Posts tagged "James Merriman"
May 7, 2013
On each side of the split screen, a girl with long hair and a puffy white coat walks to school, where she works on a writing assignment, raises her hand to answer a question, watches the clock, and walks past a bulletin board plastered with student work.
Then the divider disappears and the two girls leave the building hand in hand to stack blocks on a crowded playground. (more…)
April 16, 2013
The number of families applying to city charter schools through an online system designed to ease the admissions process doubled this year, according to the New York City Charter School Center.
This was the second year that the Common Online Charter Application, which the charter center developed, was open to all charter schools for use. The application deadline was April 1.
The number of individual students who submitted the common application rose from 7,130 last year to 15,805 this year. Together, they submitted 58,117 applications, more than three times as many as last year, meaning that the average applicant applied to more schools this year. A total of 145 schools, up from 110 last year, accepted the common application. (Many schools also had their own applications, so the number of common applicants does not reflect all charter school applicants this year.)
In offering a common application, the charter center is responding to criticism that having to fill out multiple schools’ applications discourages all but the most motivated parents and effectively screens out needy students. The common application also enables families to apply easily to multiple schools — a data point the charter sector points to as evidence that the public wants more charter schools. (more…)
February 5, 2013
Charter schools want to piggyback on Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to expand pre-kindergarten across the state. But in order to benefit from Cuomo’s $25 million in pre-K grants, the schools first must win the right to offer pre-K classes.
Pushing for that right is at the top of charter school supporters’ agenda today as they convene in Albany as part of the charter sector’s annual advocacy day. The parents will meet in the Albany Convention Center with more than a dozen legislators, then spend the rest of the day visiting their district representatives.
They’re not the only ones lobbying lawmakers over pre-K this week. On Monday, police chiefs, principals, and education groups from around the state declared their support for Cuomo’s pre-K grants, which represent a fraction of the $385 million that the state spends annually on pre-kindergarten.
The charter sector’s lobbying efforts are not so straightforward, because the state’s 1998 law authorizing the schools grants them the right to serve students in kindergarten to 12th grade only. Legislators would have to change to the law — last revised in 2010 amid heavy controversy — to allow pre-kindergarten in charter schools.
“It’s our job to talk to lawmakers and say to them, ‘Hey, does it really makes sense to a have a program where some really good schools don’t have the ability to do full-day pre-K?’” said James Merriman, CEO of the New York City Charter Center. (more…)
December 12, 2012
At the same time as the State Education Department is publicly pressuring school districts to adopt new teacher evaluations by next month, it’s also quietly demanding that charter schools turn in their teachers’ ratings from last year.
Charter school advocates are urging most school leaders to ignore the demand, even though state officials have said it’s needed in order to fulfill its Race to the Top plan. The advocates say the demand would be hard to fulfill and impinges on charter schools’ autonomy.
The standoff has its roots in the state’s 2010 application for federal Race to the Top funds. In its application to the U.S. Department of Education for funding, New York State said it would require schools to rate teachers according to specific guidelines and would collect ratings for all teachers, even in charter schools.
Some charter schools committed to sharing their teacher ratings at the time in order to receive some of the state’s $700 million in winnings. But two thirds did not — and the state wants their teacher ratings too, according to a series of updated guidance memos that officials have issued over the last 18 months.
City and state charter school advocates have pushed back against the demands throughout that time.
“Both the New York City Charter School Center and the New York Charter Schools Association believe that this reporting requirement does not properly apply to non-Race to the Top charter schools,” Charter Center CEO James Merriman and NYCSA President Bill Phillips wrote in a strongly worded email to school leaders last month. They added, “Ultimately, it is up to you whether you choose to report this data.”
So far, few school leaders have made that choice. By the original submission deadline Nov. 30, just 30 of 184 charter schools in the state had handed over teacher ratings from last year. (more…)
August 3, 2012
For the city’s charter sector, the task of building better leaders begins with self-reflection.
The project of understanding what makes a good leader — particularly for charter schools, which have some of the highest principal turnover rates — is what consumes the 20-odd educators who gathered at the New York City Charter School Center this week to kick off the sixth year of its leadership training program.
When they return to their schools later this month, the educators will face diverse challenges. One pair comes from a school that has nearly doubled in size faster than expected due to make up a budget shortfall. Another is from a rare standalone school serving kindergarten through 12th graders, which will be preparing its first cohort of students to graduate and apply to college next year.
But on a recent morning, all of the participants were focused on the same question as Heidi Brooks, a professor from the Yale University School of Management, talked them through a platitude-heavy presentation about identifying leadership qualities.
“How would you describe yourself as a leader? How do you describe a great leader?” Brooks asked the group, then began taking down their answers until ink filled a sheet of poster paper.
“Positive,” “self-aware,” and “systems-aware” topped the list of traits. (more…)
July 30, 2012
For most of this spring, Urban Dove Team Charter School’s story followed a familiar trajectory.
When the Department of Education offered the charter school space in a public school building, the community erupted in opposition. Politicians stepped in, principals went to the press, and parents protested — all with the goal of keeping the charter school out. Then the city signed off on the co-location anyway, and tensions started to die down.
That’s when Urban Dove’s story took an unusual turn. Despite getting free public space — a hotly sought-after commodity — Urban Dove signed a lease this month to spend some of its scarce per-pupil funding on private space. Next month, the transfer high school will open on one floor of Bedford-Stuyvesant’s Brooklyn Tabernacle Church.
It was a rare move for a charter school offered a public building. Most charter schools prefer to open in buildings owned by the city to save money and time spent negotiating with landlords, according to James Merriman, director of the New York City Charter School Center. Plus, money for real estate comes from charter schools’ operating budget — meaning the more they spend on space, the less they have for teachers, supplies, and programming.
Urban Dove’s founder and principal each declined to share the terms of the lease. But they said undertaking the significant expense made perfect sense for the school, which will serve students who have already fallen behind before they turn 16. (more…)
July 27, 2012
One thing that district and charter schools have in common is a need for strong principals.
That’s what James Merriman, a lead advocate for the city’s charter sector, told Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s education reform commission on Thursday.
“Charter schools understand and public school leaders understand that a successful school culture is ultimately the responsibility first and foremost of a school leader,” said Merriman, who leads the New York City Charter School Center.
“But here’s the tricky part,” he said. “We don’t have enough of them. We don’t have enough of them in the charter sector; we don’t have enough of them in the public schools.”
The Bloomberg administration tackled principal preparation in one of its earliest education initiatives, a training program called the Leadership Academy. But the program’s graduates have ranged in quality, with some leading successful schools and others being criticized for creating dysfunctional work environments. The program has shrunk over time, and in January, a top Department of Education official told a group of principals who are affiliated with Teachers College’s Cahn Fellows program that the city has not succeeded at maintaining uniformly strong principal quality .
The problem of where to find strong school leaders is more acute in the charter sector, where principal turnover is five times higher than in district schools.
Merriman told the commission he had no concrete solutions for boosting principal quality. But he believes that an annual principal training program that his organization runs, which begins next week, could at least begin to chip away at the problem. (more…)
July 12, 2012
When a researcher with a penchant for crunching charter school data sat down to compare New York State’s charter authorizers in 2010, her impetus wasn’t merely academic.
For Jonas Chartock, then the director of one of three authorizers, who requested an analysis, the data was a matter of survival.
“At the time there was a real push by some politicians to eliminate SUNY as an authorizer,” said Chartock, who headed SUNY’s Charter School Institute until early 2011.
Chartock asked Macke Raymond, a Stanford researcher who had just wrapped up a broad study of New York City’s charter sector, to examine her school performance data based on which office had authorized it. Her comparison showed up as an attachment to one of several hundred Department of Education emails released last week in response to a teachers union’s Freedom of Information Law request.
Raymond found that students at SUNY-authorized charter schools improved at a quicker pace than students at schools authorized by the State Education Department and the city Department of Education. At schools authorized by SED, she found, students actually lost ground over time. (more…)
May 29, 2012
The phone calls are bad, but the visitors are the toughest to reject.
That’s how Daniel Rubenstein feels about the admission requests that his charter school, Brooklyn Prospect, gets each summer from families who moved to the neighborhood after the school’s April lottery.
“This is a population that needs to be in a good school,” Rubenstein said. “Our school — which is a small, relationship-driven, intimate environment — would be better for someone that needs a community.”
But by law, Rubenstein must turn the families away. The state’s charter school law does not make provisions for schools to reserve seats for students who arrive to the city from far-flung locales after their April admissions lotteries. That means that charter schools, which are charged with serving the city’s neediest students, must exclude some of the students with the greatest need.
But after lobbying by Rubenstein and other charter operators, as well as by officials at the city Department of Education, one of the state’s charter authorizers is working on an option that would allow charter schools to open their doors in the middle of the year. (more…)
May 17, 2012
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. (more…)