Deborah Kenny

New York

Harlem Village Academies plans a graduate school for teachers

PHOTO: Denver Post A kindergarten class at Harlem Village Academies, which plans to found its own graduate school of education. Harlem Village Academies, a charter-school network that has attracted a star-studded board and presidential accolades, plans to open a graduate school devoted to progressive education, making it the city’s latest charter chain to spawn its own graduate program. The graduate school, which is in the first weeks of a yearlong planning period, will feature demonstrations by master teachers; a Japanese-style practice of refining a single lesson over many months; and full integration with the network’s five schools, said HVA founder and CEO, Deborah Kenny. “It will be a way to promote the things I’m passionate about, and to help more teachers and students,” said Kenny, a former business executive who was inspired to create the schools in 2003 after her husband’s early death. But unlike the other new teacher training programs that city charter school operators have started in recent years, Kenny is not trading on a record of strong student achievement or teacher satisfaction. HVA was among the city's lowest-performing charter networks on last year's state math and reading tests, and its schools have struggled with high student and teacher attrition. News of the planned school — which surfaced last week in a New York Times op-ed —  stirred skepticism among some former teachers, who said the K-12 network’s sky-high expectations coupled with scant support has driven the high teacher turnover. “Scary to imagine HVA trying to open a graduate school,” Sabrina Strand, an educator who left the school after teaching there from 2006 to 2007 and has been an outspoken critic of the network, wrote in an email. “I imagine their methods will turn a lot of would-be teachers away from the classroom.”