View Full Version : All NYC Message From an NYC Charter School: Thrive or Transfer

07-10-2011, 09:10 PM
From the N.Y. Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/11/nyregion/charter-school-sends-message-thrive-or-transfer.html) by Michael Winerip:
In 2008, when Katherine Sprowal’s son, Matthew, was selected in a lottery to attend the Harlem Success Academy 3 (http://www.harlemsuccess.org/about/who-we-are/) charter school, she was thrilled. “I felt like we were getting the best private school, and we didn’t have to pay for it,” she recalled.

Matthew is bright but can be disruptive and easily distracted. It was not a natural fit for the Success charters, which are known for discipline and long school days. From Day 1 of kindergarten, Ms. Sprowal said, he was punished for acting out.

Several times, she was called to pick him up early, she said, and in his third week he was suspended three days for bothering other children.

In Matthew’s three years of preschool, Ms. Sprowal said, he had never missed time for behavior problems. “After only 12 days in your school,” she wrote the principal, “you have assessed and concluded that our son is defective and will not meet your school criteria.”

Five days later, Ms. Sprowal got an e-mail from Ms. Moskowitz that she took as a veiled message to leave.

The next week, the school psychologist evaluated Matthew and concluded he would be better suited elsewhere: “He may need a smaller classroom than his current school has available.”

By then, Matthew was throwing up most mornings and asking his mother if he was going to be fired from school. Worn down, Ms. Sprowal requested help finding her son another school, and Success officials were delighted to refer him to Public School 75 on the Upper West Side.

At that point, Ms. Sprowal had come to believe her son was so difficult that she was lucky anyone would take him. She wrote several e-mails thanking Ms. Moskowitz, saying she hoped that Matthew would someday be well-behaved enough to return to her “phenomenal” school.

Three years later, looking back, Ms. Sprowal said she felt her son had been done an injustice. Matthew, who has had a diagnosis of an attention disorder, has thrived at P.S. 75. His second-grade teachers, Johanny Lopez and Chanté Martindale, have taught him many ways to calm himself, including stepping into the hallway for an exercise break. His report card last month was all 3s and 4s, the top marks; the teachers commented, “Matthew is a sweet boy who is a joy to have in the classroom.”

Matthew’s story raises perhaps the most critical question in the debate about charter schools: do they cherry-pick students, if not by gaming the admissions process, then by counseling out children who might be more expensive or difficult to educate — and who could bring down their test scores, graduation rates and safety records?

read more>> (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/11/nyregion/charter-school-sends-message-thrive-or-transfer.html)

07-12-2011, 10:19 AM
Katherine Sprowal shares more of her story with NYC Public School Parents blog (http://nycpublicschoolparents.blogspot.com/2011/07/my-special-child-pushed-out-of.html):
This is a mother’s personal story about having child with different needs “counseled out” of a NYC charter school. It’s also testimony of how inclusion, a smaller class size, and the supportive attitude of a great public school made an astounding difference in my son’s life. My name is Katherine Sprowal and I’m the mother of a delightfully spirited and rambunctious son whose name is Matthew. Like most children his age, he’s a vision of pure joy and enthusiasm: often bursting with energy to play all day, every day!

We live in the Washington Heights area of Manhattan. Back in 2008, both of our zoned schools were listed as “failing.” About a year prior to Matthew entering Kindergarten, we embarked upon a journey of securing an elementary school placement for him. I began my search with help from Early Steps, an organization that assist minority parents through the private schools admission and application process. As suggested we applied to about ten different private schools. To my dismay, Matthew was not accepted to any of the schools and was placed on the wait list for only two of them.

My neighborhood was saturated with mailings, bus ads and pamphlets about Harlem Success Academy. I applied just in time for her lottery deadline. Matthew won the lottery and was accepted to Harlem Success Academy #4. We learned of this news with great fanfare at the lottery drawing event held at the Armory on 142nd street. This lottery received huge attention; both then-Gov. Paterson and much of the media were there. I ran into Eva at the event and she remembered us, we embraced in a hug and she shared in our pleasure from Matthew’s win.

Shortly after this, we attended a mandated orientation and signed all required contract agreements, which included provisions stating that that parents had to respond within 24 hours to any request from the school, they had to purchase costly school uniforms, and children had to complete summer homework assignments. At the meeting, Eva also told us that because all the local elected officials were against charter schools, parents would be expected to attend hearings in support of the school.

Matthew and I couldn’t wait for the first day of school. One day prior, we were given a choice to attend Harlem Success Academy #3 as another Kindergarten class was being added, so it would be a smaller class size. So we changed schools to HSA#3. On August 28, 2008, Matthew attended his first day of school, gleaming with excitement. Yet on the very first day, he was held back in detention for not walking through the halls in an orderly manner. I thought this was a bit harsh for a five year old, but understood that self-discipline was a major part of HSA model.

I noticed that the HSA school staff and children didn’t seem to laugh or smile much. I couldn’t help notice there were none of the typical sounds of laughter one would expect to hear in an elementary school. The atmosphere appeared sterile, militaristic and robotic, as the children walked the halls in silence. There were many other things that raised an eyebrow and gnawed at my gut as “not right,” but I quickly dismissed them because “We won the HSA lottery.” I was reassured that the physical appearance of the school and academic mode seemed to resemble a few of the prestigious private schools we had previously visited. Additionally, Eva and other faculty enrolled their own children along with Matthew. I was certain all my concerns had reasonable explanations and my questions would be answered by Eva directly or by the PTA at a later time.

Unfortunately, I would soon learn there were no HSA PTA and no meetings with parents at the co-located school. It became clear that parental input was not welcome, supported or encouraged in any meaningful manner. I would later observe students at the existing school taunting and teasing the HSA students whenever they briefly crossed paths. How could they not target the HSA students to express their opposition to the “separate and unequal” practices they internalized and witnessed daily?

read more>> (http://nycpublicschoolparents.blogspot.com/2011/07/my-special-child-pushed-out-of.html)