Thursday, August 18, 2016

What's that About "Cherry-Picking"? Check Out the Neighborhood Charter School of Harlem

It’s about good schools that treat families fairly.  So please let us move beyond the education wars in NYC, and the personal battles between the Mayor and Ms.  Moskowitz.  You guys don’t like each other.  We get it.  We don’t care.
That’s Dirk Tillotson at Great School Voices nailing the sentiments of New York City parents fed up with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s disparagement of charter schools. To recap, the Mayor recently ho-hummed charter school students’ sharp spike in proficiency test scores -- particularly those who attend Eva Moskowitz’s Success Academies -- by attributing those gains to untoward attention to test preparation and “cherry-picking” students. Tillotson belies the Mayor’s claims by profiling the Neighborhood Charter School of Harlem, which serves students on the autism spectrum.

He writes,
A parent was talking about how her son was basically mute in school, and at Neighborhood, how he had come to open up, talk, make friends, and develop an otherwise unknown social circle.  The joy and contentment is evident on kids’ faces when you visit, alongside a responsive design where every class had individual supports for students. 
And the results are really remarkable—75.4% of their students were proficient in Math, compared to 16.7% in the district and 69.7% of kids were proficient on ELA compared to 21.5% for the district.
How does Neighborhood achieve these results with students who many schools write off? The school “has a robust program of support that integrates students on the spectrum and helps them develop socially in a safe and staged way,” while concurrently maintaining high expectations for academic development.

Neighborhood may be one of a very small cohort of charter schools that exclusively serve students with special needs but charter school enrollment of students with disabilities, contrary to the Mayor’s claim,  is increasing. And so is their academic growth. From the NY Post:
For kids with disabilities, 16 percent of those attending charter schools were proficient in reading, compared with 10 percent of public-school students.
For math, 24 percent of charter students with disabilities scored at proficient levels, as did 12 percent of public-school kids.
Even NYC Schools Chancellor Carmen Farina, who typically toes the Mayor’s charter school line in the sand, told Chalkbeat yesterday,
“Look, I think parents have to have options, and if that’s an option that parents take, that’s fine,” she told Chalkbeat Wednesday in her first public comments on the clash. Charter schools “have their own process and their own way of teaching and making decisions. But parents chose those schools for that purpose.”
Tillotson tells Mayor de Blasio to suspend  his relentless attacks on alternative public schools. So do the parents of special needs children who attend the Neighborhood Charter School of Harlem.

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