19
May-2022
School Spotlight: How Achievement First Legacy is Bringing Joy into the Classroom and Forging Strong Connections with Families
AF Legacy held two community weekend planting days in early April with around 30 students, parents, siblings, and extended family members arriving to pitch in and plant blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, potatoes, turnips, apple trees and more.

Founding a school during the middle of a pandemic is not a challenge many budding school leaders prepare for. Principal Jessica Eddy and the team at Achievement First (AF) Legacy Elementary School credit the school’s initial success being due in large part through strong partnerships with the families of the students they serve.

The Queens school, which opened its doors to 90 kindergartners last fall, has used its first year to prioritize establishing a student culture grounded in belonging, purposeful focus, and strong family engagement.

“Our families are deeply invested, always pushing us to be better,” said Eddy, who, before becoming founding principal, served in a variety of different capacities at Achievement First, most recently as an academic dean. “We rely on them.”

Monthly town halls provide the school with the opportunity to gather critical constructive feedback from parents on any and every topic, from COVID protocols and school safety to academics. As do report card nights, “Back to School” nights, and academic nights – a diverse array of opportunities the school has set up for families to engage with teachers and learn about the school’s instructional strategies, so they can be replicated at home.

It was during these types of family engagement sessions that an idea for establishing an on-site community garden sprouted. The school held two community weekend planting days in early April with around 30 students, parents, siblings, and extended family members arriving to pitch in and plant blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, potatoes, turnips, apple trees and more.

“The garden is family driven, their idea…they brought seeds and filled the whole thing” says Ashley Wilson, Director of Operations. Family members even reached out and secured donations from Home Depot to support the garden. The plan is to harvest the produce later this Spring, transplanting the trees to the front of the school building, and donating what they can to a local food pantry Legacy has partnered with.

“When families are passionate about something, they go for it,” said Wilson.

he “Leadership Hallway” is adorned with murals and quotes of accomplished leaders of color, including Nelson Mandela, Mala Yousafzai, Michelle Obama and Caesar Chavez.
The “Leadership Hallway” at AF Legacy is adorned with murals and quotes of accomplished leaders of color, including Nelson Mandela, Mala Yousafzai, Michelle Obama and Caesar Chavez.

Walking the halls of the school, you can see why parents would be passionate about a school like AF Legacy, where kids are inspired to follow their dreams and achieve greatness from an early age. The “Leadership Hallway” is adorned with murals and quotes of accomplished leaders of color, including Nelson Mandela, Mala Yousafzai, Michelle Obama and Caesar Chavez. Classrooms are named after icons such as Sojourner Truth, Madam CJ Walker, and Stevie Wonder. Dozens of college pennants serve to remind the aspiring “College Class of 2038” what’s possible for those who put the work in.

“We give students the message they come from greatness, they have the skills in life to be great,” said Ashley Wilson, Director of Operations. “It’s important to start at a very young age.”

You can see that philosophy put into action in the classrooms. Using Cognitively Guided Instruction as part of its Math curriculum, AF Legacy allows its students to take on the role of teacher. During a recent school visit, a student named KA earned the opportunity to teach his peers how he solved a math problem involving the number of dogs in a park. (Spoiler: nine.) Donning his bright yellow polo and an ear to ear smile, the kindergartner used his blocks and the projector screen to showcase his process. You could feel the excitement in the classroom elevate, as the class watched one of their peers lead the classroom discussion. When a classmate lost focus, KA was quick to remind his friend to get back into the proper learning position. When he was through, he was met with a round of appreciation and applause from his peers before hopping back to his desk.

“When you see our classrooms, you can expect to see joy,” said Principal Eddy. “Our teachers do a good job of putting smiles on our kids’ faces.” On this day, she was right. And it’s clear, instilling joy will remain an important part of classroom culture as Legacy grows to serve higher grades in the coming years.

“Students can grow in an environment that is safe and nurturing,” says Eddy. “One where kids are celebrating each other and teachers are celebrating students…where they feel like they belong…that’s how they can get the most out of their learning experience.”

 

17
Mar-2022
More Great Seats 4 Kids Newsletter: SUNY Charter Schools Continue to Close Equity Gaps

Now, data, data, and more data, has been the theme these past few weeks, and that trend continues today as we look at a story of upmost importance: how SUNY schools are addressing historic educational inequities. Of course, at this point, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to say, we’re doing quite well.

Take a look at this chart exploring how well SUNY schools are closing learning gaps compared to district schools. Each dot quantifies the performance gap between two groups of students – so the closer to zero (or negative!), the better. Each region of the chart shows how those gaps compare between SUNY charters and schools throughout the rest of the state. In each area, including among Black and Hispanic students, the performance gaps at SUNY charter schools are smaller than the rest of the state.

Do you see that? Pretty impressive right?  In the most recently available statewide exam data the gap between ELL performance and the general population is smaller among SUNY schools than the state in both ELA and math. The same holds true for students with disabilities. SUNY schools have also made significant progress to close the White-Black achievement gap, especially in Math, where the gap between white students and black students is just 8% for SUNY schools (compared to 24% for the state). Hispanic students at SUNY schools have also shown considerable progress with a gap of just 11% in ELA and 6% in Math.

So, the question is, how has this been achieved? What are SUNY schools, such as Capital Prep Bronx Charter School, which serves 240 students in grades 6-8, doing so well to close the various achievement gaps?

  1. Implementing close clinical coaching for teachers with an emphasis observation, modeling, and performance feedback.
  2. Deploying strategies to properly diagnose learning disabilities and provide differentiated small group instruction.
  3. Using data for formative checks for classroom learning that allows instructors to identify gaps, formulate lessons to address those gaps.

From our view, all of the above are best practices, and  every SUNY charter deploys these practices to some degree, but those schools that really excel at gap closing have found that special sauce. Last year, with these strategies in place, Cap Prep Bronx posted exceptionally high growth scores on nationally normed assessments. What’s working at your school? Email us at [email protected] and let us know what advice you have for your fellow school leaders. We’ll share your thoughts in an upcoming newsletter.

Susie Miller Carello 

17
Mar-2022
University Prep Charter School for Young Men helping students prepare for workforce

A unique program at a local charter school is helping students prepare for the workforce after graduation.

During the summer, University Preparatory Charter School for Young Men offers the opportunity for interested students to train and get some first hand experience working as an intern for a local company in their area of interest.

Those with the program say if a student doesn’t necessarily want to go to college that doesn’t mean they can’t build an excellent career.

“One of the problems we’re having in schools today is every kid is being pushed to go to college. This isn’t always the best track for every student. So we expand them into the trades, tech fields, that sort of thing. So we’re having a lot of success because a lot of kids don’t want to go to college but they feel they have nowhere else to go.” Len Morrell said.

Read the full story on RochesterFirst….

03
Mar-2022
CREDO Survey Insights: Percentage of Schools Providing Professional Development Related to Remote Learning

In February 2022, The Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University released a report entitled “Charter Schools’ Response to the Pandemic in California, New York and Washington State.” Over the coming weeks, the Institute will share key snapshots and insights from the study, which included responses from 293 charter schools in New York – a 93 percent response rate. 

Charters demonstrated determination in maintaining professional development opportunities, especially in New York with 99% of respondents reporting to provide PD related to remote learning. As the CREDO report notes, less than half of district schools report doing the same.

Democracy Prep New York, a network overseeing five schools in NYC, is one shining example with teachers receiving three weeks of uninterrupted professional development every summer prior to the first day of school. Their new and early career teachers also receive calibrated coaching and mentoring based on both qualitative and quantitative data and all teachers have access to a repository of videos and shared unit and lesson plans.

Trainings on remote environments weren’t limited to teachers either. For the 2020-21 school year, Children’s Aid College Prep Charter School, which serves 648 students in Grades K-8 in Bronx CSD 12, instituted weekly meetings comprised of virtual workshops with 20 to 60 parents to support them with remote learning platforms, preview asynchronous lesson modules, and question and answer sessions with charter leadership – further demonstrating its commitment to family communication as well.

01
Mar-2022
CREDO Survey Insights: Methods Used to Monitor Instruction in 2020-21

In February 2022, The Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University released a report entitled “Charter Schools’ Response to the Pandemic in California, New York and Washington State.” Over the coming weeks, the Institute will share key snapshots and insights from the study, which included responses from 293 charter schools in New York – a 93 percent response rate. 

Since the start of the pandemic, one of the key distinguishing factors separating charters from district schools continued to be its support for teachers, with a proactive effort among charters to maintain consistent coaching, observations, and materials review despite the disruption to normal practices.

Forte Preparatory Academy Charter School, which serves 360 students in Grades 5-8 in Queens CSD 24, provides differentiated professional development and instructional supports based on individual needs and routine observations and feedback cycles. At Manhattan Charter School II, which serves 170 students in Grades K-5 in Manhattan CSD 1, the director of curriculum and instructional, principal, and assistant principal support teachers through regular informal observations during which they provide in the moment feedback or model pedagogical practices.

24
Feb-2022
CREDO Survey Insights: Percentage of the Curriculum Covered in the 2019-20 School Year

In February 2022, The Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University released a report entitled “Charter Schools’ Response to the Pandemic in California, New York and Washington State.” Over the coming weeks, the Institute will share key snapshots and insights from the study, which included responses from 293 charter schools in New York – a 93 percent response rate. 

 

Despite losing months of in-person instruction following the closures of school buildings in March 2020, New York charter schools were able to cover more than 80% of curriculum in English Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, and Science, which demonstrates how quickly charters were able to pivot to remote learning and ensure educational continuity. Even in Fine Arts – a difficult subject to deliver remotely – New York charters continued to excel. That initial experience sparked inspiring innovative practices upon the return to school the following fall, with SUNY authorized New York City Charter School of the Arts in Manhattan CSD 2 going as far as purchasing piano keyboards for all 6th grade students to allow them to continue their musical studies remotely.

22
Feb-2022
CREDO Survey Insights: Charter School Priorities at Start of Pandemic

In February 2022, The Center for Research on Education Outcomes (CREDO) at Stanford University released a report entitled “Charter Schools’ Response to the Pandemic in California, New York and Washington State.” Over the coming weeks, the Institute will share key snapshots and insights from the study, which included responses from 293 charter schools in New York – a 93 percent response rate. 

Charter school respondents were asked to share their top priorities following the start of the pandemic in March 2020. As noted in the above figure, transitioning the instructional model, establishing family communication, maintaining student engagement, and staff communications were ranked as the highest priorities with New York charters reporting significantly higher numbers than both California and Washington in three out of four categories. Interestingly, New York schools also placed a far higher emphasis on providing social-emotional learning than the other states – a testament to how well SUNY, NYSED and NYCDOE authorized charters here in New York anticipated the potential traumatic impact of the pandemic on students’ mental health.

17
Feb-2022
New charter school in Mount Vernon will be the first in a decade in Lower Hudson

Kenyah Miller, a lifelong Queens resident, had decided she would create a new charter school in a community that needed one.

And she would move her growing family to that community while taking on the project.

A committed proponent of charter school education, she set her sights on Mount Vernon.

“Mount Vernon was a place I could identify with,” she said. “I had friends and extended family there. It had to be a community where (a charter school) made sense, and a community that wanted it.”

Miller’s charter school, Intellectus Preparatory Charter School, was approved by the SUNY Board of Trustees last June and is scheduled to open in her new hometown of Mount Vernon this fall. The school will open with about 112 students in grades six and seven and will add a grade each year until it includes a full high school.

Read the full story on The Journal News…

07
Feb-2022
Tapestry Charter School is granted $250,000 to build Community Athletic Complex

The Buffalo Bills, through the National Football League Foundation Grassroots Program, has granted Tapestry Charter School with $250,000 so that the school can install a new synthetic turf field at its Community Track and Multi-Sport Athletic Complex in North Buffalo. The grant came from the Bills, the NFL Foundation, and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC)…

Read full article on Buffalo Rising.

03
Feb-2022
Exploring the impact of Brooklyn Prospect charter schools

Brooklyn Prospect’s six schools use the curriculum of the International Baccalaureate Program leading to an IB degree. The liberal arts-focused curriculum promotes creative inquiry, problem-solving, critical thinking, personal reflection and collaborative learning and exceeds state standards.

Ward says the charter system is an important one in school choice.

“Our program focuses on providing our students with a well-rounded curriculum that includes ELA, Math but also Mandarin or Spanish language, Dance, musical theatre,” Ward said.

“We marry rigorous academics with deep care and focus on the social emotional environment our kids need to excel. Our non-selective, International Baccalaureate high school, was also recently named a NYS `Recognition School’ and ranked in the U.S. News & World Report.”

Regular instruction is supplemented with after-school programs…

Read the full article on the New York Post.