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New charter schools on the way…

A $16.6 million federal grant will fund the development and support of new charter schools in New York State, the US Department of Education announced in July. The grant, from the Department’s Charter School Program, will be used primarily to create and support secondary-level charter schools. Today is the postmark deadline for the current round of applications for the planning and implementation of new charter schools.

Mayor Bloomberg and Chancellor Klein have long pushed for the creation of more charter schools, successfully convincing the state legislature to increase the number of charters granted from 100 to 200 in April, 2007. Half of the new charters are reserved for New York City. Even that limit may be short-lived; Governor Paterson reportedly told members of the Alliance for School Choice advocacy group that he supports lifting the cap on charters altogether.

Approximately 18,000 students attend New York City’s 60 charter schools, with thousands more students on waiting lists, according to the DOE.

In response to this demand, eighteen new charter schools will open across the city this fall, with seven in the Bronx, five in Brooklyn, five in Manhattan, and one in Queens. The schools have a wide variety of institutional partners, including Victory Schools, adding two new charters to their six existing schools throughout the city, and the Success Charter Network, expanding from one to four schools in Harlem.

The new charters, once they reach full capacity, will include six elementary schools, seven combined elementary-middle schools, one combined middle-high school, two high schools, and two K-12 schools. Most existing New York City charter schools serve elementary and middle school students.

In June, New York City charter school students earned the Mayor’s praise by out-performing their public school peers on state tests. In math, 84.9% of charter school students met or exceeded standards, compared to 70.5% of other students in districts with charter schools. In ELA, 67.1% of charter school students met or exceeded standards, compared to 53.6% of other public school students in districts with charters.

While some questioned the validity of the scores, state education officials assured the public that the tests had been approved by both the federal Department of Education and by an advisory group of testing experts.

Critics maintain that charter schools, even when they select students by lottery, tend to attract families that are more involved in their children’s education, conferring an advantage. A 2007 report by the National Bureau of Economic Research concluded that New York City’s charter school applicants are more likely to be poor than the average public school student in the city, but hesitated to draw firm conclusions on other ways that charter school students might differ from average.

Meanwhile, with both presidential candidates pro-charters, expect the trend towards increasing their numbers to continue. John McCain has signed on to Bloomberg and Klein’s Education Equality Project, which includes among its principles taking steps to “empower parents by giving them a meaningful voice in where their children are educated including public charter schools.” Barack Obama also has spoken in support of charter schools numerous times.

A complete list of New York State charter schools is available here.

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