Myth Busting: Charters Do Share, Mr. Mayor!

By Jaclyn Leffel

I was disappointed to read in a recent news article Mayor de Blasio’s pronouncement that, “…district schools will share where charters will not.” I commend the mayor for opening up more PROSE schools and allowing a percentage of district schools more freedom and flexibility, but his statement that charters are not sharing is simply untrue.

As the Director of NYC Collaborates, I work with both district and charter schools to open up their doors and share their best practices with each other. NYC Collaborates creates opportunities for educators to share information and work together to improve student achievement.

During the 2014-15 school year alone, we worked with three large charter networks that have led professional development workshops and shared knowledge with their district colleagues. With over 500 attendees – including educators from district and charter schools as well as the NYC DOE and education support organizations – KIPP, Success Academy Charter Schools and Uncommon Schools have all shared resources and the “keys to their success.” The door was left wide open for future collaboration throughout each of these PD opportunities.

Another aspect of collaborative work we do is to orchestrate School Study Tours of both district and charter schools on various topics that are of interest to the larger teaching community. During each visit, participants have the chance to experience the school and its vision at large while also exploring a particular focus area. Past study tours have engaged educators on such issues as Closing the Creativity Gap, Infusing Character Education, Supporting Teacher Development & Retention and Using Traditions to Build School Culture.

Over the last few years, we have asked over 35 charter schools to open up their doors and let district teachers and principals pick their brains and tour their classrooms to understand what has worked for them and what has not. These events have been great forums for idea sharing and relationship building.

We’ve been lucky to work with great district and charter partners since our creation back in 2010. I hope that the next time the Mayor makes a bold statement about charters, he also acknowledges all of the positive collaboration that is going on throughout NYC’s education landscape – especially in reference to the public school system, district and charters alike. I am privileged enough to witness it all the time.

Leffel directs NYC Collaborates through its mission to encourage public conversation and on-the-ground partnerships between district and charter schools. Founded by New York City’s Department of Education and the New York City Charter School Center, NYC Collaborates is funded in part by the Bill & Melinda Gates and was formed out of New York City’s District/Charter Compact.