Tell the DOE to support Opportunity Charter School and keep the middle school open.
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The New York City Department of Education should support Opportunity Charter School (OCS) and the work it does to successfully address the needs of at-risk children and students with disabilities. Instead, the DOE wants to close the OCS middle school and deny families and their children access to a quality education that OCS has provided for 13 years.
The DOE is still putting politics over the needs of families and their children. Despite the fact that Opportunity Charter School (OCS) submitted a multitude of strong, validated, value-added evidence of academic success, the DOE chose to ignore this information and denied OCS’s request to become a charter school dedicated to exclusively serving the needs of students with learning disabilities, AND also denied OCS’s request to reach students earlier in their developmental stages by adding grades K - 5.
Since 2004, OCS’s mission has been to help the most-disadvantaged youth from across the city gain access to a quality education (Grades 6 – 12) and provide the emotional and social support they need to succeed in all aspects of life. To help fulfill our mission, OCS has been a partner with The Children’s Aid Society Carrera Program for nearly a decade. Together, we have done tremendous work helping students succeed inside and outside of the classroom by offering a wide range of support services, and were recently featured on the front page of the Detroit Free Press in recognition of our excellent work.
Currently, 54% of our students have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), 98% are black or Hispanic, and 89% come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. No other charter or traditional public school in New York City has dedicated itself to serving such a unique student population. In 2015-16, just 6% of incoming 6th grade students at OCS performed at proficiency for their grade, and nearly two-thirds performed at Level 1 in ELA. Despite these challenges, the OCS middle school met the DOE Quality Report Target for average student proficiency in ELA. Additionally, OCS’s 4- and 6-year graduation rates for the city’s lowest third of academic performers AND students with disabilities regularly outperform its local school district and the city. And most OCS graduates go on to attend a two- or four-year college.
OCS is an independently-operated public charter school with the experience and ability to serve even more students with disabilities, and expand to become a K -12 charter school. We believe reaching students earlier in their developmental stages will help them to significantly increase their chances at having both academic and individual success in life.
Unlike most in the academic community that have concluded that student growth measures, and not proficiency scores, are the best measures of a school’s impact on student performance, the DOE chose to ignore this fact and single out our “proficiency” scores to mislead the public into believing we are a poor performing school. When in fact,
In 2014-15, for effectively impacting student academic performance, the OCS high school performed in the…
- 76th Percentile of New York City Charter Schools (8th of 30)
- 76th Percentile of DOE-Authorized Charter Schools (5th of 13)
- 86th Percentile of ALL NYCDOE High Schools (60th of 437)
In 2015-16, for effectively impacting student academic performance, the OCS high school performed in the. . .
- 75th Percentile of New York City Charter Schools (9th of 33)
- 75th Percentile of DOE-Authorized Charter Schools (4th of 12)
- 79th Percentile of ALL NYCDOE High Schools (92nd of 440)
Additionally, OCS has…
- Increased average ELA exam scores from 2013-14 to 2015-16;
- Increased regents passing rates on the majority of Regents exams for each charter year;
- Exceeded the DOE comparison group post-secondary enrollment rates from 2012-13 to 2014-15.
The list of our achievements is long but the DOE chose to ignore these facts. OCS is an academic success and we deserve a full five-year renewal, and the opportunity to give families of students with disabilities early access to a quality education.
Tell the DOE you support OCS, and put the needs of children first.
- Letitia James
- NYC Department of Education
Chancellor Carmen Fariña
- NYS Board of Regents
Chancellor Betty Rosa
We, the undersigned, call on you to ensure that all families and their children have access to a quality education. As such, we request that you work to prevent the closure of Opportunity Charter School’s Middle School in Harlem. Allowing the New York City Department of Education to close OCS’s middle school will leave hundreds of at-risk students and their families without the comprehensive special education and clinical services they require, and that they currently receive at OCS.
It is critically important that OCS’s middle school remain open. OCS is the only charter school in New York City where more than 50% of the school’s student population has moderate to severe learning disabilities and a wide range of complex social and emotional challenges. OCS has a proven track record of successfully helping these students overcome their challenges, and preparing them for college or the workforce after completing high school.
Parents choose to send their children to OCS as a refuge from traditional New York City public schools where their children struggled academically, and suffered emotionally from constant abuses from peers because they were thought of as being different.
While other schools across the city struggle to attract and enroll new students, the waitlist for prospective OCS students currently stands at more than 4,000. This is perhaps because parents know that OCS provides a comprehensive set of clinical programs and services administered by a team of learning specialists, counselors, and social workers who work collaboratively with parents to meet the individual needs of their students. And OCS’s partnership with The Children’s Aid Society gives parents a community-school unlike any other where their children receive round-the-clock care, and feel like a member of a close-knit family.
The DOE’s decision to close down the middle school at OCS comes at a time when the school is showing some of its most impressive academic performance results. Even as nearly two-thirds of the school’s incoming sixth graders score at the lowest level on state tests, from 2013-14 to 2015-16, students’ average ELA exam scores increased in each school year. And students enrolled at OCS since middle school have matched or outperformed the graduation rates of similar students in NYC for three of the last four graduation cohorts. When other pathways to high school completion are taken into account, these same students outperform the high school completion rates for similar NYC students in all of the last four graduation cohorts.
Additionally, in 2015, OCS’s 70% graduation rate fell just one point shy of New York City’s, and the school is projecting a graduation rate that tops 80% for this year’s graduating class. OCS guarantees that its graduates will go to college or find in-demand jobs. OCS’s success at positively impacting the lives of students who were failed by traditional public schools is undeniable.
We know that you face many pressing issues, but nothing is more important than ensuring that all families can give their children the quality education they deserve. OCS provides such an education and the middle school should be renewed so that it can continue to serve families and their children.
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