30 Schools in 30 Days: Neighborhood Charter School of Harlem

Posted by on 01 / 15 / 2015 0 Reactions

The 30 Schools in 30 Days project will highlight a different New York State charter school each day, featuring each school's successes, and the challenges that come from being denied access to state facilities funding. Perhaps most important, each school leader has a message for state lawmakers in Albany: please find a solution to the facilities funding problem and allow ALL of the state's charter schools access to building aid this year.
 
The Neighborhood Charter School of Harlem is another shining example of a charter school that is dispelling myths about the kinds of students charter schools serve.
 
This high-performing school serves students in grades K-3 and opened in in 2012. The school will grow a grade each year until it is a K-8 school. The Neighborhood Charter School of Harlem (NCSH) has a unique inclusion program for high functioning students with autism. Thirty-one percent of the school’s children are Special Education students, and all of the school’s students learn together. Each classroom has two teachers. The school is flexible with grouping and scheduling to meet the needs of every single student.
 
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“NCSH is a very special place and is educating all of our students at an extremely high level,” said science teacher Michael Renda. “Our scholars have a longer school day, longer school year, and participate in a well rounded curriculum.  Starting in kindergarten, our students participate in hands-on science every single day, in addition to several hours of math, English, physical education and the arts.”
 
The school also has two full time Speech Language Pathologists who provide socialization instruction for students on the autism spectrum.
 
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Renda continued, “The school is highly structured; nothing is left to chance. The majority of scholars are reading at or above grade level. Those who aren’t are given immediate and constant intervention and quickly improve. We utilize an “all hands on deck” approach to teaching. I am the kindergarten and first grade science teacher but I also teach a reading and math intervention group every day for an hour. We aren’t job description educators here. We all do whatever it takes, with no excuses, to help our scholars achieve.”
 
This can be seen in the school’s most recent achievement data. NCSH scholars scored in the 91st national percentile on the TerraNova exam, a nationally recognized achievement exam.
 
Last spring, Chancellor Carmen Fariña visited the school and was impressed. Read more about that visit here.
 
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The need for the school is clear. NCSH received almost 1,000 applications for 50 kindergarten seats last spring.
 
Renda said, “Families are desperate for options, especially families with children with special needs.”
 
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NCSH is located in private space and is forced to pay money from its operating budget to cover rent.
 
“We would love to use this money to expand our already existing programs such as the arts and counseling,” said Renda. “Hopefully facilities funding for charter schools like ours will eventually be provided by the state and city.”
 
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Renda’s message to lawmakers is: “There is a huge need for high-achieving schools like ours that are providing an impeccable education to all students, especially those with special needs. NCSH has taken on this challenge and the results show that our methods work. We wish that facilities funding would come to alleviate the tens of thousands of dollars that we spend each month on rent. This is money that could be used on our scholars. Please act for schools like NCSH. Please act quickly.”
 
 
Watch:

A Look Inside NCSH

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