District – Charter Collaboration in NYC: Past, Present and Yet-to-Come

by Stacey Gauthier, Principal, The Renaissance Charter School

It is encouraging to see the Mayor acknowledge the important work that is being accomplished in public charter schools across NYC as well as promoting how this work can and should be shared with district schools. His investment to support collaboration and best practice sharing, first implemented through the Chancellor’s Learning Partners program which included some charter schools, and now with the new initiative presented at his Educational Forum, is certainly a positive step from his administration in ensuring that we foster dialogue among all schools – regardless of whether they are charter or district – around what works to support teaching and learning.

I think it is important to note that this practice of sharing and collaboration has been going on for several years and some of these programs have paved the way for initiatives such as this. In 2010, the NYC Collaborative was formed out of a partnership with the New York City Charter Center, the NYC Department of Education and the Gates foundation. It was created out of a NYC District Charter-Compact. This compact was a national initiative led by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to increase ways for district public schools and public charter schools to work together to provide high quality education for all students. At the time the original compact was signed, 88 public charter schools in NYC (both independent and network-affiliated schools) pledged to support the compact. Much work came out of this compact including inter-school visitations, shared professional development, policy panel discussions, and more.

In 2013, the New York State Education Department, as part of the federally-funded Charter School Program, awarded approximately $5 million dollars to 8 charter schools in NYC and 3 in other parts of the state ($500,000 per awardee) to share effective practices and programs that have been developed and proven successful at high-performing charter schools with district school partners. The grant recipients and partners in NYC and their grant goals are as follows –

Bronx Charter School for Excellence and PS 85

-Strengthen kindergarten reading programs at both schools

-Get a majority of students reading at or above grade level by the end of the year

-Increase teacher capacity through collaboration, frequent feedback and professional development.

Community Partnership Charter School and PS 270

-To share expertise in conducting a research based, nationally proven early literacy assessment and professional development program called STEP

-To foster teachers’ data-based decision making skills, leading to improved instruction and increased student ELA proficiency in grades K-4

Democracy Prep Charter School and Jonas Bronck Academy

-Create and share a curriculum that integrates Common Core Learning Standards for literacy and history/social studies with thirteen civic knowledge skills and dispositions established by Democracy Prep

-Convene teachers from DPCS and JBA to jointly analyze interim assessment data and strengthen anchor lessons

Family Life Academy Charter School and MS 224

-To improve the quality of teaching and learning , thereby increasing student outcomes

-FLACS will focus specifically on instructional leadership, effective use of data to guide classroom instruction, and the establishment and support of professional learning communities.

Hellenic Classical Charter School and Dr. Peter Ray Elementary School (PS 305)

-To share the Reading Rescue program for low-performing early grade students with PS 305

New York Center for Autism Charter School and NYC CSD 75 (P369, P12X, P811)

-To disseminate best practices in educating students with autism through collaboration and coaching

-Measurable outcomes will include greater student achievement, decreased rates of challenging behavior, increased student engagement, and teacher acquisition of key learning concepts designed for using in educating students with autism

The Renaissance Charter School and Harry S. Truman HS, Mathematics, Science, Research and Technology Magnet HS

-To share Renaissance’s “Global Humanities Initiative” which focuses on the effective integration of 9th and 10th grade ELA, Global History, and Geography through the use of small group “Global Labs”

Williamsburg Collegiate Charter School and NYC District Schools

-To create and facilitate a needs-based training program for teams of educators from NYC district schools that will provide over 6,000 hours of training

-To evaluate the strength of each school’s instructional culture, the effectiveness of the training program in meeting partner needs, and ultimately the value-added effect on student achievement results in partner schools

Additionally, several of the large charter school networks, including Uncommon Schools, KIPP,Achievement First and Success have opened their doors and shared many aspects of their successful programs with district and other charter leaders. Independent charter schools have also contributed their share of expertise in ways both formal and more organic through opening their doors and sharing their models with public and private schools in New York City, the U.S. and internationally. I am certain my list of collaborators is not all inclusive and would welcome hearing the many other examples that have not been named. Each of these organizations deserves recognition for its work as path-makers and bridge-builders.

I am glad that the Mayor and Chancellor are building on the work that has come before. I look forward to what is yet-to-come including what I hope is an educational climate in NYC where collaboration among all schools, regardless of label, is the norm, where cooperation replaces conflict and charter schools are fully embraced as important parts of the system. The Mayor and Chancellor play a significant role in helping to promote this unity. Through this important work, we can help to ensure all of our children will have access to a high quality education regardless of the zip code they live in or the school they attend.

Stacey Gauthier Principal The Renaissance Charter School

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