fostering hope

Can keeping students longer help them thrive? A charter school explains why it’s adding grades

PHOTO: Haven Academy
Principal Jessica Nauiokas with fourth-graders at Haven Academy.

When the New York Foundling, a 140-year-old child welfare agency, set out to open a charter elementary school in 2008, its success was far from guaranteed. The school was targeting a notoriously hard-to-serve population — children in foster care or receiving family support services from the city. The students who didn’t fall into those categories would be pulled from the surrounding Bronx neighborhood, one of the city’s poorest.

The results were surprising. The percentage of students passing standardized math and English tests at Mott Haven Academy Charter School, known as Haven Academy, surpassed citywide averages in 2016. It has a 94 percent attendance rate and earns high marks from parents and teachers.

Now Haven is set to grow: Starting this fall, it will add a middle school grade for each of the next three years. The idea, explained the Foundling’s president and CEO Bill Baccaglini, grew out of wanting to keep existing students in a stable environment for as long as possible.

“Given all the progress we made with these kids and knowing the kind of educational environment they need to thrive, we thought it was unfair at that particular time in their lives — pre-adolescence — to let them go,” he said.

Jessica Nauiokas, Haven’s founding principal, echoed that sentiment. “I think those adolescent years are tricky for everyone, but they’re particularly tricky for kids who have been victims of trauma or abuse or neglect,” she said.

Research has shown that children in foster care are more likely than their peers to switch schools frequently, harming their academic progress. And a local study found that students in K-8 schools tend to outperform those who leave elementary for middle school.

Haven Academy

The longer Haven students stay, Nauiokas said, the more prepared they will be for high school and beyond. “Some of them need to be very self-reliant and very independent,” she said. “And it’s much easier to get a 14-year-old ready than it is to get them ready at age 11.”

Meanwhile, Nauiokas said, expanding Haven Academy will add more high-quality middle school seats in a district that could use them. The middle school will share a campus with the elementary school, but have its own director: Briony Carr-Clemente, who previously co-founded a Harlem middle school.

In many ways, Haven Academy epitomizes the “community schools” model the city has embraced, most notably in its Renewal program, as a way to better serve families and improve struggling schools. Students at Haven have access to mental health counseling, medical and dental care, and basic resources like coats, food and shelter.

Baccaglini is confident the expansion will pay off. “I always felt that if we could get these kids through eighth grade, all the habits that we taught them, all the values, the idea that they could be whoever they want to be,” he said. “If we could keep them pre-K-8, we’d have a great chance of that staying whole.”

documenting hate

Tell Chalkbeat about hate crimes in your schools

Chalkbeat is joining the Documenting Hate consortium organized by ProPublica to better understand the scope and nature of bias incidents and hate crimes in schools.

You may have heard of the project — it’s already fueled some powerful journalism over by dozens of news organizations. We’re joining now both because we want to better understand this issue and because Francisco Vara-Orta, who wrote this piece for Education Week on how those incidents marked the months after President Trump’s election, recently joined our team.

Hate crimes and bias incidents are hard to track. Five states don’t have a hate crimes law at all, and when they happen in schools, data are not uniformly collected by a federal agency. But we know they do happen and that they affect classrooms, with teachers often unprepared to address them.

Without data, it’s harder to understand the issue and for policymakers to take action. That’s why we want to help fill in those gaps.

If you have witnessed or been the victim of a suspected hate crime or bias incident at school, you can submit information through the form below. Journalists at Chalkbeat and other media organizations will review and verify submissions, but won’t share your name or contact information with anyone outside of the Documenting Hate consortium.

IPS School Board Race 2018

Indiana teachers union spends big on Indianapolis Public Schools in election

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
IPS board candidate signs

The political arm of Indiana’s largest teachers union is spending big on the Indianapolis Public Schools board. The group donated $68,400 to three candidates vying for seats on the board this November, according to pre-election campaign finance disclosures released Friday.

The three candidates — Susan Collins, Michele Lorbieski, and Taria Slack — have all expressed criticism of the current board and the leadership of Superintendent Lewis Ferebee. Although that criticism touches on many issues, one particular bone of contention is the district’s embrace of innovation schools, independent campuses that are run by charter or nonprofit operators but remain under the district’s umbrella. Teachers at those schools are employed by the school operators, so they cannot join the union.

The trio was also endorsed by the IPS Community Coalition, a local group that has received funding from a national teachers union.

It’s not unusual for teachers unions to spend on school board elections. In 2016, the union contributed $15,000 to an unsuccessful at-large candidate for the Indianapolis Public Schools board. But $68,400 dwarfs that contribution. Those disclosures do not capture the full spending on the election. The three candidates endorsed by Stand for Children Indiana — Mary Ann Sullivan, Dorene Rodríguez Hoops, and Evan Hawkins — are likely getting significant unreported benefits.

Stand for Children, which supports innovation schools, typically sends mailers and hires campaign workers to support the candidates it endorses. But it is not required to disclose all of its political activity because it is an independent expenditure committee, also known as a 501(c)(4), for the tax code section that covers it. The group did not immediately respond to a request for information on how much it is spending on this race.

The candidates’ fundraising varied widely in the reporting period, which covered the period from April 14 to Oct. 12, with Taria Slack bringing in $28,950 and Joanna Krumel raising $200. In recent years, candidates have been raising significantly more money than had been common. But one recent candidate managed to win on a shoestring: Elizabeth Gore won an at-large seat in 2016 after raising about $1,200.

Read more: See candidates’ answers to a Chalkbeat survey

One part of Stand for Children’s spending became visible this year when it gave directly to tax campaigns. The group contributed $188,842 to the campaign for two tax referendums to raise money for Indianapolis Public Schools. That includes a $100,000 donation that was announced in August and about $88,842 worth of in-kind contributions such as mailers. The group has a team of campaign workers who have been going door-to-door for months.

The district is seeking to persuade voters to support two tax increases. One would raise $220 million for operating funds, such as teacher salaries, over eight years. A second measure would raise $52 million for building improvements. Donations from Stand for Children largely power the Vote Yes for IPS campaign, which raised a total of $201,717. The Indiana teachers union also contributed $5,000.

Here are the details on how much each candidate has raised and some of the notable contributions:

At large

Incumbent Mary Ann Sullivan, a former Democrat state lawmaker, raised $7,054. Her largest contribution came from the Indy Chamber Business Advocacy Committee, which donated $4,670. She also received $1,000 from Steel House, a metal warehouse run by businessman Reid Litwack. She also received several donations of $250 or less.

Retired Indianapolis Public Schools teacher Susan Collins, who is one of the candidates supported by the union, raised $16,422. The Indiana Political Action Committee for Education contributed $15,000. She also received several donations of $200 or less.

Ceramics studio owner and Indianapolis Public Schools parent Joanna Krumel raised $200. Her largest contribution, $100, came from James W. Hill.

District 3

Marian University Executive Director of Facilities and Procurement and Indianapolis Public Schools parent Evan Hawkins raised $22,037. His largest contributions from individuals were from businessmen Allan Hubbard, who donated $5,000, and Litwack, who donated $2,500. The Indy Chamber Business Advocacy Committee contributed $4,670 and web design valued at $330. He also received several donations of $1,000 or less. His donors included IPS board member Venita Moore, retiring IPS board member Kelly Bentley’s campaign, and the CEO of The Mind Trust, Brandon Brown.

Frost Brown Todd trial attorney and Indianapolis Public Schools parent Michele Lorbieski, who is one of the candidates supported by the union, raised $27,345. The Indiana Political Action Committee for Education contributed $24,900. She also received several contributions of $250 or less.

Pike Township schools Director of Information Services Sherry Shelton raised $1,763, primarily from money she contributed. David Green contributed $116.

District 5

Incumbent Dorene Rodríguez Hoops, an Indianapolis Public Schools parent, raised $16,006. Her largest contributors include Hubbard, who donated $5,000; the Indy Chamber Business Advocacy Committee, which gave $4,670 and web design valued at $330; and the MIBOR PAC, which contributed $1,000. She also received several contributions of $500 or less, including from Bentley.

Federal employee and Indianapolis Public Schools parent Taria Slack, who is one of the candidates supported by the union, raised $28,950. The Indiana Political Action Committee for Education contributed $28,500.