Troy's Ark Community Charter School got a reprieve on Wednesday after state officials agreed to delay a decision on the school's fate, at least for a few more weeks.
"We feel very positive about the way it went," said Steve Axelrod, chairman of the school's board of trustees, following a meeting of SUNY's Charter School Institute in New York City.
The institute, which oversees SUNY-licensed charter schools, had previously recommended closing the 220-student K-6 school based on what its analysis described as persistently low test scores.
But Axelrod and others questioned the way the test scores were evaluated, arguing that by at least some measures the Ark was doing as well or better than the Troy city district where most of its kids come from.
The school serves some of the city's poorest youngsters, with 90 percent of students qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch, compared to 65 percent for the surrounding Troy district. The school began as an after-school program in one of the city's public housing projects.
Complicating matters in gauging the school's performance was the state's multiyear shift to the new Common Core education standards and the new tests that accompany them.
While SUNY Charter School Institute officials said they were aware of Common Core, SUNY trustee John Murad said the changeover tended to make a school's assessment into a "moving target."
The school's small size was also an issue: With less than two dozen students in fourth and sixth grades, a handful of poor test scores can quickly drag down the entire school's average.
Charter school supporters agreed that the new testing regimen was a complicating factor.
"The (closure) recommendation was putting undue weight on the new test scores," said Bill Phillips, president of the Northeast Charter Schools Network. He said one solution might be a shorter renewal period — two years rather than the standard five — with conditions, similar to the judgment granted to a troubled charter school in New York City run by the teachers union there.
Mainstream public school officials including teachers and administrators have for more than a year complained that the state Education Department has bungled the rollout of Common Core, in part by failing to provide enough guidance and materials to prepare for the tests.
Still, Charter School Institute officials said they had adjusted for the changes in their assessment of the Ark school, by discounting "absolute" test scores and instead looking at tests that measure student growth over time. Those findings, they said, suggested that students get no academic benefit by remaining in the school.
They also found poor use of a computerized reading program, and said teachers at the Ark may actually spend too much time with individual students.
"While individualized questioning can give a teacher insight into each student's level of understanding, such time-consuming techniques slow the pace of lessons, resulting in covering less content and giving students who are not directly interacting with the teacher opportunities to be off-task," stated part of a report by the Charter School Institute.
Supporters cited high satisfaction in parent surveys. Axlerod said there's a 90-student waiting list to get into the school.
Troy Mayor Lou Rosamilia said he had written a letter of support for the Ark, crediting the school with helping revitalization efforts in the surrounding neighborhood. But Troy city school officials, including school board President Jason Schofield and Superintendent John Carmello, asked him to rethink his support.
"They asked my to reconsider, and I did," Rosamilia said, explaining that he sent an email withdrawing his letter of support.
Public school district officials are frequently unhappy with charter schools because per-student aid comes from their budgets. They have long complained that such a funding system puts them in a bind, even though charters are responsible for the students.
SUNY trustees will likely decide on the school's future in the next few weeks during another open meeting.
Axelrod said they would hope to get a decision by April, which is when they run their lottery for new applicants and begin to issue teacher contracts for the coming school year.
Three Capital Region charter schools authorized by SUNY have closed since 2010. All of them were located in Albany: New Covenant, Albany Preparatory Academy and Achievement Academy.
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SUMMIT (AP) — Authorities say a 76-year-old man is hospitalized after he spent more than a week trapped inside his snowbound, heatless home in a rural upstate New York town.
The Schoharie County Sheriff's Office tells The Daily Gazette of Schenectady that a concerned neighbor called the man Tuesday at his home in Summit, 40 miles east of Albany.
The neighbor was talking to him when the line was disconnected. Unable to reach him again, the neighbor called police.
Officials say deputies found him inside his home suffering from hypothermia, frostbite and dehydration. The home's entrance was blocked by mounds of snow. Two storms earlier this month dumped more than two feet of snow on the area.
The man was taken to Cobleskill Regional Hospital. Information on his condition wasn't available.
Information from: The Daily Gazette, http://www.dailygazette.com/
One of the Senate Republicans' signature issues this year has been the push to stop what they call welfare abuse with a bill to prohibit the use of benefit cards to pay for alcohol and tobacco, or to be used at liquor stores, casinos and strip clubs.
While such a measure has been passed in the Senate before, there is added urgency this year. That's because the federal government set a Feb. 22 deadline for states to submit their plans to crack down on welfare abuse. If not, they could lose funding through the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. In New York, $120 million was at risk if the state didn't comply.
Thus it was no surprise that Friday, with the deadline approaching, Republicans blasted the Democrat-led Assembly. They never brought the welfare crackdown measure to the floor for a vote.
"The Assembly majority's blatant disregard for taxpayer dollars threatens more than $120 million in federal money," Assembly Republican Minority Leader Brian Kolb said in a prepared release. "The state will miss the February 22 deadline," he added.
But as that was happening, Assembly Democratic spokesman Michael Whyland said Gov. Andrew Cuomo's welfare officials were submitting their plan to the federal government.
The plan calls for a number of measures that mirror the Senate bill, including a potential amendment to welfare rules that would block electronic benefit card transactions at strip clubs, as well as at casinos and liquor stores.
So does that mean all is well and New York won't lose $120 million?
Not necessarily. But it doesn't mean, as lawmakers charge, that the state hasn't tried.
Federal Health and Human Services spokesman Kenneth Wolfe said in an email that New York met the Feb. 22 deadline. He said that "we are currently reviewing all 54 plans received nationally." He didn't respond to several requests to elaborate.
Adding to the confusion was the fact that GOP lawmakers continued to blast the governor early Monday, even though the deadline had been met.
It wasn't clear if GOP Assemblymen Jim Tedisco and Steve McLaughlin knew that the state plan had been submitted by the 22nd when on Tuesday they went with a TV reporter in tow to the state welfare agency, the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, to complain that the state could lose $120 million because the GOP legislation hadn't passed in the Assembly.
"I didn't know when it was put in," Tedisco later said of the federally required plan. "I wanted to know if they went to the 11th hour, which they did."
Both Tedisco and McLaughlin put out tweets and messages about the impending deadline on Friday.
Kolb spokesman Mike Fraser said their office didn't know about the governor's actions on Friday because they hadn't been told. "We've seen nothing," he said. Officials from the Cuomo administration, though, say the changes in welfare rules were discussed during budget hearings and some of the plan is included in the governor's budget proposal.
Not all Republicans were upset.
"At least the governor did what he could administratively," said New York City GOP Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, who had also raised the alarm on Friday but was less worried on Monday.
The need for welfare reform has long been a GOP rallying cry. And when Senate Republicans passed their bill earlier this year, they said constituents frequently wrote or called to complain about what they said was welfare abuse.
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State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver tweaked Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Moreland Commission on public corruption as a "fishing expedition to intimidate legislators" that's costing state taxpayers considerable legal fees as both houses resist its requests for disclosure.
"It's important to root out corruption, but the commission, we believe, has exceeded its mandate," Silver said Tuesday at a news conference just before the chamber passed the DREAM Act, which would make an estimated $27 million in higher education funds available to children of immigrants who are in the country illegally.
"Both the Senate and Assembly have retained counsel, and the state is spending a great deal of money to conduct this fishing expedition," Silver said of the eight-month-old Moreland panel, which Cuomo called in response to last spring's spate of public corruption cases.
"I think that so far the greatest result that they have come to is they have recommended what this conference has been saying and passing for the last 25 years: public campaign finance in New York state," Silver said, noting that he authored the first incarnation of that plan in 1986.
Cuomo's executive budget proposal calls for the creation of such a system, where small donations would be augmented by public dollars for candidates who opt in.
Republicans who share control of the Senate have promised to block it.
Moreland panel spokeswoman Michelle Duffy did not respond to an email seeking comment.
The chamber passed the DREAM Act a few hours later by a vote of 82-46. Like campaign finance reform, the measure faces an uncertain future in the Senate. AFL-CIO leader Mario Cilento, a supporter who appeared at Silver's news conference, said advocates are still working in the Senate to gain the 32 votes needed to pass the bill.
Senate Independent Democratic Conference leader Jeff Klein supports the bill, while his GOP partner in power, Dean Skelos, does not.
Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins praised the Assembly's action and said in her chamber the Democratic Conference would provide "the lion's share of votes" for passage. "Unfortunately, the majority coalition has stymied progress on this — and so many other – important issues," she said.
IDC spokesman Jason Elan noted all four members of the conference are DREAM Act sponsors. "We hope that the rest of our Democratic colleagues will unite behind the measure so that we can pass it in the Senate," he said.
Assembly Republican Leader Brian Kolb said in a statement that "using taxpayer dollars to subsidize a scholarship program for illegal immigrants ... is the wrong priority at the wrong time."
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Mayor Bill de Blasio said yesterday he will block three charter schools from opening in public school buildings yesterday. All of them are part of the Success Academy system, run by former City Councilwoman Eva Moskowitz. The mayor will allow 14 charters to "co-locate" within public schools as planned, including five run by Moskowitz. He left untouched a majority of plans affecting charter schools. But he opposed the three because he won't allow elementary schools to open on high school campuses or schools to cut programs for students with disabilities. Moskowitz said the move will affect about 600 students and there is no contingency plan yet. The Bloomberg Administration had been accused of favoritism toward her schools. A number of City Council members were unhappy with how many co-locations de Blasio allowed.Other Stories We're Following
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