South Bronx charter school beats the odds

(L-r) Former governor George Pataki, philanthropist Carl Icahn and Borough President Adolfo Carrion, Jr. at the 2001 ribbon cutting for the seven year old school, now boasting test scores off the charts.

A high performing South Bronx charter school has again beat the odds, boasting some of the highest scores on standardized testing in the city. 

Scores at Icahn Charter School, located at 1525 Brook Avenue in Morrisania, reflect almost all students meeting benchmark standards. 

In all, 100% of third graders met or exceeded math standards on recent standardized tests, while 97.6% of fourth graders achieved the same feat. 

On English tests, 84.8% of third graders, while 89.5% of fourth graders, met or exceed standards in the scores.  Testing results were also high in the upper grades. 

Principal Jeff Litt, is not surprised by the stellar results.

“The tests confirm what we already know,” he said.

 In 2000, the Foundation for a Greater Opportunity, a foundation funded by Carl C. Icahn, applied to open a charter elementary school in the South Bronx. The application was submitted to SUNY’s Charter Schools Institute, which approved the charter in March 2001.

The school was built and opened for 108 K-2nd graders later that September, and has added a grade each year. This year, 324 children in grades K-8 occupy the space at 1525 Brook Avenue.

“This is a historic achieving year with high standards here,” said Litt, explaining the reason for their success.


“We make no excuses,” she added, meaning that failure is not an option.  “The students receive immediate and ongoing assistance in areas they need it most.”

Icahn utilizes targeted assistance, picked up in groups by deficiency, so there are no surprises.

Litt cites the school’s rigorous curriculum that focuses on core knowledge. 

For example, students in 1st grade study ancient Greece and Africa, in addition to the language arts and mathematics instruction. 

While the school was chartered to serve grades K-4, performance was immediately so positive that the school expanded to 8th grade. 

Reflecting the students’ preparation for tests as well as strong knowledge, several 8th graders took the 9th grade Regents math examination, allowing them to start high school ahead in mathematics instruction en route to take advanced classes such as calculus. 

Local elected official Assemblyman Michael Benjamin, an advocate for charter schools, called Principal Litt to congratulate the academic leader upon hearing the news.

“Jeff Litt is a terrific leader and requires the highest standards and excellence from his staff as well as his students and their parents,” Benjamin said, who represents most of the school’s population in Albany. 

“Its the kind of leadership we want to see replicated throughout my district.”

Litt feels that Icahn reflects the capabilities of all charter schools.

“I think that our schools results confirm the premise that given autonomy and independence and being measured by outcomes, most charters exceed the results of traditional schools,” Litt said. 

“Year after year, we consistently score higher [than DOE schools].”

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