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September 25, 2013
Plans for new rally draw out old tensions within charter sector
Two weeks before a pro-charter-schools rally begins in Brooklyn, a deep divide within the charter sector is reappearing. The rally — which charter operator Eva Moskowitz is pushing — is aimed at sending a stern message to mayoral candidates, especially frontrunner Bill de Blasio, about public support for charter schools. De Blasio has said he believes charters should pay rent to occupy space in district school buildings, a change that could threaten some schools' ability to operate. Many of the city's largest charter school management organizations, including KIPP, Uncommon Schools, Achievement First, and Moskowitz's Success Academy network, have already lent their support to the rally, organizers say. But so far, few independent charter schools have signed on, and the city's main charter school advocacy organization isn't endorsing the event.
September 5, 2013
Facing federal funding freeze, Success to nix lottery preference
After becoming one of the state’s first schools to reserve seats for English language learners in its lotteries, Success Academy Charter Schools are now planning to…
August 29, 2013
Charter school advocates look for an opening on City Council
As charter schools proliferated during the Bloomberg years, local elected City Council officials remained a reliable foe at rallies and protests against the sector's growth. But with at least 20 of the council’s 51 seats sure to turn over at the end of the year, many of the press conference standbys are retiring. The vacancies open the door to a new crop of candidates who have matured politically at a time when charter schools enroll increasing swaths of children — including some of their own. The possibility of a shift on the council has charter advocates opening their checkbooks and making bold predictions. "A largely new City Council won’t be hampered by past fighting and fears over charter schools being experimental," said David Golovner, vice president of policy and advocacy at the New York City Charter School Center.
June 28, 2013
Eva bids adieu to longtime co-founder
Jenny Sedlis is leaving Success Academy, but she’s sticking around through the summer, CEO Eva Moskowitz told board members in an email on Thursday to officially inform them of Sedlis’ departure from the network. Sedlis will takeover as executive director of StudentsFirstNY, though her last day at Success isn’t until Sept. 18, more than a week after the primary election for mayor and other elected offices. "While Jenny has very large shoes to fill, I’m confident that Success can manage this transition," Moskowitz writes.
June 16, 2013
Bill de Blasio on whether charter schools should pay rent.
Link: Bill de Blasio on whether charter schools should pay rent. There is no way in hell that Eva Moskowitz should get…
April 25, 2013
New salvos in light fixture war between UFT and Eva Moskowitz
Parents and lawyers filed suit last year against Cobble Hill Success Academy, which the city now says replaced light fixtures in its shared building last summer without city permission. Tension between the teachers union and Success Academy Charter Schools operator Eva Moskowitz reached a new high — or low — today, with each side accusing the other of jeopardizing children's safety. UFT President Michael Mulgrew said Moskowitz had violated city construction rules, while Moskowitz connected the behavior of union workers to December's devastating school shooting in Newtown, Conn. The charged rhetoric stems from a dispute over light fixtures in the Brooklyn building that Success Academy shares with three other schools. Last week, the UFT joined Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, a mayoral candidate, in calling for an investigation into how Success Academy's Cobble Hill school was rid of light fixtures containing toxic PCBs while the other schools in the building continued to have the lights. De Blasio alleged that the department had given Moskowitz's school preferential treatment. As it turns out, de Blasio was wrong. The department did not remove the lights from Success Academy's portion of the building — Success Academy simply had the lights removed in the course of other renovations, without the city's approval. (Moskowitz has said before that a benefit of running a charter school is that she has to pass through less red tape to get the light bulbs she likes.)
April 22, 2013
De Blasio takes on city's treatment of Moskowitz charter schools
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio's campaign against charter school operator Eva Moskowitz continued today when the mayoral candidate called for an independent investigation into the way the city treats Moskowitz's Success Academy schools. Citing a column by Juan Gonzalez in Friday's New York Daily News, de Blasio said Cobble Hill Success Academy had toxin-ridden light fixtures removed before other schools in its Brooklyn public school building. (The city is in the midst of a lumbering process to rid hundreds of school buildings of lights that contain PCBs.) De Blasio brought students and parents to the steps of the Department of Education's headquarters on Chambers Street today to call for an investigation into what he said was preferential treatment by the department of the charter network. He got an assist from the United Federation of Teachers, who wrote to city schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott today to ask for the investigation.
April 15, 2013
Success Academy convenes 1,500 students to "slam the exam"
Success Academy students aren't scared of higher standards, they proclaimed in step routines, songs, and call-and-response routines during a pep rally held at the Washington Heights Armory on Friday.
March 20, 2013
Latest PEP appointees' ties to charter schools are questioned
Mayor Bloomberg's latest appointments to the Panel for Educational Policy are two men with ties to charter schools that have faced panel votes. The appointments — made without fanfare — are drawing criticism from other panel members and critics of the panel, who say the new appointees' interests make them unable to assess proposed policies fairly. A proposal involving Success Academy Charter Schools, which one of the new board members has represented in legal proceedings, is up for a vote at tonight's panel meeting. Last month, Joseph Lewis, Jr., was appointed to replace Rosemarie Maldonado, an administrator at John Jay College who had been on the panel since last July. According to his biography on the PEP website, Lewis attended New York City schools; has served on the board of Leadership Prep Charter School; and is currently on the boards of several other education organizations, including NYCAN, a group that has advocated for public school parents to be able to turn their schools into charter schools. The other new appointee is David Brown, an attorney who works at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton, and Garrison LLP. While he mostly focuses on business litigation, according to the firm's website, he also does pro bono work for nonprofit clients, including the charter school network that most often seeks space in city school buildings.
October 19, 2012
Striking deal with Touro, Success jumps into teacher preparation
The Success Academy Charter Schools network is jumping into a new market — higher education. Thanks to a new agreement with Touro College, this year Success Academies officials are teaching courses that will help the network’s newest teachers earn master’s degrees. For the last four months, 42 teachers from the network’s 14 schools have been taking classes at Touro College’s Graduate School of Education, including some taught by members of the Success staff who have joined the Touro faculty as adjunct professors. The program is fully funded by Success Academies and will culminate in a master’s degree and teacher certification. Full-time Touro professors will teach about half of the academic courses in the program, and Success-affiliated adjuncts will teach the other half, according to Alan Kadish, Touro's president. He said the full-time and adjunct professors would also jointly supervise the practical training required for graduation. The agreement positions Success one small step closer to a possibility founder and CEO Eva Moskowitz laid out in her recent book, "Mission Possible." “Our intensive, immersive, school-based teacher training program could eventually become a formal graduate school program," she wrote. The book also lambasted traditional teacher preparation programs as "completely inadequate."
September 7, 2012
Five city schools earn 'Blue Ribbon' honors for their test scores
Two city charter schools and three city public schools were among just 20 schools in the state and fewer than 300 nationwide that today found out they earned "Blue Ribbon" status from the U.S. Department of Education. The designation is given annually to schools in each state that meet certain performance standards. It does not bring any financial rewards, but it considered a feather in the cap for schools that earn it. Schools that win get a plaque and are expected to share their strategies for success. To be nominated, schools must have top scores on state tests. They must also not have any achievement gaps within their student bodies. And after they are nominated, they must complete lengthy applications that includes short essays about their curriculum, their leadership, and how they measure success. New York State was allowed to nominate 19 schools. The five city winners are Bronx Charter School for Excellence, P.S. 34 in Brooklyn, P.S. 191 in Queens, P.S. 203 in Queens, and Harlem Success Academy 1. This was the first year that any city charter schools took home the honor.
June 13, 2012
Moskowitz to authorizers: Reject high-need enrollment targets
The head of one of the city's largest charter school networks is calling on state charter authorizers to reject a law that requires schools to serve a larger share of high-needs students. The law, Success Academy Charter Schools CEO Eva Moskowitz wrote in a letter to authorizers this month, creates "perverse incentives" for charter schools to "over-identify" students in high-needs categories, an effect that she said would do more harm than good for children. "We urge you not to impose any enrollment and retention targets," Moskowitz wrote to the New York State Education Department and SUNY Charter Schools Institute, which are charged with enforcing the law. "Instead, we request that you partner with us in going to Albany to change this poorly-thought-out legislation." The mandate for charter schools to enroll more high-needs students was established in 2010 when lawmakers passed the Race to the Top bill. A charter sector self-assessment earlier this year found that a large majority of charter schools still served lower proportions of poor, special-needs and English language learning students than their districts. It's taken some time to iron out the details, but last month authorizers proposed a method of calculating the targets that they intend to use. The proposal is a complex methodology that would assign enrollment targets to each charter school based on the overall ratio of high-needs students in school districts where they operate. Schools that repeatedly fail to comply could be closed.
June 1, 2012
"Blame em," Klein is urged about teachers union in latest emails
The latest internal Department of Education emails to come to light are mostly dark: The 228 pages released today contain large swaths of blacked-out text. But between redactions, a few messages stand out — including one in which charter operator Eva Moskowitz speedily outlines an agenda that became the driving focus of former Chancellor Joel Klein's last year in office. Urging Klein to be "SUPERAGGRESSIVE in [the] standard of excellence" for schools' academic performance, Moskowitz wrote, "If folks criticize you for having the bar way too high, you know you are inching closer to success." The emails were part of the yield from a massive Freedom of Information Law request filed by the United Federation of Teachers. The union wanted to see the communication exchanged between the city Department of Education and charter school supporters during a period when legislators were under pressure to lift the cap on the number of charter schools in the state. That cap was raised in May 2010. Hundreds of emails between Klein and charter advocates were released last month, showing that Klein kept careful tabs on the legislative action and was quick to connect advocates with support.
May 30, 2012
Judge dismisses suit against Cobble Hill Success Academy
Sabrina Tan, a lawyer for Advocates for Justice, describes the firm's suit over Cobble Hill Success Academy at a press conference in February. A judge has tossed out a parent lawsuit against a charter school set to open in Cobble Hill this fall, even as he agreed that the school could have done more to solicit community feedback. In March, the parents filed suit against the city and Eva Moskowitz, CEO of the Success Charter Academies network, charging that they circumvented state education laws when they abruptly changed plans for the school late last year. Brooklyn Success Academy 3 — now renamed Cobble Hill Success Academy — was originally approved for either District 13 or District 14, but the city revised its proposal in late October and announced the school would instead move into a District 15 building. The parents also argued that the charter network had not sufficiently consulted the local community before the school's charter was approved. Their suit presented the network's consultation efforts, which included gathering signatures of support and holding a handful of public meetings, as "feeble, bordering on a sham," according to today's ruling. The State Supreme Court justice, Peter Moulton, ruled that the school's move from District 13 to District 15 had not violated state law. And he rejected the claims that the Success network had not fulfilled the state's community consultation requirement — a requirement that he said is "weak" because it does not identify who should be consulted, suggest a strategy for soliciting opinion, or bar schools that register fierce opposition from receiving charters. "Petitioners are correct that Success Academy could have engaged in a more thorough-going canvas of the relevant neighborhoods in Brooklyn to surface concerns and opposition to BSA 3," Moulton ruled. "However, the statute does not require that charter applicants conduct such an exhaustive survey of support and opposition."
May 17, 2012
Charter school leaders sound caution about enrollment targets
Eva Moskowitz and her charter school network are objecting to new targets meant to push charter schools to enroll a fair share of students with disabilities and English language learners. When they revised the state's charter schools law in 2010, legislators included a requirement that the schools register a "comparable" number of high-needs students. Now the state has proposed a methodology to calculate enrollment targets for charter schools based on how many students attend the school and the overall ratio of high-needs students in each district. Schools that currently enroll too few students with special needs will be required to show at least a "good-faith" effort to enroll more. But a top official in the Success Academies network said Wednesday that she objected to any such requirement. Setting enrollment targets creates a disincentive for schools to help students get to the point that they no longer need special services, said Emily Kim, general counselor for the Success Academies network. "For us, our goal is not to hit a number and stay at that number for English language learners," Kim said. "Our goal is that they learn English, that they perform at the highest levels, and that they graduate from high school college ready and are successful in life." "So if our figures go down, we're proud of that," she added. UPDATE: A state education official said the proposed targets would not penalize schools schools if their students are declassified as special education or ELL. Through what's being called a "three year lag," schools would get credit for students who had been classified anytime in the last three years. "With the three-year lag, there is little to no chance that there will be a dinging of schools for declassification of a child," said Assistant Commissioner Sally Bachofer, who helped developed the targets.
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