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.
“We are making sure that the students can dream the American dream and that they can reach it,” said Dr. Tolga Hayali, the superintendent of the Syracuse Academy of Science Charter School and the Utica Academy of Science Charter School.
Hayali understands the importance of a STEM education- short for science, technology, engineering, and math - to help children in Central New York achieve their goals.
“It’s incumbent on us to use curriculum that will prepare this generation for the 21st century,” he said.
Syracuse Academy of Science Charter School was founded in 2003, and in 2013, the Utica school opened its doors. The schools are highly successful and in huge demand. The Syracuse Academy has 845 students with a waitlist of 1,300 kids since the school is a K-12. The Utica Academy has 240 students with a waiting list of more than 200 students. It’s currently a 6-10 school but will grow to serve grades 6-11 next year.
On the most recent state exams, the Syracuse Academy scored 37.27 percent proficient in math compared to the district’s 8.5 percent. And in ELA, 30 percent proficient compared to the district’s 8.5 percent.
The Utica Academy scored more than 25 percent proficient compared to the district’s 19 percent in math. In ELA, the school was more than 24 percent proficient compared to 15 percent proficiency in the district.
Hayali says the success of the schools can be attributed to intense and focused one-on-one attention, a longer day, and a longer school year, in addition to the rigorous curriculum.
“Our schools are a pipeline for college for our students,” he said. “As research indicates, students exposed to STEM in elementary will continue this into college; we want to bring as many STEM-oriented programs as possible to our urban kids at a young age.”
Hayali said that school leaders work very closely with the teachers and having a small teacher student ratio makes a huge difference. The emphasis on each child means there’s less of a chance of a child falling through the cracks.
“We want to help students from low income homes and expose them to opportunities they may not otherwise have. They can attain success with a great education. That is what we want to do here – foster success.”
He said the schools are fortunate to have the resources that they do but that “any additional funding creates new possibilities for our inner-city youth.”
He talked about some of the inequities that face charters no state facilities funding.
“Charters do have more flexibility and we love that. But at the end of the day, we need to focus on the child and giving them the additional funding – fair funding – is the right thing to do.”
He went on, “The state wants the charters to do better than the state average so we should be afforded equal funding so that our schools can excel.”
Learn about how Syracuse Academy of Science is invested in the community
A look at some of the activities Utica Academy of Science has going on in its second year
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