charter school expansion

Success Academy plans to continue rapid expansion with 14 charter applications

The city’s largest charter school network is requesting to add a record number of new schools in the next two years, moving ahead with plans to quickly expand across the city.

A spokeswoman for Success Academy Charter Schools said Tuesday that the network is requesting authorization to open 14 new schools in 2015 and 2016. The network is looking to expand into five new districts while also opening schools in areas where the network already has a presence, like the Upper West Side and central Brooklyn.

If its plans are approved by the SUNY Charter Institute, Success would open 10 of those schools simultaneously in fall 2016—a remarkable pace even for Eva Moskowitz, the network’s founder and CEO, who has long spoken of plans to widely expand the network. The 14 new schools would add to the six opening in fall 2014 and the 26 that Success currently operates to bring the network to 46 schools—roughly the size of the Savannah, Ga. school district.

Success schools have posted some of the city’s highest test scores, with 82 percent of its students scoring proficient in math and 58 percent scoring proficient in English language arts on state exams last year, both well above city and state averages. That success has helped the network become one of the city’s most popular, and polarizing, networks, with critics charging that the network has boosted its scores with aggressive test-prep tactics and by not replacing many students who leave.

The rapid expansion plan is also a sign of the network’s confidence that the city will find, or pay for, space for the schools. If approved, the schools would put additional pressure on the city to find public space for them, likely by co-locating the schools with traditional district schools.

Not doing so would mean spending millions to lease private spaces for the schools, following the passage of a new law that was partially spurred by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision in March to block three Success Academy schools from moving into public buildings.

Still, Chancellor Carmen Fariña has said she will not make school space-sharing plans until the city has developed a better way to solicit feedback from community members.

“It’s our goal to invest in all our public schools to make sure parents have great options for their children, regardless of what zip code they live in,” said Devora Kaye, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education. “We will review these new proposals as SUNY makes its decisions.”

Isaac Carmignani, co-president of District 30’s Community Education Council, said he wasn’t surprised that Success was looking to open a school in the district, which includes Astoria, Jackson Heights, and Long Island City, because the network had sought a charter there before.

But parents have concerns about whether the school might take some top students away from district schools, he said. Parents would also be concerned about possible co-locations, since many schools in the district already struggle with overcrowding, he added.

“The big concern I think that we have is if they go to a part of a district where schools are underutilized, they’d get the best and the brightest, and these schools are already struggling a little bit,” Carmignani said.

If the four new Success schools are approved, at least 17 new charter schools will open in the city in 2015. And if all 14 of the schools Success is requesting are approved, Success would secure nearly one-third of the 46 additional charter schools that can still open in New York City under state law.

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Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”

 

Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”

 

Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”

 

Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”

 

Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”

 

Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.