Media Coverage

Crain’s New York Business: Bringing Charter Innovations To Traditional Schools

The charter school revolution of the last few decades has transformed the conversation about education reform in America’s large cities, including New York. Data suggests that simply organizing a school through a charter agreement does not guarantee greater student achievement. But some charter schools have used their flexibility to test innovations that seem to make a measurable difference.

8719556047_0705f56835_bAnd as Citizen Schools’ New York Executive Director Kathrine Mott writes in an op-ed in Crain’s New York Business, the public school system overall should look to what high-performing charters have done in deciding what resources to invest in.

One such variable is the length of the school day.

“Charter schools and traditional public schools alike have implemented this approach in New York City,” she writes. “We are already seeing evidence that this can improve academic outcomes.”

With the right investment from policy makers, public schools can implement the innovations that work. Schools that have formed partnerships with non-profits like Citizen Schools, for instance, have been able to extend their learning time by several hours each day, and–more importantly–enable students to improve at rates comparable to the highest performing charter schools.

“There is a heated debate in New York City about how public resources are allotted to charter schools,” she writes. “Regardless of where one stands on this issue, we can find common ground when it comes to bringing some of the innovative aspects of charter schools into the city’s public schools. A good place to start is with a longer school day.”

Read the full op-ed, A Charter Lesson To Lift Public Schools, at Crain’s New York.

Nine-Hour School Day is the Norm, and a National Model, at Oakland Middle School

In Susan Frey’s recent article on EdSource, also picked up by the Oakland Tribune, Contra Costa Times, and The Hechinger Report, Citizen Schools’ Expanded Learning Time (ELT) partnership with a middle school in Oakland, CA, is highlighted as a model that works.

Elmhurst Community Prep’s principal, Kilian Betlach, describes his vision to close the opportunity gap for low-income students by bringing a variety of experiences to life. Partnering with Citizen Schools is a powerful alternative to traditional after-school programs, he says, because it allows him to create an integrated longer school day filled with academic support and enrichment like apprenticeships:

Rodzhaney Sledge, dressed in the light-blue school uniform, is new to the school as a 6th grader, but she already understands how the after-school part of the program supports her academic work. For example, she took a class called Tools for Peace, where she learned to meditate. Meditation, she said, has helped calm her so she can focus on academics. She also appreciates the help with her homework she receives for at least an hour each day.

 

“I don’t understand the students who have problems staying after school until 5 p.m.,” she said. “You can do your homework and don’t have to do it when you get home. You’re free.”

 

Betlach and community partners – primarily Citizen Schools, a national nonprofit that focuses on providing quality expanded learning programs for middle school students in low-income communities – have cobbled together federal, state, local and private funding to support the unique program…

 

What makes the expanded school day economically possible is the school’s reliance on AmeriCorps teaching fellows like [Ashur] Bratt. The fellows are funded by the federal government and receive special training from Citizen Schools staff on how to teach in an urban environment. They are involved in both the academic morning program and the after-school classes from 2 to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, helping to provide a seamless transition for students. The schedule also allows the regular academic teachers an hour each afternoon, from 2 to 3 p.m., to work collaboratively and plan.

 

In exchange, the AmeriCorps fellows will have earned their intern teaching credential at the end of their two years at Elmhurst.

 

Edgard Vidrio, a sixth grade history teacher who joined the Elmhurst staff this year, said he appreciates the variety of opportunities the program is offering his students…Vidrio says the young, dynamic AmeriCorps teachers develop deep relationships with their students. If a student in his class is upset, he or she will often ask to talk to one of the teaching fellows, Vidrio said…

 

AmeriCorps teaching fellow Jeannette Aames, who is finishing her second year and hopes to teach high school math in Oakland Unified in the fall, said teaching a math intervention class was her most rewarding experience at Elmhurst. The class of three girls and nine “rowdy boys” could not grasp the concept of negative numbers.

 

“Direct instruction didn’t work with them,” Aames said, requiring her to develop more hands-on approaches to teach the concept…

 

The students also get opportunities through Citizen Schools to participate in apprenticeships with “citizen teachers,” any adult from the broader Bay Area community who has a passion, such as robotics or radio reporting, to share with the students. The citizen teachers receive basic training on how to teach from Citizen Schools staff before they begin the after-school class.

 

The citizen teacher is partnered with an AmeriCorps fellow who assists the teacher with handling classroom management. At the end of the apprenticeship, the students make a presentation (called a “WOW!”) to their parents and business and community leaders, showcasing what they have learned.

 

In addition, local companies invite students to their offices for apprenticeship experiences. At Pandora, students learned how to make an app.

 

“It was a video game where you dodge fireballs,” Betlach recalled.

 

The positive school culture that Frey captures is the result not of a miracle education reform formula, but of a committed collaboration of human beings, caring and working really hard.  The students, AmeriCorps Teaching Fellows, and teachers whose voices fill the story bring that to life better than most research briefs and infographics. We’re proud every day to serve alongside Principal Betlach, Mr. Vidrio, and the rest of the ECP community, meditating, dodging fireballs, and dreaming big!

Apply to the AmeriCorps Teaching Fellowship today and you can join next year’s team at ECP!

Read the full article on EdSourceOakland Tribune, Contra Costa Times, or The Hechinger Report.

Huffington Post: US2020 STEM Mentoring Effort Gathers Momentum

Reposted from the Huffington Post: Impact– US2020 STEM Mentoring Effort Gathers Momentum. By Eric Schwarz, CEO and Co-Founder of Citizen Schools, and Executive Chairman of US2020. Posted on November 12, 2013.

US2020 STEM Mentoring Effort Gathers Momentum

The call was answered. Last month 52 cities self-organized to compete in a nation-wide competition designed to address one of our nation’s great challenges. I am honored today to announce the finalists of the US2020 STEM Mentoring City Competition.

Read more…

Boston Globe: Key lessons on expanding the school day

Boston Globe

October 8, 2013

In an opinion piece co-authored by Pat Kirby, Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Citizen Schools, and five principals of Citizen Schools’ partner middle schools, describes the lessons learned from expanding the learning day in Boston.

Key lessons on expanding the school day

“Expanded Learning Time has been touted as a key lever for school improvement in the Boston mayoral campaign. As a network of middle schools partnering with the nonprofit Citizen Schools, we have first-hand experience navigating the complexities and opportunities of expanding the school day for Boston Public School students.

Together, we are partnering to build better school communities with increased family involvement and the resources necessary to close educational gaps. We leverage Citizen Schools’ “second shift” of AmeriCorps Teaching Fellows and volunteers to compliment a swing shift of Boston Teachers Union teachers. Together, we aligned to improve our student’s academic performance and engagement while building greater teacher collaboration.” Continue reading.

 

NBC Education Nation: “Citizen Schools” showing success

NBC Education Nation

October 4, 2013

“Citizen Schools” Showing Success

Citizen Schools was featured on NBC’s national Education Nation series on Friday, October 4th showcasing the work and success of Citizen Schools. The segment includes interviews with Citizen Schools North Carolina Executive Director, Jake House, and Advisory Board Chair and long-time Citizen Teacher, John Gilson. Watch the video.