survey the union conducted in April, the 278 teachers who responded gave the extended hours low ratings for effectiveness in boosting student achievement.

Some teachers in the union survey praised the longer hours, saying their schools used them effectively to lengthen class periods, run after-school clubs, or allow teachers to plan lessons or review student data. But others said the extra time was squandered, leaving staff and students exhausted with little evidence of improved student outcomes to show for it. (Students’ pass rates on state tests stayed flat or declined at most “renew” schools in the first years of the program.)

The union also has complained that many teachers felt compelled to work the extra hours because those who refused to could be transferred to different schools. Under the terms of the original extended-day agreement, teachers were required to work an extra hour per day and attend trainings during the summer and some weekends.

In León’s email to employees, he said every extended-day school had set different work requirements and “none are consistent with the original design.” The longer days may also be contributing to high teacher turnover in those schools, he wrote, adding that principals of schools with regular hours told him they did not want to extend their hours.

Abeigon, the union president, applauded León’s decision to scrap the extra work hours.

“He came to the conclusion that we expected any true educator to reach: that the program was not working and was never going to work,” he said.

León said Thursday that he is now working on a new turnaround program. Once it’s ready, he promised to share the details with affected families before publicly announcing which schools are part of it — an effort to avoid the student protests that erupted when Anderson identified her “turnaround” schools.

He also said he was still considering whether he would ever close schools that fail to improve or to reverse their declining enrollments. Anderson’s decision to shutter nearly a dozen long-struggling schools continues to fuel resentment among her critics even years later.

“I think the whole idea of how much time does a school get to correct itself is a very important one and I’m going to need to be really reflective on it,” León said. “I’ve seen what closing schools does with people who do not feel that they were aware of it or a part of fixing it.”