Parents clamor for more charter schools

NYC Department of Education

Key for abbreviations above: % SS = percentage of students meeting state standards in English (E) and math (M). For high schools, % grad = percentage of students graduating in four years. SN = percentage of students with special needs, and ELL = percentage of English language learners.

Public schools say odds are stacked against them

Local state elected officials are calling for more charter school seats in the area, citing statistics from charter advocates that one in three families on New York City’s charter school waitlists are from the Bronx.

Using Hyde Leadership Charter School as an example, Assemblyman Marcos Crespo asserted that he admired what the school has done, and that he would be supportive of any institution that was as successful as Hyde.

“I’m not suggesting that charter schools are the only solution,” said Crespo. “Not all of them, but many of them have done extra well.”

An analysis of neighborhood school statistics shows that 42 percent of the students attending school within the borders of Community Board 2 are at charter schools – a number far above the citywide average of 7 percent, according to stats from the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. (Some of those students might come from other neighborhoods to attend local schools.)

Yet Crespo said his office regularly gets calls from parents who are seeking more charter school seats. “Parents are just always for looking something better,” he said.

The Express compiled a chart of statistics on both charter and public schools, showing that while some charter schools stood out by some measures, most local charters schools and all public schools are still performing below city averages, meaning the majority of students are less than proficient in both math and English. The charters in the area also serve fewer English language learners and fewer students with special needs.

The local standout in state test scores was Girls Prep Charter School of the Bronx, where 29 percent scored at proficient levels in English (compared to 28 citywide) and 41 percent in math (compared to 34 percent citywide). But Girls Prep also has the lowest percentage of English Language Learners of all schools in the area, as well as the lowest percentage of students with special needs.

In the 2013-2014 school year, Hyde Leadership Charter led the way in terms of high school graduation rates in Hunts Point, with 92 percent of its students graduating within four years.

The other charter schools in the area include Bronx Lighthouse Charter School, which houses 636 students, and Dr. Richard Izquierdo Health and Science Charter School, which houses 418 students. Both schools have only just started to serve high school-aged kids.

Girls Prep Charter School is a high-preforming middle school with 29 percent of students meeting state standards on standardized English tests, and 41 percent of students meeting state standards of standardized math tests. The citywide average is 27 percent of students meeting state standards on the English test and 29 percent of students meeting state standards on the math test.

Public elementary and middle schools such as P.S. 48, which serves 855 students; P.S. 75, which serves 579 students; M.S. 424, which serves 355 students; and Bronx Studio for Writers and Artists, which serves 540 middle and high school students, overall have lower state scores compared to charters.

The public high schools in the area also have lower graduation rates. Bronx Studio has a 66 percent graduation rate in four years. Banana Kelly High School serves 364 kids and has a 40 percent graduation rate in four years. Holcombe L. Rucker School of Community Research serves 261 kids and has a 46 percent graduation rate in four years.

Some education advocates attribute the difference in stats to the school’s lottery preference process versus an open enrollment process for public schools.

“We’re doing the best we can in the circumstances that we’re given,” said Devin Carthan, the parent coordinator for Holcombe Rucker High School, located at 965 Longwood Ave.

According to, one-fourth of the Holcombe student population lives in homeless shelters. The school works closely with the Department of Education, which sends teaching aides every day to help out. The school also provides extra help via extended days and Saturday classes, Carthan said.

Carthan pointed out that some students in Holcombe graduate in five years, a stat that the New York City Department of Education does not measure. Those students may have transferred in or just needed one more class to graduate, yet those students are essentially ignored.

“Is it an excuse? No. But we need to look at all the factors,” Carthan said, noting that 27 percent of the student body has special needs, 10 percent are English language learners, and 84 percent qualify for free lunch.  “The kids need to put in the work and the parents need to instill values, but it’s hard when you’re worried about what you’re going to have for dinner.”

Richard Sherman, the chair of Community Board 2’e education committee, who taught public school for 36 years, noted that the charters have had some great successes in the neighborhood. He attended the Hyde graduation last year, and was moved by the affect the school had on students’ lives. He believes that parents were key in helping students stay focused and stay in school.

“Parents have to be invited into the school and have to be a partner,” said Sherman. “They have to feel welcome and schools need to be understanding that parents have problems and work too. If schools did that, they’d be highly successful.”

Still, he said, there is not just one solution to supporting student achievement – the city needs to invest in both charters and publics.

“Charter schools are here to stay,” said Sherman. “But let’s not let traditional public schools get destroyed.”

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