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The Great Distance-Learning Experiment

The Philanthropy Round Table

Success Academy Charter Schools in New York City decided to shift to virtual education even before the government ordered children […]

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Charter-school envy


By Eva Moskowitz

The Success Academy Charter Schools, which I run, are criticized for taking advantage of Mayor Bloomberg’s policy allowing us to use excess space available in the buildings of district-run schools.

It’s painful, charge our critics, for the families that these schools serve to see the contrast between their dreary classrooms and ours, which we spruce up with cheery paint jobs, new carpets and extensive technology.

Actually, it’s far worse than that: 88 percent of our students read proficiently; fewer than a third do at these district schools. Our students also get two hours more instruction per day, science daily and teachers who receive far more professional development.

So forget the cheery paint. Our students are getting an education that will give them a fair shot at fulfilling the hopes and dreams of their parents — while most of those attending our co-located schools aren’t.

But our critics are wrong to think we’re oblivious to the pain this causes. As a mother of three and a public-school parent, I know that all parents feel a profound responsibility to give their children every opportunity to succeed and are justifiably furious to learn that other children have been given opportunities their own kids have not.

In fact, many of my schools’ parents have an older child at a district school and have told me of their feelings at one day seeing their younger child start teaching their older child how to read.

Until then, they hadn’t truly appreciated how inadequate their older child’s education had been; they feel anger and even guilt.

Where I differ with my critics is what to do about all this. They brand charter schools “separate and unequal” in a demagogic effort to equate them with racial segregation and propose that charter schools stop sharing buildings with district schools — or, better yet, stop existing entirely.

But that won’t brighten the district schools’ hallways or help their students read. It will just lessen parents’ awareness of these inadequacies.

Sadly, that’s exactly what the critics want. They’re afraid that parents may ask why the district schools can’t be better — and not like the answer.

The critics tell parents that we have more money. Good try: Actually, charter schools run on less funding than do the district schools.

The real answer is that we aren’t hampered by the union rules and government bureaucracy from which the district schools suffer.

The district routinely pays teachers who don’t actually teach because no principal will put them in front of students. It prohibits custodians from painting anything above 10 feet, to appease the painters’ union. It buys fluorescent bulbs that are marginally cheaper than the ones used by my schools but are far dimmer and ultimately more expensive because they don’t last as long.

It buys paint in bizarre murky greens and browns, because cheery colors cost a little more. It buys computers that stay locked in closets until they are discarded as obsolete. It pays for useless workers, such as the bathroom monitor at one of my schools who sleeps all day. I could give a hundred more examples.

When I was chair of the City Council’s Education Committee, I sought to draw attention to these problems. But people doubted they mattered; they believed only more money and smaller class size could improve schools.

That’s one reason I chose to start charter schools — to demonstrate the incredible difference it truly makes when a school is run free from crushing bureaucracy and outlandish labor contracts.

Sure, putting charter schools in separate buildings would spare district parents the pain of pressing their noses up against the glass of high-functioning charters. However, to improve our public-school system, parents must know things could be better, no matter how painful that knowledge is.

Consider it one more service charter schools do — communicating one simple message to the families whom the district schools so profoundly fail: It need not be so.

Eva Moskowitz is founder and CEO of the Success Academy Charter Schools.

For some charters, 2012 reading test gains began with a struggle


By Geoff Decker

Two years ago, just one in three students at Achievement First Bushwick were rated “proficient” on the state’s reading tests. It wasn’t exactly the kind of result promised from a high-performing charter school in a “no excuses” network.

But the school has nearly doubled that rate in the two years since, according to state test scores released Tuesday. On the 2012 English language arts test, nearly 60 percent of students at the school were rated proficient, compared to 47 percent of students citywide.

Bushwick’s gains on the reading tests were among the largest made in the charter sector, which improved as a whole by seven percentage points, from 44,5 percent to 51,5 percent.  The improvement — from matching the citywide average to scoring well above it — has provided fodder for charter school advocates and the Bloomberg administration to push back against critics who oppose the expansion of charter schools across the state.

“Policy makers and legislators should take note” of the gains, said Bill Phillips, president of the New York Charter Schools Association.”It’s not only a tougher measure than the host district comparison, it suggests that districts across the state should consider charters as another tool to better educate children.”

“We can’t possibly handle the demand from parents for the charter schools,” Mayor Bloomberg said during a press conference Tuesday. “They’re just off the charts.”

Several charter operators announced their schools’ test scores in celebratory press releases Tuesday. Deborah Kenny touted the eighth-grade math and reading scores at her schools, the Harlem Village Academies. The Success Academy network announced a 7-point gain in reading proficiency across its four schools with testing grades, more than twice the citywide improvement rate. And Democracy Prep said the low-performing charter school it took over last year had posted the largest reading proficiency gains of any school in the state, with third-grade reading proficiency hurtling from 28 percent in 2011 to 63 percent this year.

The charter school sector wasn’t nearly as enthusiastic to promote its gains two years ago, when reading scores slumped. Struggles to boost literacy were not unique to Achievement First Bushwick.

Across the city, the charter school sector had stalled on boosting student performance. In 2010, 42 percent of students scored proficient on the state reading tests, virtually identical to the city’s district average. The results were not what the charter sector had hoped for at a time when when advocates were trying to make the case that more charter schools were necessary in the city and state.

After last year’s results barely budged, many charter school leaders realized they had to change their approach.

“I know that people put in a very hard look at this time last year and said we’re not getting the job done,” said James Merriman, CEO of the New York City Charter Center, an organization that advocates for and offers support to charter schools.

One of those schools was Achievement First Bushwick, where scores on the reading tests were low enough that its authorizer slapped the school with a shortened charter renewal. Principal Amy D’Angelo told GothamSchools last year that in response to its 2010 test scores, it began overhauling its approach to teaching literacy.

“AF Bushwick launched an intensive effort to strength curriculum and instruction in ELA and services for ELL students,” D’Angelo told us last year. She said she had hired an English specialist to work independently with students who struggled the most on reading and writing.

In her press release, Kenny also said her schools had bolstered instruction to meet higher standards on the test. “As the tests have become more difficult, our teachers have developed and improved instructional strategies to help all students reach their highest potential,” she said.

One of the criticisms about charter schools is that they don’t serve comparable numbers of students with high needs, an assessment that was largely supported by a report that Merriman’s office released earlier this year. So far, disaggregated charter school data for these types of students aren’t available.

But in a press release after the test scores were announced, Merriman noted that the schools do serve groups of students who typically have lower test scores. ”Even though New York City charter schools serve students who are overwhelmingly disadvantaged economically and largely African-American and Hispanic, they are proficient in math at nearly the same rate as white students are across New York,” he wrote.

For now, the Charter Center has put together a useful interactive tool to browse the latest performance of charter schools. The scatter graph shows how each school performed on both the English and the math tests. Schools located high up in the right quadrant had the highest combined proficiency rates. We took the numbers one step further and added the proficiency rates for each school to determine which ones performed the best for both subjects.

Here’s the list of the top-10 scoring charter schools. Their combined proficiency is in parentheses:

1. Icahn Charter School 4 (195)

2. Icahn Charter School 2 (192,4)

3. Success Academy 1 (187,4)

4. Success Academy 4 (185,9)

5. Success Academy 3 (184)

6. Bronx Charter School for Excellence (182)

7. Success Academy 2 (178,6)

8. Williamsburg Collegiate (157)

9. Icahn Charter School (166)

10. Brooklyn Ascend (153)

Real school reforms will let the kids shine


By Brian Whitley

Mayor Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott announcing city students’ scores on state English and math exams.

You can only imagine how much more New York’s children could have achieved had they the good fortune to attend public schools that were freed from the fetters of mediocrity and failure.

The kids made progress on this year¹s reading and math exams. They solidified a slow upward trend by increasing the number who are counted as proficient in both subjects by about 3 percentage points – to 47% at or above grade level in English and 60% in that category in math.
While welcome indeed, those gains pale in comparison to the strides taken by the 47.000 students enrolled in charter schools. Their pass rate jumped a whopping 7 points to 52% on the English exam, and fully 72% made the grade in math.

Charter gains were particularly impressive because, selected by lottery, the students are by and large poorer than the student population of the city as a whole.

At four Harlem Success Academy charters, better than 95% of the kids aced the math test, as did more than 80% in English. Those sky-high numbers include students counted as English-language learners: 85% passed English, compared with 12% of those in the general school population.

The clear lesson is that public school administrators must gain the flexibility enjoyed by charter leaders, adopt the single-minded focus on achievement that imbues most charters and be able to hold teachers accountable for raising performance.

Thanks to ingrained habits and a United Federation of Teachers mind-set that holds sacrosanct a member’s right to let kids down, traditional public schools have few of those ingredients of success. Instead, the UFT defends contract rights while blaming bosses and a supposed lack of money.

Cash is not the answer, as documented by a new study from Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance and the journal Education Next. New York led the nation in raising school spending from 1990 to 2009 while racking up subpar test score gains compared with other states.

Mayor Bloomberg, former Schools Chancellor Joel Klein and current Chancellor Dennis Walcott have fought to accomplish school reform over steadfast opposition. That they’ve gotten this far is testament to a sustained drive, while the latest scores document that gains are real.

The destructiveness of the UFT and its allies leaps from the scores. Schools slated by Bloomberg and Walcott for closure – efforts blocked by the union – posted a pathetic 21% proficiency in English and a 27% in math, another mark of shame on already dismal educational records.

Too many wars like that are still to be fought. Next year, the schools will begin to introduce instructional materials that are designed to raise standards and may well cause scores to fall.

At the same time, the state has ordered the start of teacher performance assessments – provided Bloomberg can win UFT President Michael Mulgrew’s blessing on a rating system. Even then, the barriers to achievement will remain high and the kids behind them will be denied the opportunity to learn as much as their friends in charter schools.

Charters top


By Sallkmnkoy Goldenberg and Beth Defalco

New York City charter-school students whizzed past their traditional counterparts this year — making greater gains in math and science, new data shows.

Nearly three-quarters of charter students — about 72 percent — in Grades 3 to 8 passed the math test this year, up 3,5 points from last year.

And charter proficiency in English increased by a staggering 7 points — to 51,5 percent.

Charters “are better able to tailor the product that they need to their customers,” Mayor Bloomberg said.

“They demonstrate again and again and again that the model gives superior results.”

And those results are being noticed.

“We can’t possibly handle the demand from parents for charter schools — it’s just off the charts,” Bloomberg said.

Meanwhile, slight improvements were seen this year in traditional schools — after a dismal showing last year when only 35 percent of eighth-graders passed the English exam, the lowest mark for that group since 2006.

This year, 60 percent of students met the state’s standard for proficiency in math, up 2,7 points.

That outpaced the rest of the state, the city Department of Education said.

“New York City school students have once again risen to the occasion,” said city Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott.

But there’s still room for improvement when it comes to reading.

More than half the students in Grades 3 to 8 continued to fail in English, with only 47 percent passing, up from 44 percent last year.

Overall, this year’s numbers remain far below those in 2009 — when 82 percent of students passed math and 69 percent passed reading — in part because of changes to the tests.

In 2010, students had to correctly answer more questions to pass, and last year additional questions lengthened the exam.

And this spring some 30 questions included in last year’s exam had to be thrown out after they were deemed to be confusing and even nonsensical.

Bloomberg warned that next year’s tests will be re-engineered to raise the bar even higher.

“We expect them to be more difficult,” the mayor said. “Our administration’s core philosophy is that if we raise our expectations, our kids will reach them.”

Reform can


By Todd Engdahl

Charter school advocate Eva Moskowitz pumped up a friendly Denver crowd Tuesday evening with a talk that stressed the importance and urgency of education reform for the future of the nation.

Eva Moskowitz

Eva Moskowitz makes a point during a conversation at a Denver event on Tuesday.

Moskowitz is CEO of the Success Academy Charter Schools, a group of schools in New York City that primarily serves low-income students and whose students have recorded impressive gains in academic achievement.

She was in Denver to promote her new book, “Mission Possible: How the Secrets of the Success Academies Can Work in Any School.”

Tony Lewis, executive director of the Denver-based Donnell-Kay Foundation, introduced Moskowitz as “a rock star” of education reform and “a force of nature.”

During a rapid-fire talk to a crowd of about 80 at downtown Denver’s Space Gallery, Moskowitz argued that education reform is vital to the nation’s future.

“This country will not have a fighting chance … unless we address the crisis in American public education,” she said.

Urging a fast pace of reform, she said, “Our schools aren’t going to have a fighting chance unless we reform more quickly.”

She also said, “The kids are the easiest part of the equation” in improving schools. Getting “the grownups” to improve is the challenge.

Moskowitz is a former New York city council member and has been mentioned as a future mayoral candidate. She has been a high-profile and sometimes polarizing figure in New York education circles, and one of her charters was featured in the 2010 film “The Lottery.”

The Denver event, hosted by Donnell-Kay and other education advocacy groups, also included brief remarks by Alex Hernandez, partner and vice president of the Charter School Growth Fund, and Bill Kurtz, CEO of DSST Public Schools.

Teachers want the role of unions to change, survey says


By Sarah Butrymowicz

Critics have portrayed teachers unions as impediments to reform efforts around the country because they have fought against changes such as pay-for-performance and the abolition of tenure. But stories of unions working with school district officials to craft new teacher quality initiatives are slowly becoming more common. And, according to a new study that surveyed more than 1.000 teachers, that’s exactly what a growing number of teachers think unions should be doing.

“Trending Toward Reform: Teachers Speak on Unions and the Future of the Profession,” released Tuesday by Education Sector, a nonprofit education think tank located in Washington, D.C., reveals that teachers are more likely to think unions should help with and even lead reform efforts than they were five years ago.

In 2007, 32 percent of teachers said that unions should focus more on improving teacher quality. In 2011, that number was 43 percent. Just 14 percent of teachers thought that union involvement would be an obstacle in reform efforts while 62 percent said unions could be “helpful partners in improving schools.”

Yet, when it came down to the specifics of how the teaching profession should be improved, teachers didn’t necessarily agree with many of the in-vogue education trends, such as merit pay, overhauling teacher evaluations to include student test scores and eliminating tenure.

For instance, only a third of teachers are in favor of rewarding those whose students get high test scores. Forty-six percent liked the idea of giving more money to teachers whose students make more academic progress than other similar students, which is similar to how many merit pay programs across the country are structured.

Far more teachers were in favor of raising the salaries of teachers who work in low-performing schools (83 percent) or who teach in hard-to-fill subject areas like math or science (58 percent). In other words, teachers are likely to support differentiated pay, but in the areas where they have the most control, said Sarah Rosenberg, a co-author of the study.

Few teachers are happy with the idea of eliminating tenure altogether, which traditionally is earned after a certain number of years in the profession and provides a degree of job protection. Critics argue tenure policies make it nearly impossible to fire poor teachers. While teachers agree that tenure shouldn’t protect bad teachers, only a third would be willing to trade it for a $5.000 bonus, according to the survey.

Still, a growing number of teachers believe that unions should play a role in making it easier to fire ineffective teachers. “Teachers pay the greatest price for incompetent teachers,” one teacher wrote in response to the survey. “Year after year, [other teachers] pick up the slack.”

Play Time Contributes to Success of Success Academy


By Megan Rosker

As a parent of three school-age children living in New York City it is hard to avoid all the talk about the success of Success Academy. Success Academy is a New York City-based free charter school with some of the highest test scores in the state of New York. As they state on their site, “Our schools are founded on a simple premise: Every child can achieve success when they have access to a high-quality, free public education.”

Here in the city, parents chatter about the difficult admissions process and the slim chance of getting in. I have been to orientation meetings where parents cried because their children were on the waiting list. For those living outside New York City, one may wonder what all the fuss is about. As a parent and former teacher as well as play and education advocate, all I can say is, the schools work. As soon as you enter the doors, one senses there is something different. Teachers are on their toes, politely and efficiently directing where you need to go. All are well dressed, well informed and carry themselves with an absolute commitment to providing the best possible education for students in attendance of one of the 14 Success Academies in New York City. This isn’t to say one couldn’t find this kind of enthusiasm in a different kind of school, but it’s rare. Personally, there are only two times I have ever seen it: as a teacher and staff member for Teach for America and walking through the doors of a Success Academy school.

Even with proof of how well her students perform, Eva Moskowitz, founder of Success Academy, has had ongoing opposition to their existence. While the media likes to run story after story about the drama of Success Academy’s legal battles, quietly, day after day, in well-maintained and orderly classrooms, kids are learning. That is the story I would like to share.Recently I had the pleasure of speaking to Ms. Moskowitz about her schools and specifically about the inspiration she instills in her staff and students, as well as her strong belief in the power of play. Yes, this stern, dedicated educator is a huge play advocate. In a time when more and more schools are cutting recess and free play as something frivolous and unnecessary, Ms. Moskowitz believes that play time is as important as math, reading science and social studies. In other words, if a child isn’t receiving play time, then we are not educating the whole child.

Students at SA receive recess all the way through eighth grade and in kindergarten twice a day. They also have a block room in which they play imaginatively for fifteen minutes. Students learn chess, play Monopoly and Ms. Moskowitz promotes kids playing with Hot Wheels. Each school as a minimum of one creative learning class, like art or music. More of these classes are added as the school grows. Children participate in sports and P.E. as well.

Rain, snow, cold or warm weather children at SA schools go outside to play. Ms. Moskowitz said there is very little indoor recess for students, even in NYC in the winter. She encourages her staff to bundle up the kids, put on ponchos and rain boots and head outside. As she sees it, most often it is the adults who complain about the weather, not the children. Teachers at SA believe splashing in puddles is valuable learning time too and there is much to be gained about leadership and social skills on the playground. “Games and play are not a waste of time,” she says. “Kids learn valuable skills in conflict resolution during this time.”

Did I mention that SA has some of the best test scores in the state of New York? I think I did. I don’t think this is an accident. Yes, students at SA work hard, much is expected of them. SA staff members don’t believe in limiting what a child should learn based on the assumptions of adults. Instead SA starts from an empirical point of view, meaning they base their unit planning on their firsthand experience of what they know works in the classroom. Because of the rigorous academics, paired with the belief that children need to play and learn through sports and games, kids are succeeding far beyond their peers from similar socio-economic backgrounds and schools.

What SA demands of students and parents is nothing short of excellence, but what we must also keep in mind is that what we now consider excellence, is what in the past was considered the norm. Students of SA must get up early to make to school at 7:45 a.m.. They don’t get out of school until 4pm. In our culture that errs on the side of coddling children, this seems too long, abusive some might say, but how are our schools supposed to fit in rigorous academics, play time and the arts and still get out by 2pm? Our kids can do more. In past generations it was expected of them. Now we feel that what Ms. Moskowitz has created is radical.

Excellence is a word we rarely say in education these days. We criticize, we demoralize, but seldom do we talk about the excellence that we should expect from students. “We have completely underestimated students. There is a total lack of rigor,” said Moskowitz . The mediocrity that prevails in modern education is a huge problem, she believes. I can’t say that I disagree.

Modern education needs to take on the motto “Work Hard, Play Hard.” This embodies the kind of rigor and excellence that is demanded of students in the twenty-first century. It is only with this kind of dedication to both academics and play, that we will rise again to lead our nation and the world in providing quality public education. Ms. Moskowitz provides a powerful example of how the marriage of play and academics benefits our children. How will we begin to restore this balance to schools across our country? How will you take action in your own community to push our children to become strong, successful innovative leaders and thinkers?

2 strikes and you’re out for bad teachers


By Yoav Gonen

Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced yesterday he’s taking a harder line against a sliver of poorly performing teachers by automatically pulling those with two consecutive years of low ratings from the classroom — and seeking to fire them.

The decision to try to boot incompetent teachers had typically been left up to principals.

Walcott also said he’s going to ensure that no elementary-school kid gets stuck with a poorly rated teacher for two straight years, starting this fall.

For example, a student who was taught by a low-rated educator in second grade would have to be assigned a well-rated teacher in third grade.

“If we truly believe that every student deserves a great teacher, then we can’t accept a system where a student suffers with a poor-performing one for two straight years,” Walcott said at an Association for a Better New York breakfast in Midtown.

The initiatives actually cover a very small percentage of educators.

Only 104 teachers currently in classrooms have been rated poorly for incompetent instruction for two straight years, according to the Department of Education.

And just 217 elementary- school teachers were hit with so-called U ratings last year — meaning the likelihood that a student would be assigned to two of their classrooms in consecutive years is close to zero.

United Federation of Teachers officials noted that the DOE has had the power to make these changes without union input for years.

“If all you want to do is give speeches about political rhetoric, about how you’re going to go after the worst teachers . . . you’re not going to fix our school system,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew.

The city’s move was prompted by concerns over whether a new teacher-evaluation system — which factors in student performance on state exams — would be implemented in time for the coming school year.

The more stringent rating system requires a deal between the union and the city, which have been at each other’s throat for months.

Despite using the common refrain that he was an “eternal optimist,” Walcott repeatedly painted the union as an obstacle to an agreement.

The union countered that it had been compelled to ask a state panel to force the city to the negotiating table on a new evaluation system at just a small subset of schools.

Walcott also announced yesterday that the city would offer buyouts to hundreds of teachers who don’t have permanent school assignments but who earn full pay as day-to-day substitutes. These are typically teachers who are cut from closing schools or shrinking programs.

If the incentives were offered today, 475 of the 831 teachers in the substitute pool would be eligible because they have been unassigned for at least a year, according to the DOE.

The union says it’s been expressing interest for years in the buyouts — which could top $20.000 for veteran teachers.

In New Book, Success Academy Operator Promotes Charter Schools and Offers Advice


By Kyle Spencer

Eva Moskowitz, the charter chain operator, has been planting schools in New York City at a breakneck pace, with five expected to open in August.

But that hasn’t kept Ms. Moskowitz, a well-known workaholic, from taking on another job: that of author.

Ms. Moskowitz’s book, “Mission Possible: How the Secrets of the Success Academies Can Work in Any School,” which she wrote with Arin Lavinia, a former public school teacher and the literacy coach for the Success Academy Charter schools, will be released June 26. The publisher is Jossey-Bass, an imprint of Wiley.

The slender book – Ms. Moskowitz’s second – is part polemic on school choice, with Ms. Moskowitz and Ms. Lavinia extolling the virtues of competition as a means of improving the nation’s failing public schools.

It is part how-to guide, with the authors offering specific teacher-training tips and information about the Success Academy literacy
program, THINK literacy, and including the tenets of what Ms. Moskowitz terms “joyful rigor.”

But the book also provides personal tidbits interesting to anyone who has followed Ms. Moskowitz¹s career from college professor to city
councilwoman to operator of a chain of nine schools.

In it, Ms. Moskowitz says she was well-trained in math and science at the New York City public high school she attended – Stuyvesant – but did not graduate with stellar writing skills. She tells the story of writing her first paper at the University of Pennsylvania and receiving a D.

She was directed to the university’s writing center, where she spent countless hours during her four years there toiling over papers for various classes. “It was an uphill battle,” she wrote. “But I worked incredibly hard on it and came out the other end knowing how to write.”

News of the book release has sent frissons through the education blogosphere, with fans posting invitations to a Washington book launch at
the end of the month. It is being hosted, in part, by a pro-charter advocacy group, Democrats for Education Reform.

Online critics have insisted that Ms. Moskowitz is having the book signing there because her hometown is filled with detractors.

Jenny Sedlis, a Success Academy spokeswoman, said Ms. Moskowitz was also holding a private book launch at a supporter’s apartment in New York City.

Asked about the writing of the book, Ms. Moskowitz said in a telephone interview that the process was “a lot of fun.”

She said the book was not directed just at charter operators, but at any educator who wants to improve a school.

Ms. Moskowitz is said to be considering running for mayor next year.

Kyle Spencer is a freelancer writer in New York City.

Charter Schools Prepare for a New Regime at City Hall


By Kyle Spencer

Seeking to convince mayoral candidates, months before the 2013 election, to take a stand in support of the growth of charter schools — a hallmark of the Bloomberg administration — charter advocates and students gathered on Wednesday in front of City Hall, for a spirited, after-school rally.

Students from 80 different charter schools nibbled on popcorn and played with colorful balloons, while parents and charter operators — many wearing purple Parents for Progress t-shirts — implored candidates to hear them out.

“Mayoral candidates, we are here and we vote,” Kathleen Kernizan, the mother of two students in the Uncommon Schools chain, boomed. “Do not ignore us.”

Some told the crowd of several thousands that they were scared that once Mayor Michael Bloomberg leaves office, there will be no one to champion their 130-plus schools and ensure that new ones continue to open.

Others told stories of having to lie to get their children into decent schools in other neighborhoods before charters opened in their own. And still others said that before charters their children had been unable to “escape” attending failing schools.

Charter operators who helped organize the event said parents were rallying to ensure that public school buildings remain open to charter school operators and that new ones continue to open around the city.

Natasha Shannon, 34, the mother of two girls, a third and a fifth grader at Harlem Success 1, said she was there to tell to candidates that she was a voice to be reckoned with.

“I will vote for the candidate who supports my right to choose,” she said. “I am a taxpayer and I want the right to be able to choose the best school for my children.”

She said she was concerned that candidates had so far been reluctant to come out in full support of charters because of their concern that by doing so they might alienate other voters.

Indeed with less than a year to go before the election, the city’s mayoral candidates have made few public comments about the future of charter schools, which are beloved by some parents, particularly ones who have seen them as an attractive option to low-performing neighborhood schools. Charter schools are opposed by some parents of children in traditional public schools who believe they take resources from their schools and resent that their schools have been forced to share sometimes cramped buildings with them.

Representatives from the United Federation of Teachers, which has over 200.000 members, some of them retired, have also fought the rapid growth of charters. And they, too, have jumped into the race in recent months, making it clear that they intend to use their considerable political might to elect a mayoral ally.

Not surprisingly, this is of concern to charter advocates who have enjoyed a tight-knit relationship with Mayor Bloomberg and former Chancellor of Schools Joel Klein, who helped to launch The New York City Charter School Center, an eight-year-old non-profit that both raises money for and disseminates information about charters.

They also fought in 2010 in Albany to raise the city’s charter cap to 214, despite the union’s attempt to thwart them.

On Wednesday, UFT president Michael Mulgrew denounced organizers, particularly charter operator Eva Moskowitz, who runs the city’s largest chain of schools, for “using parents” to push forward political goals and to give off the impression that more parents supported charters than really did. Most parents, he said, “are looking forward to a day when education in New York City works for all students,” he said.

Ms. Moskowitz, the CEO of the Success Academy network, has long pointed to waiting lists for her nine schools as an indicator that her schools — and charters in general — are popular choices for parents.

Candidate Tom Allon, a former English teacher at Stuyvesant High School, said charter schools are not incompatible with traditional public schools. “But charter schools are not a replacement,” he said.

In an email, Mayoral hopeful Christine C. Quinn, City Council Speaker and the leading candidate said she did not oppose charters either. “They play a positive and important role in our school system and have become a critical choice for tens of thousands of families who feel that the system has failed them,” she wrote.

But she said the city needed to focus on all its 1,1 million children, not just the ones in charter schools.

Kyle Spencer is a freelancer writer in New York City

  • ¡Manténgase en contacto!

    Futuros padres: Si su hijo ingresará a un grado entre Kinder y 4.º grado durante el año escolar 2018-19, regístrese a continuación para recibir más información acerca de Success Academies en su vecindario.

  • Registrarse

    Futuros padres: Regístrese a continuación para que se le notifique cuando se encuentre disponible la solicitud para el año escolar 2017-18 y para recibir más información sobre las Success Academy Charter Schools.