September 15, 2011
Amid mounting criticisms that charter schools do not serve the neediest students, the state’s charter school authorizers are making a push to approve more charter schools that make those children a priority.
This week, the Board of Regents gave its stamp of approval to several schools that describe their mission as serving high-needs students, such as children with special needs, who are homeless, or who are over-age for their grade.
The schools include a school run by the Children’s Aid Society, which plans to serve students in the high-poverty South Bronx neighborhood of Morrisania. That school was authorized by the State University of New York earlier this year, along with several other schools that will target their recruitment and services to high-needs students.
SUNY also approved two ROADS charter schools, which say they will enroll students who are over-aged but lack the credits needed to graduate. Those join several other recently approved or opened schools that SUNY selected for their commitments to underserved children.
Cynthia Proctor, a SUNY spokeswoman, said the new schools would still be held accountable for their academic performance, even though high-needs students tend to fall short more frequently on test scores and some other measures of success.
“It is important to understand that the two goals are not mutually exclusive,” she said. “For far too long, adults have lowered expectations for students because of the income level of their parents, where they live, race, sex, incoming ability level.”
The state’s other authorizer, the Board of Regents, is also shifting its focus toward schools that will serve under-represented, special needs students.
State Education Department spokesman Tom Dunn said in an email that SED’s 2012 request for charter school proposals would include “a call for charter schools that are specifically designed to serve at-risk populations, including over-aged, undercredited, and those that may specifically reach out to [English Language Learner] communities or have models that embrace and support students with disabilities particularly.”
Dunn said the state is looking into ways to provide financial incentives for schools that address the needs of underserved students, particularly through funds the state received from the federal Charter Schools Program grant. New York was one of two states to receive the grant, taking home $113 million over five years.