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February 23, 2015
Suspensions at city charter schools far outpace those at district schools, data show
Charter schools suspended 11 percent of their students in 2011-12.
charter authority figures
February 9, 2015
City’s charter-school oversight again questioned by Regents, who raise eyebrows themselves
For a third straight month, officials raised questions about charter schools under the city’s supervision.
Not Done Yet
June 2, 2014
Years after Common Core's arrival, reading overhauls continue at top charter networks
The city's top charter school networks are continuing to overhaul their reading materials and methods to meet the Common Core standards years after they were adopted. The networks have moved with new urgency since pass rates plunged on the first-ever Common Core state tests.
March 6, 2014
Charter school CEOs head to New York for advice on running networks
New York City would not seem the ideal place at the moment for charter school networks to talk expansion. Last week, the mayor…
October 30, 2013
Eight charter schools approved for New York City
SUNY Charter Schools Institute, one of two bodies that can authorize charter schools in New York State, has signed off on eight more schools to…
September 24, 2013
Achievement First parents are among network's new teachers
Louise Eason, who has a son at Achievement First Bushwick Middle School, was just hired as a teacher at Achievement First Apollo this year. Two new teachers at Achievement First's schools have a line on their resumes that makes them stand out from their colleagues: parent. Charter schools tend to have younger teachers who do not yet have families, and often their teachers come from outside the communities where the schools are located. Both features have fueled criticism of charter schools as parachuting do-gooders into needy neighborhoods until they move on to other, more prestigious positions. Achievement First's new hires — a classroom teacher at one Achievement First elementary school and a teacher-in-training at another one — represent a tiny counterweight to those trends. The network has had its own parents work in its Connecticut schools, but the new hires are a first for New York City. Having parents as teachers offers a unique referendum on school quality, according to Guerschmide Saint-Ange, who oversees parent engagement across the network.
July 30, 2013
In remote Brooklyn areas, more charters means more decisions
When Emily Caton decided she wanted to send her daughter to a charter school, she navigated to the New York City Charter Center website, typed in her Brownsville zip code, and watched a stream of nearby schools flood her screen. Soon, her daughter had offers to attend six different charter schools, all in her area of Brooklyn. Just a few years ago, Caton's screen would have shown far fewer local charter school options. But today, after charter schools have flooded the area, neighborhoods in eastern parts of Brooklyn has more school seats and applicants than neighborhoods where charter schools flocked early on, like Harlem and the South Bronx. This year, Caton is one of 18,000 unique applicants to charter school lotteries in East New York and Brownsville. And the neighborhoods together have more than twice as many charter school seats as Harlem and the South Bronx, according to data provided by the New York City Charter Center. The growth of charter school options comes even as district school attendance in the neighborhoods has fallen over the past decade — and in recent years, has driven that drop. There are nearly 3,000 fewer elementary school seats in District 19, which includes most of East New York, than there were in 2003-2004, a 20 percent decrease. Middle school enrollment is down 25 percent over the same period. In the smaller District 23, which includes Brownsville, Ocean Hill, and part of East New York, the district has actually added about 800 middle school seats since 2003, a 30 percent hike, but elementary school enrollment has fallen by 30 percent.
June 6, 2013
Broker Like a Champion
I’ve been a Doug Lemov devotee for a couple of years now, but I never expected his lessons for teachers would also apply to apartment-hunting until I was racing around Brooklyn with real-estate brokers during a sticky Memorial Day weekend.
May 24, 2013
City charter networks celebrate sending first seniors to college
As Lamont Sadler moonwalked up to the microphone, his classmates clapped and cheered for their senior class president. "When I say hee hee, you say ow!" Sadler yelled to the auditorium full of students and teachers who chanted in reply. The exuberant display was part of Uncommon Charter High School's "signing day" on Thursday to celebrate the college acceptances that its first graduating class of 28 students nabbed. The students were individually recognized for their achievements, walked across the stage to a song of their choice, and then announced what college they would attend in the fall. While on stage, students also signed a contract that promised they would succeed in and graduate from college.
December 18, 2012
In Manhattan conference room, students get networking workout
College and career readiness isn't just about what students know — it's about whom they know, too. That's the philosophy behind the Opportunity Network, a 10-year-old nonprofit organization that aims to develop professional skills in students who might be the first in their family to attend college. Last Wednesday, that development came in the form of two-minute conversations with an array of young professionals during an event that the organization bills as "speed networking." (Watch part of the event in the video above.)
August 23, 2012
Some city schools look for support to boost teacher leadership
For many of the city's strongest teachers, moving up professionally means moving out of the classroom and on to jobs in school management, consulting, policy, or academia. That was the conclusion of a recent survey from the New Teacher Project on the challenges districts face retaining teachers who have hit their stride. The Department of Education is in the early stages of several experiments to encourage those teachers to stay in schools, offering higher-level professional development and sometimes higher pay. But some school leaders don't want to wait to give their teachers opportunities to improve their leadership practices. Enter the National Academy of Advanced Teacher Education, a fledgling training program for teachers who have already demonstrated strength and commitment to the profession, but want to improve even more. For the past two years they have offered teachers around the country an intensive leadership training workshop tailored to the experiences of classroom instructors. This year, six city teachers joined a cohort of 50 in Chicago, for a two week long summer seminar series. The curriculum is split between teaching skills and leadership skills like public speaking and improvisation, and peppered with business school-style case study reading assignments, according to Deborah Levitsky, the program director. The idea is to help them to think deeper about non-supervisory leadership roles, such as grade-level team leaders and department chairs. The program runs for two years, with a winter weekend-long meetup and at-home reading and writing assignments.
January 17, 2012
Sweating the big and small stuff at Achievement First's P.D. day
When principals and coaches at Achievement First charter schools conducted observations this fall, they found that many teachers fell short when using a classroom technique called "checks for understanding." The technique, in which teachers ask questions to determine in real time whether students are absorbing lessons, “was the most important thing for improving our students' achievement,” said Dacia Toll, Achievement First’s founder and co-CEO. Plus, she said, "We're not asking good questions in the first place." So as the charter network's annual professional development day approached, Toll took it upon herself to lead the checks for understanding session. That session, along with 48 other training workshops, took place Jan. 6 at a Marriott Hotel in Stamford, Conn. Throughout her 90-minute session, Toll drilled the standing-room-only audience of teachers on how to ask targeted questions to ensure students understand the key points of lessons, and how to apply them. The group went over the basic techniques to ask questions — flash cards, choral responses, hand signals, pepper questions, cold calls, class sweeps, and more — and then debated which ones were better in certain situations. For example, Toll said cold-calling students would not be effective if the goal is to grasp whether an entire class understood a lesson. In that case, she said, “You’re only getting data from one student." Teachers said the content of Toll's session wasn't earth-shattering – many reported learning some version of Checks for Understanding during their regular certification process — but provided an important refresher.
January 13, 2012
Small school resists meeting the fate of a larger one it replaced
Ama Willock urges DOE officials not to close her son's school, Middle School for the Arts in Crown Heights As Mayor Michael Bloomberg touted the success of the small schools opened during his tenure in his State of the City address, families and staff from one of them were preparing to fight the city's closure plan. The Department of Education opened Middle School for the Arts, or M.S. 587, in 2004 to replace M.S. 391, a much larger school that was persistently low-performing. But the Crown Heights school never fulfilled its promise. Last year, only 13 percent of the 334 students met state proficiency standards in reading, and only 11 percent were proficient in math. In December, the city proposed to close the school. That proposal drew about 40 students, parents and staff members to speak out at a public hearing in the school's auditorium Thursday evening. They said the school's low test scores do not accurately capture what happens there and argued that replacing the school again would not solve its problems. The hearing kicked off a three-week sprint of hearings the city has scheduled at each of the 25 schools it proposes to close or shrink this year, 11 of them middle schools. More hearings could be added to the docket if a plan Bloomberg announced in his speech — to close 33 struggling schools, at least in name, in order to retain federal funds — moves forward.
November 7, 2011
Struggling with special education, charter schools join together
Chancellor Dennis Walcott discusses special education in charter schools at the kick-off conference for a new collaborative. As the director of special education at the DREAM Charter School, Jacqueline Frey knows firsthand the difficulties charter schools face when serving students with disabilities. One issue, she said, is convincing the city that her school's plan to serve each disabled student is sound. And when she wants to bring her teachers up to date on the best ways to serve students with disabilities, she has to figure out how to compensate for the training that pricey consultants might be able to offer. "If I'm a mom and pop charter school, I can't afford to do that for myself," Frey said. "It helps to find other schools in the same situation." Connecting charter schools with similar special education needs is the chief goal of the New York City Charter School Center’s Special Education Collaborative, which builds off of local efforts to boost special education at charter schools that have been going in the Bronx, Manhattan, and Brooklyn since 2007. The $1,500-per-school entry fee pays for monthly training sessions, access to counselors and consultants, and an annual conference. The citywide collaborative, which about 90 of the city’s 136 charter schools have already joined, comes at an opportune time. Both of the state's charter school authorizers, the State University of New York and the Board of Regents, are pushing new charter schools to build capacity for more higher-needs students, including more special education students, this year, into their school designs. And at the collaborative’s first conference last month, Chancellor Dennis Walcott said the DOE would be pressing charter schools to "up the ante" in how they serve special education students. The pushes are in part a response to criticism that charter schools do not enroll a fair share of special needs students. In recent years, the proportion of students with disabilities at charter schools has actually risen to nearly the city average. The challenge now, advocates say, is to serve disabled students well.
September 21, 2011
School with substandard scores gets shorter charter renewal
A Brooklyn charter school with a floundering English-language learner program and poor English marks had its charter renewed, but only on a probationary basis. State charter authorizers who reviewed Achievement First Bushwick for its charter renewal found that the school had an inadequate ELL program, according to a renewal report earlier this year. The school also failed to meet English language arts test scores goals since it opened in 2006, which prompted the authorizers to decline the school's request for a five-year renewal. Last week, the state Board of Regents supported the report's recommendations in an official vote at its monthly meeting. The school now has just three years to fix its problems — or close. The school's authorizer, SUNY Charter School Institute, recommended the short-term renewal only on the condition that the school address problems with its ELL instruction before this school year began. The main problem was that ELL students were getting services more appropriate for disabled students, on an ad hoc basis. The services were “ineffective given the absence of a formal ELL program for what is a sizable ELL population," the authorizers found.
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