Harlem Village Academies

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.”
New York

For some charters, 2012 reading test gains began with a struggle

Two years ago, just one in three students at Achievement First Bushwick were rated "proficient" on the state's reading tests. It wasn't exactly the kind of result promised from a high-performing charter school in a "no excuses" network. But the school has nearly doubled that rate in the two years since, according to state test scores released Tuesday. On the 2012 English language arts test, nearly 60 percent of students at the school were rated proficient, compared to 47 percent of students citywide. Bushwick's gains on the reading tests were among the largest made in the charter sector, which improved as a whole by seven percentage points, from 44.5 percent to 51.5 percent.  The improvement — from matching the citywide average to scoring well above it — has provided fodder for charter school advocates and the Bloomberg administration to push back against critics who oppose the expansion of charter schools across the state. "Policy makers and legislators should take note" of the gains, said Bill Phillips, president of the New York Charter Schools Association."It’s not only a tougher measure than the host district comparison, it suggests that districts across the state should consider charters as another tool to better educate children." "We can't possibly handle the demand from parents for the charter schools," Mayor Bloomberg said during a press conference Tuesday. "They're just off the charts." Several charter operators announced their schools' test scores in celebratory press releases Tuesday. Deborah Kenny touted the eighth-grade math and reading scores at her schools, the Harlem Village Academies. The Success Academy network announced a 7-point gain in reading proficiency across its four schools with testing grades, more than twice the citywide improvement rate. And Democracy Prep said the low-performing charter school it took over last year had posted the largest reading proficiency gains of any school in the state, with third-grade reading proficiency hurtling from 28 percent in 2011 to 63 percent this year. The charter school sector wasn't nearly as enthusiastic to promote its gains two years ago, when reading scores slumped. Struggles to boost literacy were not unique to Achievement First Bushwick.