Mayor beats his own deadline to open 100 charter schools

As he gears up to run for a third term, Mayor Bloomberg announced today that he has made good on a 2005 campaign promise to double the number of charter schools in the city.

Bloomberg said in October 2005 that he would bring the number of charter schools in the city to 100 by the end of his second term this year. At the time, there were fewer than 50 charters open in the city, and state law allowed only 100 charters altogether. The law changed in 2007 and since then, the state, city Department of Education, and SUNY system have granted charters at breakneck speed. This fall, 100 charter schools will be open in the city.

Bloomberg’s vigorous lobbying influenced the legislature’s decision two years ago to permit more charters, and today, his support for the movement won him a “Champion for Charters” award from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, an organization that promotes the schools. The award ceremony took place at Brooklyn Charter School, a Bedford-Stuyvesant elementary school that was the first DOE-authorized charter school.

The number of charter schools operating in the city grew from 17 when Bloomberg first took office in 2002 to 78 this school year. This fall, there will be anywhere from 99 to 104 charters open, depending on the results of Bloomberg’s attempt to convert some shrinking Catholic schools to charters and on whether the State Education Department approves the first charter school for Staten Island. (That school would serve children with special needs.) A couple of low-performing charter schools have also closed. On average, charter schools outperform other city public schools on state tests and on the city’s progress reports.

The city’s full press release about Bloomberg’s award, and the rise in the number of charter schools, is after the jump. Also in the press release: a list of 25 charter schools that will open either in the fall or in 2010.


Authorization of 25 New Charter Schools Will Allow City to Pass its Goal of 100 Charters

Mayor Bloomberg Accepts “Champion for Charters” Award from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Chancellor Joel I. Klein today announced that with 25 newly authorized charter schools, the total number of charter schools operating in New York City will surpass 100.  Today, 78 charter schools serve 24,000 students across the City, and an additional 30,000 students are on charter school waiting lists. When Mayor Bloomberg was elected, there were only 17 charter schools in New York City. In 2005, he committed to doubling the number of charters from 50 to 100.  The Mayor and Chancellor were joined at the Brooklyn Charter School by New York City Charter Schools Center Chief Executive Officer James Merriman, and Brooklyn Charter School founder Omigbade Escayg, as well as educators, parents, and other charter schools supporters. The Mayor was also presented with a “Champion for Charters” award by National Alliance for Public Charter Schools president Nelson Smith. Past recipients of this award include Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“New York City’s charter schools and their students are succeeding—so it’s no surprise that parents are demanding more seats in charters,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “With the support of charter school families, educators, and others, we were able to convince State Legislators in Albany to raise the cap limiting the number of charter schools in New York City. Now, more than 100 charter schools are authorized to operate in the City, and that means even greater opportunities for students throughout the five boroughs.”

“Charter school students’ achievements are proof that all students can succeed given the right opportunity,” said Chancellor Klein. “I am thrilled that these additional charter schools will enable even more families to choose the rigorous education that these schools provide.”

“I am pleased to call Mayor Bloomberg a champion for charters because of his forward-thinking leadership, and his work to provide parents and children with the high-quality education options they deserve,” said National Alliance for Public Charter Schools president Nelson Smith.

“Improving public education is often politically difficult, but Mayor Bloomberg has continually done the right thing for children by advocating for charter school growth in New York City.”

Last year, students in New York City charter schools outperformed students in other public schools around the City. More than 84 percent of charter school students met or exceeded grade-level standards in math, compared to 74 percent of students citywide. In English Language Arts, 67 percent of charter school students met or exceeded grade-level standards, compared to 58 percent of students citywide. Similarly, charter schools received higher marks on the City’s progress reports, especially at the middle-school level, where 69 percent of charter middle schools received an A, compared to 30 percent of middle schools citywide. Overall, half of the City’s 42 charter schools receiving progress report grades earned an A, compared to 38 percent of all elementary and middle schools citywide. KIPP Infinity, a charter middle school in Harlem, earned an A and received a score of 106 points, making it the top performer of the 1,043 elementary, middle, and K-8 schools that received progress report grades for their performance during the 2007-08 school year.

In April 2007, New York State lawmakers raised the cap limiting the number of charter schools. The new law allows for the creation of an additional 100 charter schools in New York State, 50 of which are reserved for schools in New York City. Since then, 18 charter schools have opened in New York City, and an additional 25 have been approved to open. Of the 25 newly approved charters, 21 are planning to enroll their first students in September 2009. The remaining schools plan to open in September 2010.  In addition, the State Education Department is expected to vote in March on an additional charter school, the John W. Lavelle Preparatory Charter School, which is proposed to open in Staten Island. Mayor Bloomberg also announced earlier this week that he and Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio will explore turning four Brooklyn and Queens Catholic schools slated for closure into charter schools by fall 2009.

Charter schools are public schools governed by not-for-profit boards of trustees. They are subject to New York State educational standards, and can be closed if student performance or operational goals are not met. Charter schools admit students by lottery, with preference given to children who live in the community school district where the school is located. About 62 percent of the City’s public charter school students are black compared to 32 percent for the city; 30 percent are Hispanic compared to 39 percent for the city. More than 78 percent of charter school students are eligible for free or reduced lunch, compared to 73 percent for the city.

The 25 newly approved charter schools are:

  1. Academic Leadership Charter School (Manhattan)
  2. Achievement First North Crown Heights (Brooklyn)
  3. Believe Northside Charter High School (Brooklyn)
  4. Believe Southside Charter High School (Brooklyn)
  5. Brooklyn Prospect Charter School (Brooklyn)
  6. Brooklyn Scholars Charter School (Brooklyn)
  7. Brownsville Ascend Charter School (Brooklyn)
  8. Carl C. Icahn Charter School Nine (Bronx)
  9. Coney Island Preparatory Charter School (Brooklyn)
  10. Crown Heights Collegiate Charter School (Brooklyn)
  11. East New York Collegiate Charter School (Brooklyn)
  12. Excellence Charter School for Girls (Brooklyn)
  13. Explore Charter School (Brooklyn)
  14. Fahari Academy Charter School (Brooklyn)
  15. Flatbush Collegiate Charter School (Brooklyn)
  16. Girls Preparatory Charter School of East Harlem (Manhattan)
  17. Growing Up Green Charter School (Queens)
  18. Hebrew Language Academy Charter School (Brooklyn)
  19. Leadership Preparatory Brownsville Charter School (Brooklyn)
  20. Leadership Preparatory East New York Charter School (Brooklyn)
  21. Leadership Preparatory Flatbush Charter School (Brooklyn)
  22. Summit Academy Charter School (Brooklyn)
  23. The Equality Charter School (Bronx)
  24. The Equity Project Charter School (Manhattan)
  25. The Ethical Community Charter School (Bronx)

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Memphis parent advocacy group trains first Spanish-speaking cohort

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Manuela Martinez (center left) and Lidia Sauceda (center right) are among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship.

Manuela Martinez doesn’t want Spanish-speaking families to get lost in the fast-changing education landscape in Memphis as the city’s Hispanic population continues to grow.

The mother of two students is among 19 parents in the first Spanish-speaking class of Memphis Lift’s Public Advocate Fellowship, a program that trains parents on local education issues.

“We want to be more informed,” said Martinez, whose children attend Shelby County Schools. “I didn’t know I had much of voice or could change things at my child’s school. But I’m learning a lot about schools in Memphis, and how I can be a bigger part.”

More than 200 Memphians have gone through the 10-week fellowship program since the parent advocacy group launched two years ago. The vast majority have been African-Americans.

The first Spanish-speaking cohort is completing a five-week program this month and marks a concerted effort to bridge racial barriers, said Sarah Carpenter, the organization’s executive director.

“Our mission is to make the powerless parent powerful …,” she said.

The city’s mostly black public schools have experienced a steady growth in Hispanic students since 1992 when only 286 attended the former Memphis City Schools. In 2015, the consolidated Shelby County Schools had 13,816 Hispanic children and teens, or 12.3 percent of the student population.

Lidia Sauceda came to Memphis from Mexico as a child; now she has two children who attend Shelby County Schools. Through Memphis Lift, she is learning about how to navigate Tennessee’s largest district in behalf of her family.

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Hispanic parents attend a training with the Memphis Lift fellowship program.

“Latinos are afraid of talking, of standing up,” Sauceda said. “They’re so afraid they’re not going to be heard because of their legal status. But I will recommend this (fellowship) to parents. How do we want our kids to have a better education if we can’t dedicate time?”

The training includes lessons on local school options, how to speak publicly at a school board meeting, and how to advocate for your children if you believe they are being treated unfairly.

The first fellowship was led by Ian Buchanan, former director of community partnership for the state-run Achievement School District. Now the program is taught in-house, and the Spanish-speaking class is being led this month by Carmelita Hernandez, an alumna.

“No matter what language we speak, we want a high-quality education for our kids just like any other parent,” Hernandez said. “A good education leads to better opportunities.”

Stopping summer slide

On National Summer Learning Day, Memphis takes stock of programs for kids

PHOTO: Helen Carefoot
Torrence Echols, a rising first-grader in Memphis, builds a tower with giant legos at the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on National Summer Learning Day.

When it comes to summer learning, it’s been a better year for Memphis, where a range of new programs have helped to stem learning loss that hits hard in communities with a high number of low-income students.

On Thursday, Mayor Jim Strickland celebrated that work in conjunction with National Summer Learning Day and against the backdrop of the children’s reading room of the city’s main library.

He estimated that 10,000 children and teens are being reached this summer through learning programs spearheaded through Shelby County Schools, Literacy Mid-South, Memphis Public Libraries, churches and nonprofit organizations across the community.

That’s a record-breaking number, Strickland says, in a city with a lot of students struggling to meet state and local reading targets.

Summer learning loss, also known as summer slide, is the tendency for students to lose some of the knowledge and skills they gained during the school year. It’s a large contributor to the achievement gap, since children from low-income families usually don’t get the same summer enrichment opportunities as their more affluent peers. Compounded year after year, the gap widens to the point that, by fifth grade, many students can be up to three years behind in math and reading.

But this summer for the first time, Shelby County Schools offered summer learning academies across the city for students most in need of intervention. And Memphis also received a slice of an $8.5 million state grant to provide summer literacy camps at nine Memphis schools through Tennessee’s Read to be Ready initiative.

Literacy Mid-South used Thursday’s event to encourage Memphians to “drop everything and read!”

The nonprofit, which is providing resources this summer through about 15 organizations in Greater Memphis, is challenging students to log 1,400 minutes of summertime reading, an amount that research shows can mitigate learning loss and even increase test scores.

Reading is a problem for many students in Memphis and across Tennessee. Less than a third of third-graders in Shelby County Schools read on grade level, and the district is working to boost that rate to 90 percent by 2025 under its Destination 2025 plan.

The city of Memphis, which does not fund local schools, has made Memphis Public Libraries the focal point of its education work. This summer, the library is offering programs on everything from STEM and robotics to art and test prep.

Parents are a critical component, helping their kids to take advantage of books, programs and services that counter the doldrums of summer learning.

Soon after the mayor left the Benjamin L. Hooks Library on Thursday, Tammy Echols arrived with her son, Torrence, a rising first-grader at Levi Elementary School. Echols said they visit regularly to read books and do computer and math games.

“We always do a lot of reading and we’re working on learning sight words,” Echols said as she watched her son build a tower out of giant Lego blocks. “Torrence is a learning child and it’s easy to forget what you just learned if you’re not constantly reinforcing.”

You can find summer learning resources for families from the National Summer Learning Association.