NYC Announces Charter School, Public School Partnership

The most successful charter schools in New York City have announced a $4.5 million partnership initiative with the city's public schools. According to Ben Chapman of the New York Daily News, the best-performing charter schools in the boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx and Manhattan will help traditional schools improve their literacy levels, and in exchange district schools will help charters develop a program that will improve parent participation.

Charlene Reid, who leads the Bronx Charter School for Excellence, explained that the partnerships make sense because in the end, the goal of everyone in the district is to improve student performance. Bronx Charter will partner up with Public School 85 where only 20% of students are reading at grade level. In comparison, 86% of Bronx Charter students passed the state reading exam in 2012.

Although PS 85 is struggling academically, its ties to the community are very strong. Chapman describes the parents of PS85 as "devoted," while Bronx Charter is struggling to forge community relationships. PS 85 principal Ted Huster will now work to replicate his school's success at Bronx Charter, while the charter's leaders will help Huster improve reading test passing rates.

The two schools will use a $500,000 grant from the state Education Department to fund their collaboration until 2017, with most of the money going to pay staffers to learn from each other.

The schools will also swap teachers in an unusual program designed to expose visiting instructors to different teaching techniques.

The funding for the partnerships between Bronx Charter and PS 85 – as well as other schools – will come from the "Charter School Dissemination Grant" program. The program is part of the drive by the administration of current mayor Michael Bloomberg to grow the number of school choice offerings in the city. According to Chapman, recent studies have proved that charter school students outperform their traditional public school peers. But those studies have also drawn sharp attacks from charter critics who claim that charters enjoy the advantage of educating fewer minority and low-income students.

Charters and district schools have fought bitterly at times over shared space in public school buildings, which the city rents to charters at no charge.

But New York City Charter Center CEO James Merriman believes that the new collaborations fueled by the grant will promote positive outcomes for everyone involved.

"When schools start working together, the transfer of knowledge is going to start flowing both ways," Merriman said. "It's a real partnership."

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