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)

Behind the brawl

Three things to know about the Tennessee school behind this week’s graduation brawl

PHOTO: Arlington Community Schools
Arlington High School is a 2,000-plus-student school in suburban Shelby County in southwest Tennessee.

Arlington High School is considered the crown jewel of a 3-year-old district in suburban Shelby County, even as its school community deals with the unwelcome attention of several viral videos showing a fight that broke out among adults attending its graduation ceremony.

The brawl, which reportedly began with a dispute over saved seats, detracted from Tuesday’s pomp and circumstance and the more than $30 million in scholarships earned by the school’s Class of 2017. No students were involved.

“It was unfortunate that a couple of adults in the audience exhibited the behavior they did prior to the ceremony beginning and thus has caused a distraction from the celebration of our students’ accomplishments,” Arlington Community Schools Superintendent Tammy Mason said in a statement.

Here are three things to know about the 13-year-old school in northwest Shelby County.

With more than 2,000 students, Arlington is one of the largest high schools in Shelby County and is part of a relatively new district.

It’s the pride of a suburban municipality that is one of six that seceded from Shelby County Schools in 2014 following the merger of the city and county districts the year before. (School district secessions are a national trend, usually of predominantly white communities leaving predominantly black urban school systems.) More than 70 percent of Arlington’s students are white, and 6 percent are considered economically disadvantaged — in stark contrast to the Memphis district where less than 8 percent are white, and almost 60 percent are considered economically disadvantaged.

The school’s graduation rate is high … and climbing.

Last year, after adding interventions for struggling students, the school’s graduation rate jumped a full point to more than 96 percent. Its students taking the ACT college entrance exam scored an average composite of 22.5 out of a possible 36, higher than the state average of 19.9. But only a fifth scored proficient or advanced in math and a third in English language arts during 2015-16, the last school year for which scores are available and a transition year for Tennessee under a new test.

PHOTO: Caroline Bauman
Education Commissioner Candice McQueen visits with students at Arlington High School during a 2016 tour.

The school was in the news last August when Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen visited its campus.

The commissioner spoke with students there to kick off her statewide listening tour that’s focused on ways to get students ready for college and career. McQueen highlighted the school’s extracurricular activities and students’  opportunities to intern for or shadow local professionals. She also complimented Arlington for having an engaged education community. 

poster campaign

How one Memphis student is elevating the conversation about school discipline

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede
Posters created by junior Janiya Douglas have amplified student voices about the culture of White Station High School in Memphis.

Now in her third year of attending a premier public high school in Memphis, Janiya Douglas says she’s observed discipline being handed out unevenly to her classmates, depending on whether they are on the college preparatory track.

PHOTO: Laura Faith Kebede
From left: Janiya Douglas and Michal Mckay are student leaders in Bridge Builders CHANGE program.

“We’re heavily divided in an academic hierarchy,” said Janiya, a junior in the optional program for high-achieving students at White Station High School. “It’s obvious students are treated differently if they are in traditional classes.”

Janiya also has observed racial disparities in how students are disciplined, and the state’s data backs that up. White Station students who are black or Hispanic are suspended at significantly higher rates than students who are white.

Frustrated by what she’s seen, Janiya took her concerns last Friday to the hallways of White Station and hung 14 posters to declare that “our school doesn’t treat everybody equally.”

By Monday morning, the posters were gone — removed by school administrators because Janiya did not get prior approval — but not before other students shared images of some of the messages on social media.

Now, Janiya is seeing some fruits of her activism, spawned by her participation in Bridge Builders CHANGE, a student leadership program offered by a local nonprofit organization.

In the last week, she’s met with Principal David Mansfield, a school counselor and a district discipline specialist to discuss her concerns. She’s encouraged that someone is listening, and hopes wider conversations will follow.

The discussions also are bringing attention to an online petition by the education justice arm of Bridge Builders calling for suspension alternatives across schools in Memphis.

White Station often is cited as one of the jewels of Shelby County Schools, a district wrought with academic challenges. The East Memphis school is partially optional, meaning some students test into the college prep program from across the county.

But Janiya and some of her classmates say they also see an academically and racially segregated school where students zoned to the traditional program are looked down upon by teachers. Those students often get harsher punishments, they say, than their optional program counterparts for the same actions.

“Our school doesn’t treat everybody equally. A lot of groups aren’t treated equally in our school system,” junior Tyra Akoto said in a quote featured on one poster.

“If we get wrong with a teacher, they’ll probably write us up. But if a white student was to do it, they’ll just play it off or something like that,” said Kelsey Brown, another junior, also quoted in the poster campaign.

A district spokeswoman did not respond to questions about disciplinary issues raised by the posters, but offered a statement about their removal from the school’s walls.

White Station is known for “enabling student voice and allowing students to express their opinions in various ways,” the statement reads. “However, there are protocols in place that must be followed before placing signs, posters, or other messages on school property. Schools administrators will always work with students to ensure they feel their voices are heard.”

PHOTO: @edj.youth/Instagram
Members of the education justice arm of the Bridge Builders CHANGE program

To create the posters, Janiya interviewed about two dozen students and had been learning about about school discipline disparities as part of the Bridge Builders CHANGE program.

State discipline data does not differentiate academic subgroups in optional schools. But white students in Shelby County Schools are more likely to be in an optional school program and less likely to be suspended. And statewide in 2014-15, black students were more than five times as likely as white students to be suspended.

White Station reflects those same disparities. About 28 percent of black boys and 19 percent of black girls were suspended that same year — significantly higher than the school’s overall suspension rate of 14 percent. About 17 percent of Hispanic boys and 7 percent of Hispanic girls were suspended. By comparison, 9 percent of white boys and 2 percent of white girls were suspended.

Shelby County Schools has been working to overhaul its disciplinary practices to move from punitive practices to a “restorative justice” approach — a transition that is not as widespread as officials would like, according to Gina True, one of four specialists implementing a behavior system called Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, or PBIS.

“The whole goal is to not get them suspended, because we want to educate them,” said True, who met this week with Janiya and several other students from Bridge Builders. “When students are cared for emotionally, they perform better academically. As counselors, that’s what we’ve been saying for years.”

Janiya acknowledges that she didn’t follow her school’s policy last week when hanging posters without permission at White Station. But she thinks her action has been a catalyst for hard conversations that need to happen. And she hopes the discussions will include more student input from her school — and across the district.

“Those most affected by the issues should always be a part of the solution,” she said.

Correction: April 10, 2017: A previous version of this story said Janiya put up 50 posters at her school. She designed 50 but actually posted only 14.