‘Diverse Charter School’ is Not an Oxymoron

‘Diverse Charter School’ Is Not An Oxymoron

by Sara Berman

Ten years ago, when we applied for permission to establish the city’s first Hebrew-language public charter school in Brooklyn’s District 22, representatives from the Department of Education questioned us about who exactly would patronize our proposed school. The DOE worried that only Jewish families would send their children to a school in which Modern Hebrew (instead of Spanish or Mandarin or French) was the second language of instruction. We were convinced otherwise.

“We want a diverse school,” I replied, imagining parents from all over this Brooklyn district vying for a spot at our rigorous yet nurturing school. “We want all families in District 22 to know that this is a school for their children,” District 22 is one of the most diverse districts in the city: Residents speak Spanish, Creole, Russian or Urdu, among other languages; some people enjoy the comforts of middle class or face profound poverty; some families have lived in America for generations, and others have just arrived on our shores. Our student body reflects that diversity: Forty-six percent of students are children of color; 61% come from economically disadvantaged households and about one-in-five have special needs.

But we were after something different. Decades of research (including data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, the Program for International Student Assessment, and studies by Richard Kahlenberg and Gregory Palardy, among others) show that one of the best ways to improve academic and life outcomes for children in poverty is for them to attend economically diverse schools. They also show that middle-class students in economically diverse schools do just as well as they do in schools that are more homogenous. Another area of research shows the lifelong benefits of learning alongside children from different racial, cultural and linguistic backgrounds. And yet another shows the benefits of cognition from learning another language (these are well summarized by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages).

What we did with our first school, Brooklyn’s Hebrew Language Academy, what we continue to do with our school in Harlem, which opened in 2013, and what we will do with our soon-to-be-launched school in Coney Island is create “diverse-by-design” environments that draw on all the aforementioned types of diversity.

We link student diversity to the study of Modern Hebrew, to the diversity of Israel and to concepts of local, national and global citizenship.

More than 60 years after the Brown v. Board of Education decision outlawed legal segregation, too many of our public schools remain stubbornly segregated. Efforts by New York City to change attendance zones to reduce segregation have hit local political roadblocks. Too many neighborhoods remain segregated as a legacy of years of redlining.

But diverse-by-design schools like ours are on the rise. Educators and policymakers around the country realize that bringing together children from different backgrounds helps them learn from one another, narrows the achievement gap, strengthens urban neighborhoods and builds community among people who would otherwise remain apart. As schools of choice, charter schools are uniquely suited to create diverse environments. The federal government has taken note, and the U.S. Department of Education’s charter school grant program now rewards diversity in its program application process. There is even a new National Coalition of Diverse Charter Schools.

Back in Brooklyn, families ended up coming to our first school for a wide variety of reasons. Some were drawn to the focus on Modern Hebrew and the study of Israel. Others found our diversity attractive. Some simply wanted an option different from their local zoned school. All of them stayed because they were welcomed into a community and treated with respect and care, and because their children were provided a terrific, well-rounded education.

Creating and maintaining such diversity is not easy. It requires ongoing outreach to communities, constant attention to the quality of teaching and learning, and consistent operational excellence. But in a time of civic strife and increasing polarization, the hard work of creating diverse and excellent schools is more important than ever.

Sara Berman is the chairperson of the board of Hebrew Public, and a founding board member of Harlem Hebrew Language Academy and of Brooklyn’s Hebrew Language Academy.

 

Hebrew Public Approved for Second School in Brooklyn

Hebrew Language Academy 2 to Open in CSD 21 in Fall of 2017
Regents Approved only Three of 25 Applicants

 

November 16, 2016 – The New York State Board of Regents has authorized the opening of Hebrew Language Academy 2, a school that will be part of the Hebrew Public schools network.

Hebrew Public, a New York-based nonprofit that manages three public charter schools in the city, will work with the new school’s board to open the school in the Fall of 2017.

The new school will be located in Community School District (CSD) 21 in South Brooklyn. Open to all children eligible for kindergarten and first grade in 2017, the new school will be patterned after Hebrew Language Academy in CSD 22, which opened in 2009 and has now expanded to include a middle school. Hebrew Public’s New York City network also includes Harlem Hebrew Language Academy, which opened in 2013 and currently serves children in grades K-4.

Each Hebrew Public school emphasizes global citizenship, serves students from all backgrounds, and provides a rigorous and supportive academic program that includes a focus on the study of Modern Hebrew.

Jon Rosenberg, president and CEO of Hebrew Public, which also works with six affiliated schools around the country, said the Regent’s approval is a testament to the organization’s and its schools’ hard work, dedication, and commitment to the children of New York City.

Rosenberg says he is particularly grateful for the Regents’ stamp of approval since only three applications were selected from 25 submitted. “It is a very rigorous process, so the fact that we were one of the three approved to move forward with a school is a strong validation of our work.”

The new public school will serve students in grades K-1 in its first year and add an additional grade level each year. Children living in CSD 21, which in­cludes parts of Midwood, Gravesend, Sheeps­head Bay, Brighton Beach, and Coney Island, will have preference for admission to the school.

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HEBREW PUBLIC is building a national network of academically rigorous dual-language charter schools that teach children of all backgrounds to become fluent and literate in Modern Hebrew and prepare them to be productive global citizens. The network includes schools in Brooklyn, Harlem, New Jersey, Washington, DC, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis.

$4.91 Million Federal Grant to Hebrew Public

HEBREW PUBLIC AWARDED $4.91 MILLION FEDERAL GRANT
Funds to be used to help replicate and expand their reach in New York City

September 29, 2016 – The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) has awarded a $4.91 million grant to Hebrew Public, the New York-based nonprofit that manages three English-Hebrew public charter schools in the city.

The five year grant will help Hebrew Public, which also works with six affiliate schools around the country, with funding to expand its Harlem and Brooklyn schools and to develop new schools in New York City.

Jon Rosenberg, president and CEO of Hebrew Public, said the grant will help the organization accomplish its mission of leading a growing movement of racially and economically diverse public charter schools that have a curricular focus on the study of Modern Hebrew and of the history and culture of Israel.

“We are thrilled to be among the recipients of this critical funding,” says Rosenberg.  “It will allow us to roll up our sleeves and continuously improve our current schools while launching new ones. Receiving this vote of confidence from the federal government is an important recognition of the hard work of our teachers, school leaders, board members, staff, and – most importantly – of the students and families that we serve.”

Overall, the DOE awarded approximately $245 million under its Charter Schools Program, which funds the creation and expansion of public charter schools across the nation. The full DOE release can be accessed here.

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HEBREW PUBLIC is building a national network of academically rigorous dual-language charter schools that teach children of all backgrounds to become fluent and literate in Modern Hebrew and prepare them to be productive global citizens. The network includes schools in Brooklyn, Harlem, New Jersey, Washington, DC, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis.

3 Join Hebrew Public Network

New York – Hebrew Public, a national network of dual language charter schools, is welcoming three new professionals to its team:

New Head of School for Harlem Hebrew

Ben CostaA veteran teacher and school leader, Benjamin Costa, has been named as head of school for Harlem Hebrew Language Academy, one of the nine schools in the Hebrew Public network of charter schools.

“His expertise in leading schools with diverse student enrollments and his commitment to their academic and socio-emotional development makes him particularly well suited to carry on the mission of Harlem Hebrew,” said Sara Berman, chair of the board at Harlem Hebrew.

Costa replaces Robin Natman, founding head of school, who is taking on a new role as director of talent and recruitment for Hebrew Public.

Costa began his career as an English teacher at the Yeshiva of Greater Washington. He spent several years in the classroom, having also worked as a third grade teacher and middle school English teacher, before moving up to serve as dean of students, principal and most recently as head of school at Fusion Academy, a private school in New Jersey.

“I am very excited to join the Harlem Hebrew family as head of school,” Costa said. “I am eager to bring my experience and my passion for the Hebrew Public mission to Harlem Hebrew, and to build on the incredibly strong foundation that Robin Natman has laid.”

Costa’s school leadership experience spans over a decade and includes: principal of F.C. Hammond Middle School in Virginia, assistant principal of Westland Middle School and dean of students at Northwood High School, both located in Maryland. He received a bachelor’s degree in English literature from Merrimack College and later earned a master’s degree in education from Bowie State University.

New Director of Talent Joins Hebrew Public

RobinRobin Natman, former head of school for Harlem Hebrew Language Academy, has been named as director of talent and recruitment for Hebrew Public.

“We are thrilled to have Robin at Hebrew Public,” Jon Rosenberg, president and CEO of Hebrew Public, said. “In her new role she will drive our teacher and school leader recruitment efforts, support onboarding of new staff, and develop meaningful career pathways for our talented school staff members.”

In addition to her time at Harlem Hebrew, Robin has a wealth of experience working as an educator. She spent 13 years as a teacher in various New York City public schools. She also served as director of humanities for the East Meadow School District, supervising over 120 staff members. She then worked as an education consultant for a large publishing company where she conducted workshops to assist teachers with curriculum development and strategies for student success.

Robin holds master’s degrees from Brooklyn College, Queens College, and Bank Street College of Education, in elementary education, supervision and administration and special education leadership, respectively.

Interim Principal for Hebrew Language Academy in Brooklyn

Peter Katcher, former middle school director at Hebrew Language Academy (HLA) in Brooklyn,  has been named interim head of school for the 2016-17 school year. Katcher has more than 20 years of experience as an educator in both district and charter schools. As middle school director at HLA, he managed curriculum development and was responsible for mentoring and developing the middle school staff. Before joining HLA, he worked as associate head of school at Innovate Manhattan Charter School. Katcher began his career as a school teacher in the Massapequa public schools and Brooklyn Excelsior Charter School. He holds a master’s degree in education from Queens College and a bachelor of music degree from College of Saint Rose.

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We’ve moved!

Hebrew Public Moves to New Offices

New York City – Hebrew Public has moved its headquarters to 555 Eighth Avenue in Manhattan.  “As we have been developing into a mature organization with expanding services to our nine schools, and particularly to our CMO schools – those that we have comprehensive involvement with in the New York City region, we have found the need to move into offices that will better serve our needs,” says Jon Rosenberg, CEO of Hebrew Public.  “This is a very exciting time for us.  We’ve changed our name (from Hebrew Charter School Center) to Hebrew Public, and along with that, our visual and messaging branding has evolved, so our new headquarters helps complete this transformation as we grow.”

For more information, contact Morris Ardoin, APR, director of Marketing and Communication for Hebrew Public, at morris@hebrewpublic.org

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ATLANTA’S FIRST HEBREW-ENGLISH CHARTER SCHOOL PLANNED FOR 2017

For Immediate Release

Atlanta’s First Hebrew-English Charter School Being Explored
New Public School Would Be Part of National Dual-Language Network

October, 2015 – The Hebrew Charter School Center (HCSC), a national organization that to date has helped launch nine free, dual-language public charter schools around the country, is seeking community involvement to help open such a school in Midtown Atlanta’s Grady High School cluster.  The area covers neighborhoods such as Ansley Park, Atlantic Station, Virginia Highlands, Midtown, Morningside/Lenox Park, and Georgia Tech.

“Atlanta’s diverse population, vibrant communities, and historical significance in America make it an ideal location for a Hebrew charter school,” says Jon Rosenberg, president and CEO of HCSC. “We are looking at cities throughout the country that will make good homes for the kind of high-quality, diverse, dual-language schools we work to launch, and Atlanta fits that bill perfectly.”

The organization is in the initial planning stages for a charter school that would be part of the Atlanta Public School System and would be open to children beginning in the fall of 2017. “Our experience in other cities since we began opening schools six years ago has shown us what works well – and that, specifically, is having a strong team of local parents and community leaders working with us to make it happen,” says Rosenberg. “We would like for anyone interested in partnering with us to make this school happen, to reach out to us.”   Interested parents and community leaders can contact HCSC atinfo@hebrewcharters.org, or 212-792-6234.

HCSC schools, says Rosenberg, teach students Modern Hebrew, provide a full and rigorous academic program, serve racially and economically diverse student populations, and emphasize the importance of civic responsibilities both as Americans and as global citizens.

The organization’s track record is strong. Its first school, the Hebrew Language Academy (HLA) in Brooklyn, which opened in 2009, has recently tested impressively against community and peer schools in New York City. Its second school, Hatikvah International Academy in New Jersey, also tested strongly against peer and state schools, and both of these schools have now expanded to middle school.

The Hebrew Charter School Center is building a national network of academically rigorous dual-language charter schools that teach children of all backgrounds to become fluent and literate in Modern Hebrew and prepare them to be productive global citizens. In addition to the school in Brooklyn, the network includes schools in Harlem, New Jersey, Washington, DC, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis.

BROOKLYN’S HEBREW LANGUAGE ACADEMY PERFORMS STRONGLY ON LATEST NYS TESTS

Brooklyn’s Hebrew Language Academy Performs Strongly on Latest NYS Tests
Outperforms City, State, District Peers on Common Core Assessments

Hebrew Language Academy, a public charter school in Brooklyn serving students in grades K-6, posted strong outcomes on the latest round of New York State’s challenging Common Core assessments. HLA was ranked 27th out of 150 charter schools by the New York City Charter School Center. Its students strongly outperformed their state, city and district peers.

  • In English Language Arts, 42% of HLA students met proficiency standards, compared with 31% statewide.
  • In Math, 64% of HLA students met proficiency standards, compared with 38% statewide.
  • HLA’s economically disadvantaged students also strongly outperformed their state, city and district peers.

“We are happy at the progress our scholars have made,” says Laura Silver, HLA’s Head of School. “It reflects hard work on their part and that of our terrific staff, and the support of our families and the whole school community. At the same time, we know we have much work ahead of us and are eager to see all of our students continue to grow academically.”

HLA, which opened in 2009, is one of the most diverse schools in New York: 65% of its students are economically disadvantaged; 15% have special needs; 8% are English language learners; and 46% are children of color.

“HLA is the first and largest school in our network – our flagship – and to see its students perform so strongly sets a high bar in a great way for our entire network,” says Jon Rosenberg, CEO of the Hebrew Charter School Center, a charter management organization that supports HLA and a growing system of Hebrew language public charter schools around the country. “But we and the School will not rest until ALL of our students are achieving at the high levels of which they are capable.”

The School, which has recently moved to the Mill Basin neighborhood in Brooklyn, will grow over the next two years to serve students in grades K-8.

The Hebrew Charter School Center is building a national network of academically rigorous dual-language charter schools that teach children of all backgrounds to become fluent and literate in Modern Hebrew and prepare them to be productive global citizens. In addition to the school in Brooklyn, the network includes schools in Harlem, New Jersey, Washington, DC, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis.

HCSC’S FIRST MIDDLE SCHOOLS TO OPEN THIS FALL

Hebrew Charter School Network to Open its First Middle Schools
HLA and Hatikvah Will Add Grades 6-8

NEW YORK — When the New York State Board of Regents approved the charter renewal for the Hebrew Charter School Center’s (HCSC) flagship school in Brooklyn March 17th, it also ushered in the first middle school in HCSC’s national network of dual-language public charter schools. In the same week, HCSC received news that its school in East Brunswick, NJ, Hatikvah International Academy, had also been approved to expand to middle school.

“This expansion into middle school at the Hebrew Language Academy (HLA) – our founding school – and at Hatikvah is a huge step for us as a national network,” says Jon Rosenberg, president and CEO of HCSC. “We could not be more proud of all the people at HLA and Hatikvah who have worked so hard to secure this achievement.”

Opened in 2009, HLA currently serves 475 students in grades K-5. It will add Sixth Grade starting this fall when the school moves into its new permanent home on Mill Avenue in the Mill Basin neighborhood of Brooklyn, and an additional grade each year until it reaches Eighth Grade.

In 2010 Hatikvah was opened in East Brunswick, NJ, and today has 300 students in grades K-5.  Like HLA, Hatikvah will add Sixth Grade this fall, and an additional grade each year until it reaches Eighth Grade.

HCSC

The Hebrew Charter School Center is building a national network of academically rigorous dual-language charter schools that teach children of all backgrounds to become fluent and literate in Modern Hebrew and prepare them to be productive global citizens. In addition to the schools in Brooklyn and East Brunswick, the network includes schools in Harlem, Washington, DC, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis. 

HLA EXPANSION APPROVED BY REGENTS

Hebrew Language Academy Charter School in Brooklyn
Gets Charter Renewal from Board of Regents 

State’s first Hebrew language charter school to add grades 6-8

NEW YORK — The New York State Board of Regents today formally granted a four-year charter renewal for the Hebrew Language Academy Charter School in Brooklyn, approving the New York City Department of Education’s recommendation.

As part of the charter renewal, HLA was also authorized to expand to serve students in grades 6 through 8. The state’s first Hebrew language charter school opened in 2009 in South Brooklyn and currently serves 475 students in grades K-5. It will add sixth grade starting in the fall of 2015 when the school moves into its new permanent home on Mill Avenue in Mill Basin.

“We are overjoyed and grateful that the Board of Regents and the NYC DOE have given us the opportunity to build on the great progress we have made and to continue serving our wonderfully diverse community of students through middle school,” said HLA founder and board chair Sara Berman.

The Hebrew Language Academy Charter School is one of seven Hebrew language public charter schools in the Hebrew Charter School Center (HCSC) network.  HCSC is building a national network of academically rigorous dual-language charter schools that teach children of all backgrounds to become fluent and literate in Modern Hebrew and prepare them to be productive global citizens.

AMERICA’S FIRST CLASSICAL, HEBREW LANGUAGE CHARTER SCHOOL TO OPEN IN MINNEAPOLIS THIS FALL

Minneapolis – When Agamim Classical Academy – the nation’s first public school boasting a Classical approach to education with an emphasis on Hebrew language learning – welcomes its first class of kindergarteners, first-, second-, and third-graders this fall in Hopkins, Minn., its executive director, Miranda Morton will be more than ready.

A seasoned educator with over 12 years of experience in Classical education, Morton says she’s thrilled to be the first leader of the school and to bring an additional option to the more than 1000 students who now sit on waitlists for Classical charter schools in the metro area.

“The logic, beauty, and order of the Hebrew language align extraordinarily well with Classical instruction,” says Morton. “I was attracted to Agamim’s focus on producing well-rounded citizens who value the rich cultural and intellectual history of America and who will understand through their studies what it means to forge an American identity grounded in the ideals of liberty, E Pluribus Unum, and gratitude.”

Authorized by the Minnesota Department of Education, Agamim is a K-8, free, public charter school, located in the Interlachen Park neighborhood of Hopkins, just west of Minneapolis. This first year, the school will teach kindergarten through third grade, and will grow one grade each year until it becomes a K-8 school.

“The school’s distinction lies in its three pillars: American values, Hebrew language, and virtuous character,” says Serena Harad, a founding board member of the school. “With Ms. Morton’s seasoned leadership in Classical charter schools, and the Hebrew Charter School Center’s expertise in Hebrew language instruction, Agamim will begin year one with 19 years of combined experience and six partner schools. Not many first-year schools have such an advantage.”

Morton holds a BA in art and art history from Lawrence University and an MA in educational leadership from Cardinal Stritch University. She began her career teaching 7th and 8th grade English, science, and art history in a Classical Core Knowledge charter school in Wisconsin.  In 2008 Morton moved into a leadership position at Nova Classical Academy in St. Paul, where she served first as director of the Lower School and then director of the Upper School.

Applications to Agamim Classical Academy are available online at www.agamim.org. Agamim is one of seven schools nationwide, supported by the Hebrew Charter School Center, based in New York.

The Hebrew Charter School Center (HCSC) is building a national network of academically rigorous dual-language charter schools that teach children of all backgrounds to become fluent and literate in Modern Hebrew and prepare them to be productive global citizens. (www.hebrewcharters.org)