Future of Schools

NYC charter schools join national coalition aimed at de-segregating sector

Charter schools are seeking to change the narrative that they’re part of the problem when it comes to segregation in public schools.

Two New York City charter school organizations, Brooklyn Prospect and Success Academy schools, and Brooklyn’s Community Roots Charter School are part of a new coalition formed to support efforts to serve a better mix of students based on race and socioeconomic status.

The charter school movement has always been proud to declare its success at attracting large shares of poor black and Hispanic students from the country’s perennially struggling school districts. In New York City, advocates have regularly pointed out that charter schools serve a larger share of black and Hispanic students than the city average.

But that focus came under scrutiny this year, as the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown vs. Board of Education decision neared. Researchers said more than 70 percent of city’s charter sector was  “intensely segregated” because they were consistently among the least diverse schools in New York. (“Talk about damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” James Merriman, CEO of the New York City Charter School Center, said in response.)

Advocates for increased school integration have said that charter schools could play an outsized role in efforts to integrate schools because the schools are permitted to set aside seats in their admissions lotteries for certain types of high-needs students.

The three New York City charter operators who joined the coalition have all made moves to diversify their admissions processes. Brooklyn Prospect’s two schools set aside seats for transient students who seek to enroll at their schools in the middle of the year. Community Roots Charter School, housed in one of the city’s fastest-gentrifying neighborhoods, holds seats for students who live in the nearby public housing complexes.

Last fall, Success Academy Charter School CEO Eva Moskowitz successfully took on U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan over a federal grant policy that prohibited her schools from setting aside seats for English language learners. Success Academy is also at the forefront of the trend of opening charter schools opening in mixed-income and high-income neighborhoods in the city.

The new coalition, called the National Coalition of Diverse Charter Schools, is made up 14 individual schools and charter operators from around the country, according to its announcement. Here it is in full:

The founding schools are pleased to announce the formation of a coalition of socioeconomically and racially diverse charter schools and supporters of such schools. By forming a network to share resources, providing technical assistance, and highlighting exemplars, the coalition supports the creation and success of socioeconomically and racially integrated charter schools. In addition, the coalition hopes to promote research on the benefits and best practices of integrated schools.

“We recently had the 60th anniversary of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, but the problem of segregation persists. Charter schools need to be part of the solution,” said Jeremy Chiappetta, executive director of Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy in Rhode Island.

“I believe that charter schools can be an important part of the solution to integrating our public school systems by making it a priority to enroll student bodies that reflect that full diversity of our communities,” said Sean Wilson, head of school at the International High School of New Orleans.

“Research shows that socioeconomically and racially diverse schools offer valuable academic, cognitive, and social benefits for students. Diverse schools can help boost the achievement of low-income students while preparing all students for success in a 21st century economy that requires critical thinking and cultural awareness,” said Halley Potter, a researcher with The Century Foundation.

The core beliefs of the Coalition are as follows:

We Believe:

Diverse schools provide greater opportunities for students to learn from one another.
Diversity is a cost-effective method of boosting student achievement.
Diverse schools promote the celebration and understanding of other cultures and viewpoints.
Diverse schools invigorate and strengthen urban neighborhoods by bringing community members together.
Charter schools can and should contribute to solving the historic challenge of integrating our public school system.
Achieving diversity often requires deliberate efforts through recruitment, admissions policies and school design.
Diverse charter schools promote equality by ensuring that students from different backgrounds have the same educational opportunities.

 

Founding Member Schools:

Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy (Central Falls, Cumberland, Lincoln, & Pawtucket, RI)

Bricolage Academy of New Orleans (New Orleans, LA)

Brooklyn Prospect Charter School (Brooklyn, NY)

Capital City Public Charter School (Washington, DC)

City Neighbors Charter School (Baltimore, MD)

Community Roots Charter School (Brooklyn, NY)

DSST Public Schools (Denver, CO)

High Tech High (San Diego, CA)

Homer A. Plessy Community School (New Orleans, LA)

The International High School of New Orleans (New Orleans, LA)

International School of Louisiana (New Orleans, LA)

Larchmont Charter School (Los Angeles, CA)

Morris Jeff Community School (New Orleans, LA)

Success Academy Charter Schools (New York, NY)

 

Advisors:

Brian Beabout, The University of New Orleans

Eric Grannis, Tapestry Foundation

Halley Potter, The Century Foundation

Heather Schwartz, Rand Corporation

Please see our website www.diversecharters.org

breaking

A student is in custody after Noblesville West Middle School shooting that injured another student and teacher

Police asses the scene outside Noblesville High School after a shooting at Noblesville West Middle School on May 25, 2018 (Photo by Kevin Moloney/Getty Images)

A male student shot and injured a teacher and another student at Noblesville West Middle School on Friday morning, police said.

Noblesville police Chief Kevin Jowitt said the shooting suspect asked to leave a class and returned armed with two handguns. The suspect, who police said appeared to be uninjured, is in custody and has not been identified by police.

The teacher, 29-year-old Jason Seaman, was in “good” condition Friday evening at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital, police said. The female student, who was not identified by police, was in critical condition at Riley Hospital for Children.

News outlets were reporting that Seaman intervened to stop the shooter, but authorities said they could not confirm that on Friday afternoon.

The Noblesville Police Department has a full-time school resource officer assigned to the school who responded to the incident, Jowitt said. Local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies also responded to the shooting.

“We do know that the situation resolved extremely quickly,” Jowitt said. “We don’t know what happened in the classroom, so I can’t make any kinds of comments about what [the resource officer’s] involvement was.”

Students were evacuated to Noblesville High School on Friday morning, where families met them.

Jowitt said an additional threat was made at the high school, but they had “no reason to believe it’s anything other than a communicated threat.”

Police continue to investigate. They said they do not believe there are additional suspects. Noblesville Police spokesman Bruce Barnes could not say how the student acquired the guns, but he said search warrants have been issued.

Noblesville West Middle School enrolls about 1,300 students. Noblesville is a suburb of Indianapolis, about 20 miles north in Hamilton County. The district has about 10,500 students.

The frenzied scenes Friday outside the school have become sadly familiar. Already, there have been 23 school shootings in 2018 that involved someone being injured or killed, according to media tallies.

Just last week, 10 people were killed and 13 others were injured in a shooting at Santa Fe High School outside Houston. A student at the school has been arrested and charged.

In February, 17 people — 14 students and three staff — were shot and killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, and a 19-year-old faces multiple charges.  The Parkland tragedy set off a wave of student activism across the country — including in Indianapolis — calling for stricter gun control.

“We’ve had these shootings around the country,” said Noblesville Mayor John Ditslear. “You just never think it could happen in Noblesville, Indiana. But it did.”

Noblesville Schools Superintendent Beth Niedermeyer praised the “heroic” efforts of school staff and students, saying they followed their training on how to react to an active shooter situation.

Barnes also hinted at the broader trauma that school shootings can have on students and communities.

“We ask for your prayers for the victims in this case,” he said. “I think that would include a lot of kids, not only ones that were truly the victims in this case, but all these other kids that are trying to make sense of this situation.”

Watch the press conference:


A Chalkbeat reporter is on the scene:

In a pattern that has become routine, Democratic and Republican politicians offered prayers on Twitter.

temporary reprieve

Parents score a temporary victory in slowing the closure of a small Brooklyn elementary school

PHOTO: Alex Zimmerman
Protesters gathered at the education department's headquarters to protest a recent set of closure plans.

A judge blocked the closure of a small Brooklyn elementary school Thursday — at least for now.

Three families from P.S. 25/the Eubie Blake School filed a lawsuit in March backed by the public interest group Advocates for Justice, arguing the city’s decision to close the school was illegal because the local elected parent council was not consulted.

Brooklyn Supreme Court judge Katherine Levine did not make a final ruling Thursday about whether the closure plan violated the law. But she issued a temporary order to keep the school open while the case moves forward.

It was not immediately clear when the case will be resolved or even if the school will remain open next year. “We are reviewing the stay and will determine an appropriate course of action once the judge makes a final decision on the case,” education department spokeswoman Toya Holness wrote in a statement.

The education department said the school has hemorrhaged students in recent years and is simply too small to be viable: P.S. 25 currently enrolls just 94 students in grades K-5.

“Because of extremely low enrollment, the school lacks the necessary resources to meet the needs of students,” Holness wrote. The city’s Panel for Educational Policy, a citywide oversight board that must sign off on all school closures, voted in February to close the school.

But the school’s supporters point out that despite low test scores in the past, P.S. 25 now ranks among the city’s top elementary schools, meaning that its closure would force students into lower-performing schools elsewhere.

“Why close a school that’s doing so well?” said Leonie Haimson, the executive director of Class Size Matters and one of the lawsuit’s supporters. “It doesn’t make sense to me.”

The lawsuit hinges on a state law that gives local education councils the authority to approve any changes to school zones. Since P.S. 25 is the only zoned elementary school for a swath of Bedford-Stuyvesant, the department’s plans would leave some families with no zoned elementary school dedicated to educating them, forcing students to attend other district schools or enter the admissions lottery for charter schools.

That amounts to “effectively attempting to change zoning lines” and “unlawfully usurping” the local education council’s authority to determine those zones, according to the lawsuit.

But even if the education department loses the lawsuit, the school’s fate would still be uncertain. The closure plan would theoretically be subject to a vote from the local education council, whose president supports shuttering the school.

Still, Haimson hopes the lawsuit ultimately persuades the education department to back away from closing the school in the long run.

“My goal would be to get the chancellor to change his mind,” Haimson said. “I don’t think the future is preordained.”