Monday, January 31, 2011

On Upper West Side, Hurdles for Charter School

I was expecting a hatchet job, but this cover story in last week's NYT about the Success Charter Network opening a new school on the Upper West Side was surprisingly balanced:

The school intends to open with 188 spots in kindergarten and first grade, eventually growing to about 480 students through the fifth grade. There are already 600 applicants for the fall, so seats will be distributed through a lottery. Priority will go to children zoned for District 3 schools that received a D or F on the student-performance portion of their report cards — a criterion that applies to all but 4 of the district's 11 elementary schools. The highest number of applicants have come from the zone of Public School 75, one of the priority schools, followed by the P.S. 199 zone. The applications do not ask about race or ethnicity.

Ms. Moskowitz, a type-A-plus personality whose schools score well on standardized tests — one was featured in the documentary "Waiting for Superman" — said "our vision is for a neighborhood school serving families on the Upper West Side." Posters promoting the school line bus stops along Amsterdam Avenue and Broadway, and some people say they have gotten more than 10 fliers in the mail, several proclaiming the charter school as "the public-school solution to private-school tuition."

"Why is it that people who can't afford it have to send their kids to a bad school, if that's what they're zoned for?" said Bianca Strul, 35, who hosted the party at her apartment, in a building with a gym, playroom and private theater, and where the cost of apartments average $1,300 a square foot.

Ms. Strul, a freelance television producer, is zoned for Public School 163, which got a C in its report card and yet is so crowded that, for 10 years, two kindergarten classes have been held in trailers behind the school. Her daughter, Zoe, is 2 and will enter kindergarten in 2013.

For Jose Santiago, 44, an information technology director at Columbia University, the situation is more urgent. His son, Quinn, who is 4, is set to enter kindergarten in the fall, and Mr. Santiago said he did not want him to go to the school he is zoned for, Public School 165, where 69 percent of students failed English tests last year, placing the school in the bottom-25th percentile citywide.

"My wife and I researched it — the test scores, the extra-curricular activities — and it isn't really ideal," he said. "We can't afford $30,000 a year for private school, so we're really nervous about what's going to happen. We're looking at all our options."


On Upper West Side, Hurdles for Charter School

Published: January 21, 2011

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