As New York City Schools Face a Crisis, Charter Schools Gain Students
“Do we have more tax dollars to divert to charter schools?” Mr. Liu said. “I don’t think so.”
But some families in New York have clamored for more access to charters, which typically outperform district schools in math and reading on state standardized tests, though results often vary widely between individual schools. The vast majority of students in charters are Black and Latino, and about two-thirds of charters are in Brooklyn and the Bronx. About two-thirds of children in district schools are Black or Latino.
Facing criticism, some charters have toned down features that were once contentious hallmarks of the schools. Strict classroom standards and rigid discipline rules that came to be known as a “no excuses” model have been replaced in several networks with a stronger emphasis on “the whole child.”
The changes have helped ease anxieties among some parents.
On one recent Tuesday at a Zeta charter school near Inwood — part of a young, growing network of four schools across Upper Manhattan and the Bronx — two dozen second graders circled up in Room 101 to practice breathing exercises. Then, the children dwelled on a single word that captured their feelings for the afternoon.
A young girl, Jia, hadn’t seen her father in days, as he traveled in Florida. It was tough to focus on school, given how much she missed him. So her teacher asked the class: Would a volunteer check in on Jia by the end of the week?
Most of the 7- and 8-year-olds perked up, and eagerly threw their hands into the air.
“They talk about their emotions more,” said Dennise Ramirez, whose 8-year-old son, Achilles, attends a Zeta school. “And I can see the difference in him.”
Her inquisitive son previously attended PS 187 Hudson Cliffs, the district school that Ms. Ramirez attended herself as a child. But when schooling was disrupted as the coronavirus spread, she noticed that Achilles seemed disconnected from his classes. She weighed her options, and decided to move him to Zeta for third grade this fall.