February 16, 2010
Most charter schools pass through the renewal process with ease, but for Opportunity Charter School, news that the city wants to give it a new lease on life is not something it took for granted.
Department of Education officials are recommending that the state renew Opportunity’s charter for three years, a time period it says will allow the school to produce several years of graduation data before its success comes in for more questioning. OCS had a rocky start and has since had a difficult time proving to the city and state that its students, especially its highest achieving ones, are making enough progress to earn renewal.
The school’s student body is roughly half general education students and half students with learning disabilities and it serves students with some of the lowest test scores in the city. Last year, I profiled the school’s struggle to get off of probation.
Getting the State Education Department’s approval might not be easy. In October, Opportunity CEO Leonard Goldberg said that while the city wanted to see progress, the state was much more focused on whether the school had met the specific goals in its charter. It’s unclear when the state will vote on the renewal.
Goldberg’s statement on the recommended renewal:
“We are incredibly pleased that the Department of Education has recognized the important role Opportunity Charter School plays in the Harlem community and has recommended a three-year renewal. Unique among charter schools in NYC, Opportunity welcomes all students regardless of past academic success or special needs, with over fifty percent of Opportunity students classified to receive special education services. We are proud to educate all students in an inclusive and supportive setting, allowing all students to achieve levels of success that have eluded them in their previous academic experiences. We’re incredibly proud of our students, and we look forward to serving the Harlem community for years to come.”