unchartered territory

Chancellor orders troubled Brooklyn charter school to close

Chancellor Joel Klein signed an order today to close a Brooklyn charter school that city school officials said had some of the most egregious charter violations they’d ever seen.

In June, East New York Preparatory Charter School will become the fourth charter school to close in the city’s history. In his recommendation to Klein that the school close, Deputy Chancellor John White wrote that although the charter school’s new board members acknowledged prior wrongdoing, many problems remained.

“ENYP has not presented any evidence responding to the findings that lower performing students were being involuntarily transferred from the school or discouraged from attending the school,” White wrote.

Klein’s decision marks an end to a contentious closure process that pitted parents who wanted the school to remain open against city officials charged with making sure the school followed its charter.

That conflict erupted at a public meeting in February, where parents pleaded with the department to keep the school open, saying the neighborhood offered few other viable options and the wait-lists for other charter schools were impossibly long.

Students currently enrolled in East New York Prep will have to transfer to other district or charter schools next year. To ease their transition, the department is offering a new option: a one-year program run out of P.S. 323 that East New York Prep students in grades two through five can opt into. According to DOE charter school office head Michael Duffy, the program will take in 162 students and be run by Andrea Whitehurst, a former principal who monitored the charter school.

Opened in 2006 by principal Sheila Joseph, East New York Prep appeared on the state and city’s radar after parents reported that Joseph was expelling high-needs students. Joseph is also alleged to have given herself a significant raise and created an environment so unstable that Teach for America has told its six corps members they can look for new teaching positions at other schools next year. If they were to leave, East New York Prep would have only two remaining teachers.

Recommendation of John White to Close ENYP

CHANCELLOR KLEIN TO CLOSE EAST NEW YORK PREPARATORY CHARTER SCHOOL

Schools Chancellor Joel I. Klein today announced he would close East New York Preparatory Charter School at the end of this school year after determining that the school has failed to provide all of its students with a high-quality education and was operating in violation of its charter, Department of Education (DOE) policy, and New York State charter school law. The DOE has been working with families to help place the school’s students in new schools next year. East New York Prep is the fourth charter school to be closed in New York City since charters were first created.

“We won’t allow a school to remain open when it persistently fails its students-whether it is a charter or a district school,” Chancellor Klein said. “Unfortunately, East New York Prep failed to meet the standards of its charter and the City’s promise to provide a good education to all public school children. We will work closely with the school’s families to place their children in other nearby district or charter schools where they can receive the education they need and deserve.”

The DOE issued East New York Prep a five-year charter in 2005. In February 2009, the school was put on probation in response to charges that it improperly discharged some students and failed to provide adequate special education services. In a subsequent investigation, the DOE determined the school’s board of directors failed to exercise appropriate oversight of the school and its leadership.

East New York Prep will remain open until the end of the current school year. The DOE has been working with families to find nearby district and charter schools for their children to attend in the fall. Options include a new one-year program in the same building as East New York Prep that will give families additional time to secure places for their children in another school. The DOE will hold an information session for parents on Thursday, April 22nd, at East New York Prep.

that was weird

The D.C. school system had a pitch-perfect response after John Oliver made #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter

Public education got some unexpected attention Sunday night when John Oliver asked viewers watching the Emmys to make #DCPublicSchools trend on Twitter.

Oliver had been inspired by comedian Dave Chappelle, who shouted out the school system he attended before he announced an award winner. Within a minute of Oliver’s request, the hashtag was officially trending.

Most of the tweets had nothing to do with schools in Washington, D.C.

Here are a few that did, starting with this pitch-perfect one from the official D.C. Public Schools account:

Oliver’s surreal challenge was far from the first time that the late-show host has made education a centerpiece of his comedy — over time, he has pilloried standardized testing, school segregation, and charter schools.

Nor was it the first education hashtag to take center stage at an awards show: #PublicSchoolProud, which emerged as a response to new U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, got a shoutout during the Oscars in February.

And it also is not the first time this year that D.C. schools have gotten a surprise burst of attention. The Oscars were just a week after DeVos drew fire for criticizing the teachers she met during her first school visit as secretary — to a D.C. public school.

Startup Support

Diverse charter schools in New York City to get boost from Walton money

PHOTO: John Bartelstone
Students at Brooklyn Prospect Charter School in 2012. The school is one of several New York City charters that aim to enroll diverse student bodies.

The Walton Family Foundation, the philanthropy governed by the family behind Walmart, pledged Tuesday to invest $2.2 million over the next two years in new charter schools in New York City that aim to be socioeconomically diverse.

Officials from the foundation expect the initiative to support the start of about seven mixed-income charter schools, which will be able to use the money to pay for anything from building space to teachers to technology.

The effort reflects a growing interest in New York and beyond in establishing charter schools that enroll students from a mix of backgrounds, which research suggests can benefit students and is considered one remedy to school segregation.

“We are excited to help educators and leaders on the front lines of solving one of today’s most pressing education challenges,” Marc Sternberg, the foundation’s K-12 education director and a former New York City education department official, said in a statement.

Walton has been a major charter school backer, pouring more than $407 million into hundreds of those schools over the past two decades. In New York, the foundation has helped fund more than 100 new charter schools. (Walton also supports Chalkbeat; read about our funding here.)

Some studies have found that black and Hispanic students in charter schools are more likely to attend predominantly nonwhite schools than their peers in traditional schools, partly because charter schools tend to be located in urban areas and are often established specifically to serve low-income students of color. In New York City, one report found that 90 percent of charter schools in 2010 were “intensely segregated,” meaning fewer than 10 percent of their students were white.

However, more recently, a small but rising number of charter schools has started to take steps to recruit and enroll a more diverse student body. Often, they do this by drawing in applicants from larger geographic areas than traditional schools can and by adjusting their admissions lotteries to reserve seats for particular groups, such as low-income students or residents of nearby housing projects.

Founded in 2014, the national Diverse Charter Schools Coalition now includes more than 100 schools in more than a dozen states. Nine New York City charter groups are part of the coalition, ranging from individual schools like Community Roots Charter School in Brooklyn to larger networks, including six Success Academy schools.

“There’s been a real shift in the charter school movement to think about how they address the issue of segregation,” said Halley Potter, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a think tank that promotes socioeconomic diversity.

The Century Foundation and researchers at Teachers College at Columbia University and Temple University will receive additional funding from Walton to study diverse charter schools, with the universities’ researchers conducting what Walton says is the first peer-reviewed study of those schools’ impact on student learning.