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.”

 

18
Apr-2022
Open Meetings Law Guidance Update for April 18, 2022

As part of the New York State Budget Bill process, Governor Hochul approved Chapter 56 of the N.Y. Laws of 22 on April 9, 2022, which modifies the parts of Open Meeting Law related to the holding of public meetings until July 1, 2024. While the new law, which will be codified as section 103-a of the N.Y. Public Officers Law, has many novel provisions, a 60-day grace period keeps the prior version of the law in place through June 8, 2022.

For charter school education corporation boards of trustees this means the prior flexibility for boards to meet via videoconference continues until June 8th. Specifically,

  • Charter school trustees may continue to participate in meeting by conference telephone or without in-person public access at every remote site;
  • Boards must still notice meetings in accordance with the Open Meetings Law but the notice does not have to include the location of every trustee who may participate via videoconference or conference telephone;
  • Board meeting notices must include how the public will be able to access the meeting via telephone or videoconference (e.g., web link); and,
  • Boards must record meeting, and later transcribe the recordings, with the transcripts to be available through the N.Y. Freedom of Information Law.

As a best practice, the SUNY Charter Schools Institute recommends using a school site as a videoconference location for those parents and members of the public who do not have computer or internet access.

The N.Y.S. Committee on Open Government has produced a FAQ.

The Institute will be providing further information on the statutory changes.  Please direct any questions to the Institute’s Legal Team.

05
Apr-2022
More Great Seats 4 Kids Newsletter: State Stimulus Funds Grant Impact
Truxton's Pavilion
Truxton Academy Charter School, meanwhile, benefited from $123,000 in grant funding in Spring 2020 to construct an outdoor pavilion.

Are you looking for funding related to a facility project? Through the NY State Stimulus Funds (SSF) Grant program, the Institute is now accepting proposals that focus on facility construction, renovation, financing, and other improvements and expenses.  New York charter schools, regardless of authorizer, are eligible* to apply for this critical reimbursement funding – the only source of public state grant funding available for facilities related projects.

Since the launch of the program in 1999, the SUNY Charter Schools Committee has awarded over $54 million in SSF grants to charter schools.  In 2019-20, Elmwood Village Charter School Hertel in Buffalo received a $200,000 grant to stabilize the building, repair its roof, replace plumbing and electrical, and install an HVAC system. Merrick Academy in Queens received $165,000 to install new hardwood court floors in their gymnasium, along with foldable bleachers, room partitions, and additional A/V equipment, rigging, and stage upgrades.

Truxton Academy Charter School, meanwhile, benefited from $123,000 in grant funding in Spring 2020 to construct an outdoor pavilion, install a new floor and ceiling in their art room, and a new security camera system and electronic door access controls. The outdoor pavilion and presentation space, which was outfitted with electrical, a projection screen and sound system, proved quite fortuitous following the onset of the pandemic.

“During the 2020-2021 school year, this enhanced structure provided covered outdoor learning space and even allowed us to have a spring musical production event that we would not have been able to hold indoors due to the pandemic,” said Sarah Petit-McClure, Head of School.

Moving forward, the space will continue to offer significant learning opportunities in all seasons, including math lessons, fine arts, and even independent reading.  “Most recently, we had a guest come and teach all our classes about maple syrup production, teaching both modern methods of tree tapping and traditional indigenous methods of tree tapping. The pavilion was the perfect space for this lesson,” said McClure.

Elmwood Village Charter School Hertel in Buffalo received a $200,000 grant to stabilize the building, repair its roof, replace plumbing and electrical, and install an HVAC system.
Elmwood Village Charter School Hertel in Buffalo received a $200,000 grant to stabilize the building, repair its roof, replace plumbing and electrical, and install an HVAC system.

Stories like these are so heartening. Please, I can’t emphasize enough – take a moment to read through the RFP and consider applying for stimulus funding. The deadline is April 20, 2022 at 3 pm and the maximum grant award for this year is $100,000. And, of course, don’t hesitate to reach out to the Institute with any questions!

Susie Miller Carello 

*Read through the eligibility requirements.

31
Mar-2022
Open Meetings Law Guidance Update for March 31, 2022

On March 16, 2022, Governor Hochul continued Executive Order 11 until April 15, 2022, which declared a state disaster emergency based on COVID-19. In turn, Chapter 1 of the N.Y. Laws of 2022 will continue to amend the Open Meetings Law (subdivision 103(c) of the Public Officers Law) to provide flexibility to covered entities including charter school education corporation boards of trustees.

Specifically:

  • Telephone and video conference participation in board meetings by charter school trustees is permitted without in-person public access at every remote site;
  • Meetings must still be noticed in accordance with the Open Meetings Law but the notice does not have to include the location of every trustee who may participate via videoconference or conference telephone;
  • Meeting notices must include how the public will be able to access the meeting via telephone or videoconference (e.g., web link); and,
  • Meetings must be recorded, and later transcribed, with the transcription to be available through the N.Y. Freedom of Information Law.

As a best practice, the SUNY Charter Schools Institute recommends using a school site as a videoconference location for those parents and members of the public who do not have computer or internet access.

The Institute will provide updates if the Emergency Declaration is further extended.

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
More Great Seats 4 Kids Newsletter: SUNY Charters Continue to Outperform District Schools

I love DATA. Perhaps, it’s my past life as a researcher, but I can’t get enough of hard, quantifiable evidence that tells a story – especially when it’s a story about you as charter leaders and how well you are doing your job to create more great seats for kids.

We’ve been digging through the data a lot these past few months and trying to see what new insights and stories they reveal. And to say we’ve been pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. For instance, take a look at this chart:

Region Subject SUNY proficiency District Comparison Statewide Averages Difference (school-district)
New York City ELA 62% 47% 45% 15 points
Long Island ELA 57% 27% 45% 30 points
Albany/Troy ELA 47% 25% 45% 22 points
Buffalo ELA 36% 25% 45% 11 points
Rochester ELA 35% 13% 45% 22 points
New York City Math 70% 46% 47% 24 points
Long Island Math 60% 26% 47% 34 points
Albany/Troy Math 50% 23% 47% 27 points
Rochester Math 43% 13% 47% 30 points
Buffalo Math 35% 21% 47% 14 points

Pretty impressive, right? SUNY schools from Buffalo to Long Island, within NYC’s five boroughs to New York’s Capital Region all significantly outperformed their local districts in the most recently available year of statewide data. And when I say significant, I mean significant. Just look at Rochester, where SUNY authorized posted a 43% proficiency rate in mathematics, more than tripling the district’s 13% average proficiency.

Much of this success has been driven by top performers. Consider Academy Charter School which outperformed its district of location in Long Island in ELA and Math, by 43 and 44 points respectively. Or, True North Rochester Preparatory – West Campus which outperformed its district by 34 and an incredible, incredible 49 points in ELA and Math. KIPP Tech Valley in Troy, New York meanwhile outpaced its district by 35 and 34 points. Stars. All of them.

But they aren’t alone. While we haven’t had credible state results since the start of the pandemic, we have seen schools everywhere across the state doing whatever it takes to continue to put students – and their achievement – as priority number one. We’ve tried to shine a spotlight on these schools wherever and whenever we can, including in this weekly email. Because we need to share their stories of resilience and adaptability and leadership – the SUNY difference – not just to other schools, but to the larger community. So, they can see what’s possible when you let strong school leaders do what they do best: educate.

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….

04
Mar-2022
2022 Request for Proposals – Round 1 Cycle

The SUNY Charter Schools Institute (the “Institute”), on behalf of the State University of New York Board of Trustees (the “SUNY Trustees”), in its capacity as a charter authorizer, has received the following applications in response to the February cycle of the 2022 SUNY Request for Proposals (“RFP”) by the February 22, 2022 deadline.  A proposed charter’s appearance on the list below does not indicate that the SUNY Trustees have approved or will approve the proposed charter.

The following application did not meet the minimum eligibility requirements of the 2022 RFP. Therefore, the Institute will not consider the application.

 

 

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.