UPDATE 10/6/20 - There was NO discussion or vote on the Success Academy revisions at the SUNY charter committee meeting today; one can only assume that they were accepted without any vote of the committee. One might ask what is the point of public hearings and submitted testimony without any acknowledgement or even awareness of public input by SUNY Committee members.
Hearings on several matters including revisions to enrollment of 19 (!) Success Academy charter schools will be held by the SUNY charter committee tomorrow Tuesday Oct 6, 2020. The meeting will start at 9 AM and will be webcast here. The agenda is here and the proposed Success Academy revisions are included in a document entitled SUNY Charter Schools Institute Update.
For more on these revisions, which include evidence of high attrition rates including elimination of all three originally planned Brooklyn HS , see the analysis by Brooke Parker here.
Below is testimony submitted by six members of CEC2.
Testimony for the SUNY Charter Institute on
Charter School Revision Application by Success Academies in
Community School Districts 2, 3, 14 and 15
Thank you for the opportunity
to submit this testimony. We submit the below testimony as individual
members of the Community Education Council District 2 (CECD2). Due to the
timing of the charter revision notice, which was released after the September
monthly meeting, the CECD2 is unable to issue an official statement. Thus while
the majority of members signed this testimony it does not represent the
official position of the CECD2.
We are against the proposals
for charter school revisions submitted by Success Academies Harlem 1, Bed-Stuy
2, Cobble Hill and Wiliamsbsurg.
- Our comments from 2019 are still
In a comment letter submitted
by Shino Tanikawa and Ushma Neil on October 3rd, 2019, appended to this comment
letter, we listed three reasons for opposing the revision proposal submitted by
SA Union Square, Hell’s Kitchen, Harlem I & III and Upper West. We
understand the group of schools included in the current revision proposals are
not the same but the substance of the 2019 comments remains very much
1.a. Academic year and proposal timeline
Nowhere on the 2-page notice
sent by the NYC Department of Education is there indication of the academic
year for which the proposal is submitted. We can only hope that this is
for the academic year 2021-2022, since the current year is already underway,
even if SA has announced 100% remote learning for all its students.
Please ensure all future
notices clearly state the timeline of the proposal and the academic year for
which the proposal is submitted.
1.b. Organizational & building capacity data
Below is the Enrollment,
Capacity and Utilization Report data from December 2019, with grade spans
served in each building added (we are making assumptions since grade span
information is not in the Blue Book). When submitting revision proposals,
SA and the DOE should be required to provide this information. While
building utilization might be a separate process under the CR A-190, this
information is crucial in understanding why these revision proposals are
submitted and whether the proposed changes are feasible or sound.
From the revision notice, we
understand SA Bed-Stuy 2, Cobble Hill and Williamsburg will send their 9th
graders to Harlem 1, presumably at Norman Thomas but it is not stated.
Harlem 1 is slated to add 118 students to Grade 9. It is unclear if the
available seats at Norman Thomas (392 according to the Blue Book as of December
31, 2019) are sufficient to accommodate this and the future increases.
Bed-Stuy 2, Cobble Hill and Williamsburg will all serve K - 4 without the 9th
grade under the proposal.
1.c. Enrollment data
The table below is what was
provided in the revision notice. While we appreciate the addition of this
information, which was not provided in prior years, we request more granular
data, broken down by grade. In addition, please clarify if the
“Authorized Grades & Enrollment” means the enrollment numbers are what was
authorized under the charter application or if they are the actual enrollment
numbers. If the latter, please provide the academic year.
Please verify the numbers for
Williamsburg. If the authorized (or actual) enrollment number is 483 and the
proposed enrollment is 416, the difference is 67. However, the table in
the notice shows a decrease of only 37 students. Where are the other 30
students being moved to?
The table below is from the SA
Harlem 1 Accountability Report for 2018-2019 school year, which includes
enrollment figures for all SA schools. While this table is for 2018-2019,
the difference in enrollment figures seem quite large (the last column).
Please provide us with a similar table with up-to-date enrollment figures and
make clear the difference between authorized enrollment and actual
enrollment. We request the authorized enrollment (or projected
enrollment) as separate figures so that we know whether enrollment targets are
We need accurate enrollment data - both projected and actual - to understand these revision proposals better. Lacking these data, we cannot evaluate the merits of the revision proposals.
2. Welfare of students enrolled in SA Bed-Stuy 2, Cobble Hill and Williamsburg
We were presented with a
similar proposal in 2019 whereby students from some SA schools were moved to
other SA schools. WIthout knowing the effective date of the current
proposal and assuming that there are 9th grade students in SA Bed-Stuy 2, Cobble
Hill and Williamsburg this academic year, were these students and their
families notified that they will be attending school in Union Square? Is there
guarantee that Norman Thomas Educational Campus will be able to accommodate
this cohort of students through graduation? Will this move present any
hardship to any students? If so, how will SA address grievances from
families? Will the teachers also move with the students?
It appears this game of musical
chairs has become an annual exercise for SA and we are concerned about the
impact of the haphazard nature of these revision proposals on the
students. The concern is now amplified by the pandemic, which has placed
additional challenges and stress on all our students.
We recommend that the SUNY
Charter Institute work with SA to develop a master plan for all its schools
across the city so that these piecemeal proposals become unnecessary.
Such a plan should critically evaluate the enrollment trends and grade
configuration and physical capacity of each school as well as collectively
across all schools. The revision process distracts from more important issues
for our students (such as whether SA is serving its fair share of students with
disabilities and Multilingual Learners, or whether SA is engaged in
questionable discipline practices).
3. School level accountability
Considering the history of SA,
we are concerned that this co-mingling of cohorts of students makes it
impossible to assess individual SA schools’ performance. Any longitudinal
analyses of a given cohort will be extremely difficult when a cohort of students
starts in one SA school but graduates from another.
An analysis by an education
advocate has shown that attrition in SA schools can be significant. The
Class of 2020 had 350 students in second grade in 2010 but 114 Seniors in
2020. This analysis was conducted across all SA schools because of the
expansion of one SA school into several schools. Expansions and transferring
students from one SA school to another make it difficult to determine the cause
for this seemingly high attrition as well as attributing student performance
and achievement to any one SA school. Yet, each SA school is chartered
separately with charter renewals and revisions subject to approval by the SUNY
Charter Institute. How are we to know whether a given SA school is performing
well when students move around?
For these reasons, we oppose
the revision proposal. We further call upon the SUNY Charter Institute to
immediately conduct a thorough review and evaluation of the entire suite of
Success Academy schools to ensure there is a long term, sustainable plan for
all of the SA schools. Additionally we recommend the SUNY Charter
Institute consider treating all SA schools as one school with multiple sites
under one charter. When individual SA schools are allowed to shift
students among themselves, such maneuvers render individual SA charters
meaningless. Finally we urge the SUNY Charter Institute to reconsider the
entire charter process for charter schools seeking or already sited in DOE facilities. We are not able to evaluate any
charter proposals without knowing whether physical facilities are able to
accommodate such proposals. Having two separate yet interdependent
processes - charter approval and co-location/building utilization approval -
thus does not allow sound decision making. In the end we must remember it
is the students and their families who pay the price for this flawed
process. As advocates, we are willing to work with the SUNY Charter
Institute and the state legislature to create a better process.
Shino Tanikawa, Manhattan Borough Appointee
Ushma Neil, Manhattan Borough Appointee