It is prime school-search season in New York City. If you are one of the thousands of families weighing their child’s educational options for pre-Kindergarten, elementary, middle, and high school, you are in the thick of applications, essays, and assessments or testing. Aside from your regular work and daily activities during this time, you now must add researching schools, contacting administrators, and touring neighborhood options to your busy to-do list. This is true whether you considering public or private schools.
So, how does one choose the best option? Begin with the big decision — public or private. Then, take a look at the options within your preferred category. For those utilizing the city’s public school options, you have many options in your district, with priority at your zoned school, and you will also have access to a host of charter schools.
Charter schools (founded by not-for-profit Boards of Trustees) receive government funding, but unlike public schools, they operate independently under a contract (or “charter”)—an example of what has been labeled by some as “public asset privatization” or contracting out. Many of the city’s charter schools utilize public school space. Since the passing of the New York Charter Schools Act of 1998, there has been debate from government officials and families alike on whether these schools should be considered public. According to the United States Department of Education, given that charter schools are open to all students and do not charge tuition, they are categorized right alongside your area public schools.
“We serve the communities in which we are located,” says Emily Kim, the Chief Executive Officer of Zeta Charter Schools, which has sites in the South Bronx and the Inwood/Washington Heights areas. Zeta opened its doors in the fall of 2018.
Charter schools may not have all the regulations of a districted school, but they are accountable for academic results and upholding promises that the charter school stemmed from. With well over 200 charter schools in the city, there are tens of thousands of New York City families that are served by these institutions, and these schools have thousands more on their waitlists.
So, why are so many families choosing charter schools? Charter schools have more flexibility in their offerings, a longer school year, extended daily hours, and additional programming. “Much of my experience is in charter education, and I love how charters are free to innovate and raise the excellence bar for children,” Kim says.
Although every charter is different (the model, goals, and policies may vary) — overall, they are outperforming their neighborhood counterparts on state tests (English language arts and math).
“Parents deserve to have a high-quality school option, as well as a choice as to where they send their children to school. Charters provide parents with much-needed educational options for their children, which raises the bar for public education, generally,” Kim says. “We serve families and want them to be close partners with us in their children’s education. Through this partnership, we ensure that children meet their highest and best potential.”
Many families are drawn by the opportunity to send their children to high-performing charter schools. Most operate through a lottery placement system due to the demand.
“We were zoned for a failing public school (math and reading scores were in the single-digit percentile), and private school is too costly,” says Tiffany G., who is a parent at Harlem Hebrew Language Academy Charter School. Her daughter, now in fourth grade, started at the school in kindergarten.
“Public schools in New York are wonderful if you are wealthy and thereby able to afford an affluent neighborhood where high-quality public schools can be found. For many who are not wealthy or able to afford expensive neighborhoods, public schools are poor performing, sometimes perilous places. The current public school system exacerbates our city’s economic system of have and have-nots, while many charter schools offer a high-quality education accessible to all New Yorkers regardless of income,” she says. Adding: “There is a tremendous amount of variety among charter schools, as they are not bound by all the same regulations as public schools. Shop around to find the school that is the best fit for your child’s learning needs.”
For families in the midst of the school search, a common online application (available via nyccharterschools.org) represents approximately 75% of New York City’s charter schools, adding ease to the process of applying. The online form, due by April 1, makes searching school options and information on each accessible. New York families interested in applying to charter schools should check individual school websites for listings of tours, open houses, and application instructions.
Bronx Charter Schools
AECI 1 – NYC Charter High School for Architecture, Engineering & Construction Industries
838 Brook Ave., Bronx
AECI offers an academic program that provides students with a foundation of the necessary skills, knowledge and practical experience to pursue a path leading to college and/or a career in architecture, engineering or construction industries. The school’s offerings are focused on providing rigorous college preparatory sequence of classes while also preparing students for success in industry-recognized exams. All students receive double periods in Math and ELA in freshman year to prepare for long-lasting success.all staff members are tasked with developing the whole child by working together to ensure that all academic, emotional and social development is supported, cultivated and challenges.
AECI 2 – New York Charter High School for Computer Engineering & Innovation
424 E. 138th St., Bronx
AECI2 is the AECI network’s second location in the South Bronx and serves students in grades 9-12. The mission of AECI2 is to create a rigorous college prep academic program that provides students with a foundation of the necessary skills, knowledge and practical experience to pursue a path leading to college ad/or a career in computer, engineering or innovation industries. AECI2 emphasizes science and math proficiency, effective communication and critical thinking skills through a standards-based curriculum while offering classes like Into to Computer Science Principles, Coding, Circuit Design and 3-D Printing. The school also has sports teams, after-school activities and student-centered clubs.
Amber Charter School Kingsbridge
3120 Corlear Ave., Bronx
Amber Charter Schools provide students with an academically rigorous and well-rounded education, along with strong character development, enabling them to prosper in their future endeavors. Widely recognized as the first Latino-led charter school in New York State, Amber Charter School East Harlem is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. The school has two locations-East Harlem (K-5) and Kingsbridge (K–5). The student to teacher ratio is 13 to 1, and students participate in a core curriculum in literacy, mathematics, science and social studies. Enrichment is offered in the visual arts, music, physical education, and technology. All students also receive instruction in Spanish as a second language starting in kindergarten.
Brilla College Prep
413 E. 144th St., Bronx
Brilla Public Charter Schools, K-8 schools in the classical tradition, helps students to grow intellectually, socially and physically into young men and women of good character and spirit, and to be prepared for excellence in high school, college and beyond. Character development is just as important as academic outcomes, for that reason Brilla prioritizes a joyful environment and works in partnership with our families. Applications are rolling until all seats are filled. Call today.
Bronx Charter School for Excellence
Bronx Excellence 1 (Elementary and Middle) – Parkchester
Bronx Excellence 2 (Elementary) – Morris Park
Bronx Excellence 3 (Elementary) & Bronx Excellence 4 (Elementary) – Wakefield
718-882-0231 & 347-773-3100
Bronx Excellence 5 (Elementary) – Bathgate
The Bronx Charter School for Excellence (BCSE) was established in 2004 as a K-5 public elementary school for children in the Parkchester section of the Bronx. By 2012 it was officially distinguished as a U.S. Department of Education National Blue Ribbon School, a prestigious honor awarded to public and private elementary, middle, and high schools based on academic excellence. Today, BCSE has expanded into a network of tuition-free, public charter schools including the flagship school Bronx Excellence 1 Elementary, Bronx Excellence 1 Middle in Parkchester, Bronx Excellence 2 Elementary in Morris Park, Bronx Excellence 3 Elementary and Bronx Excellence 4 Elementary in Wakefield, and most recently Bronx Excellence 5 Elementary in Bathgate. What sets these schools apart is a unique, project-based curriculum that not only nurtures students’ critical thinking, but also cultivates all facets of their development ranging from intellectual, to artistic, to social, to emotional and ethical. By 2023, Excellence Community Schools will expand to 12 elementary and middle schools serving over 4,000 scholars.
University Prep Public Schools
UP High School:
600 St. Ann’s Ave., 4th Floor
UP Middle School:
470 Jackson Ave., 3rd Floor
Opening its doors over 10 years ago, University Prep Charter High School (UPCHS) is among the highest performing High Schools in the Bronx. UPCHS is a free, public, 9-12, college-preparatory school serving 440 students in the Mott Haven neighborhood of the South Bronx. They boast an average 99% four-year graduation rate, 100% college acceptance rate, and a 98% parent approval rating. UPCHS is a proud recipient of the 2016 National Blue Ribbon Award and is consistently ranked among the top performing high schools in New York State. High School Open Houses will be held on: January 29, February 25, March 12, March 23. University Prep has expanded their locus of impact to grades 5-8 with the opening of University Prep Middle School last fall. At UPCMS they are extending their highly successful model and providing a path for younger students to reach even more impressive heights by 12th grade. Middle School Open Houses will be held: January 30th, February 26, March 11, March 23.
Rosalyn Yalow Charter School
3490 Third Ave. at 168th St., Bronx
Kindergarten and first grade classes are taught on their own campus. The mission at Rosalyn Yalow is to eliminate the learning achievement gap for poor urban children -– including special needs students and English language learners – by using an engaging and demanding curriculum to graduate students at or above grade level in literacy and math. Recognizing the relationship between social emotional support and student achievement, the school uses a collaborative teaching approach – there is a lead teacher and one with a background in social work for grades K-2. The extended school day runs from 8am to 5pm and is filled with rich extracurricular activities like art, chess and fencing.
Zeta Bronx 1 Elementary
222 Alexander Ave., Bronx
Zeta Schools are high-performing, next-generation schools with an innovative, whole-child approach, preparing children for a modern world economy. Starting with a foundation of world-class academics, their complementary social-emotional program emboldens students with the skills to thrive. It is extraordinarily important that children have the time and space to explore potential interests and passions. That’s why at Zeta, students engage in Specialist Classes as part of the school day, which may include chess, music, art, sports, and Taekwondo. Now, until April 1, Zeta is accepting applications for pre-K through 5th grade for the 2020-21 school year.
This story first appeared on our sister publication newyorkfamily.com.