Content-rich curriculum drives achievement at Icahn Charter School
Charles Sahm with an excellent article on the Icahn Charter Schools in NYC, led by Jeff Litt, which should get much more attention than they do, as they're doing great work:
In the 1980s, billionaire financier Carl Icahn and his wife, Gail, opened Icahn House, a large transitional-housing facility in the South Bronx, then and now the country's poorest congressional district. "Through our work at Icahn House, it became clear that you can't break cycles of poverty if kids don't get a high-quality education," Gail Icahn says. "As soon as Governor Pataki got the charter law through, we decided to open a school."
Fliegel introduced Litt to the Icahns, and Litt helped write the charter application. In 2001, the Icahns asked him to be principal of the new school and gave him great freedom in designing it. Litt again used the Core Knowledge curriculum, and he hired the best teachers he knew. A modular-construction company built the school on land the Icahns had purchased across from their housing facility. "The school came over the George Washington Bridge on twenty-two tractor-trailers," Litt recalls. In September 2001, the school opened as one of the first charters in New York State.
By 2004, Icahn 4th graders were posting higher test scores than students in any other school in the Bronx, save for a couple in the affluent Riverdale section. In 2006, the network joined with the nonprofit Civic Builders to construct a 125,000-square-foot building in the Mott Haven neighborhood of the Bronx to house Icahn 2 as well as a district school. Over the next several years, the Icahn network expanded to a total of seven schools. Typically, Icahn charters open as K–2 schools and add a grade each year as students move up. Icahn 1 through 4 are now full K–8 schools, and the other three are expected to follow suit within a few years.