Skip to main content

Meeting of the Board of Regents | January 2008

Tuesday, January 1, 2008 - 9:50am

sed seal                                                                                                 







Johanna Duncan-Poitier


Charter Schools: Proposed Charter for Brooklyn Ascend Charter School


January 4, 2008


Goals 1 and 2







Issue for Decision


Should the Regents approve and issue the proposed charter of Brooklyn Ascend Charter School (New York City) which has been submitted by the Chancellor of the City school district of the City of New York?


Reason(s) for Consideration


              Required by New York State Education Law §2852.


Proposed Handling


This question will come before the Regents EMSC Committee for action and then before the full Board for final action in January 2008.


Procedural History


The New York Charter Schools Act of 1998 requires the Board of Regents to review, in accordance with the standards set forth in Education Law §2852(2), proposed charters, renewal charters and revisions to charters and renewal charters that have been approved and submitted by other charter entities.  The Board of Regents may either approve and issue a charter, renewal charter and/or revision as proposed by the charter entity, or return the same to the charter entity for reconsideration with written comments and recommendations. 


Background Information


              We have received a proposed charter from the Chancellor of the city school district of the City of New York to establish a new charter school.  This will be presented to you at your January 2008 meeting.  The proposed charter is:


  • Brooklyn Ascend Charter School  (New York City)


             The Brooklyn Ascend Charter School (BACS or “the School”) would be located in New York City Community School District 23, in Brooklyn.  The applicant is targeting the Ocean Hill and Brownsville communities.  The proposed charter school would open with 189 students in grades K-2 and expand to 730 students in grades K-7 by the fifth year. The School will license the Beirut-based Sabis educational model which focuses on high school academic achievement.  The School will be supported by a management partner, Ascend Learning, Inc.      




              VOTED: That the Board of Regents approve and issue the charter of the Brooklyn Ascend Charter School as proposed by the Chancellor of the city school district of the City of New York, and issue a provisional charter to it for a term of five years, ending on January 14, 2013.


Reason for Recommendation


              1) The charter school described in the proposed charter meets the requirements set out in Article 56 of the Education Law, and all other applicable laws, rules, and regulations; (2) the applicant can demonstrate the ability to operate the school in an educationally and fiscally sound manner; (3) approving and issuing the proposed charter is likely to improve student learning and achievement and materially further the purposes set out in subdivision two of section twenty-eight hundred fifty of Article 56 of the Education Law; and (4) approving and issuing the proposed charter will have a significant educational benefit to the students expected to attend the proposed charter school. 


Timetable for Implementation


The Regents action for the Brooklyn Ascend Charter School is effective immediately.

New York State Education Department


Summary of Proposed Charter School


Summary of Applicant Information



Name of Proposed Charter School:  Brooklyn Ascend Charter School (BASC or “the School”)


Address:  To be determined


Applicant(s):  Steven Wilson


Anticipated Opening Date:  September 2, 2008


District of Location: New York City Community School District (CSD) 23, Brooklyn


Charter Entity:  Chancellor of the City school district of the City of New York


Institutional Partner(s):  N/A


Management Partner(s):  Ascend Learning, Inc.


Grades Served:                      2008-09: K-2

2009-15: K-3

2015-11: K-5

2011-12: K-6

2012-13: K-7


Projected Enrollment:         2008-09: 189

2009-15: 249

2015-11: 550

2011-12: 640

2012-13: 730


Proposed Charter Highlights




              The lead applicant, Steven Wilson, is the founder and president of Ascend Learning, a newly formed charter management organization.  Mr. Wilson is a senior fellow at Education Sector, a Washington-based think tank, and former senior fellow at the Kennedy School, Harvard University.  He is the founder and former CEO of Advantage Schools, an education management organization. Prior to founding Advantage, he was special assistant for strategic planning for former Massachusetts Governor William Weld. He advised the governor on education policy during the passage and implementation of the state’s 1993 comprehensive education reform act. His recent book, Learning on the Job, examines the first decade of private management of public schools. His earlier book, Reinventing the Schools: A Radical Plan for Boston, led to the establishment of Massachusetts charter school law, which Mr. Wilson wrote. He is a graduate of Harvard College.


Institutional Partner(s)




Management Partner


              Ascend Learning, Inc. is a newly formed charter management organization based in Brooklyn, which will supply the educational program and manage the School on a daily basis under the oversight of the Board of Trustees.  The firm has authority to do business in New York State.  Under a term contract, Ascend will have responsibility for providing and implementing the School’s academic program; recruiting, recommending, and training the School’s director, and the day-to-day operations including management of human resources, leadership development, information technology, financial, legal, and other services.  Ascend Learning was formed in 2007, has no track record and manages no charter schools. 




  • Brooklyn Ascend Charter School’s mission is to equip every student with the knowledge, confidence, and character to succeed in college and beyond. Students will, from the earliest grades, steadily build a strong foundation of learning habits, critical thinking skills and knowledge; excel academically in the middle and high school, mastering high-level math and science; and graduate as confident young adults, prepared to succeed as college students, as citizens, and as leaders in their chosen fields.
  • The School will license from SABIS, an international operator of English-language schools, its college preparatory instructional system, which has been refined over 30 years.  The system is rigorously sequential, systematic, and mastery-based, and spans phonics in kindergarten through advanced placement classes in high school. The SABIS curriculum has been tightly aligned with the New York State curriculum.
  • The SABIS curriculum is currently used by 1,400 students in the SABIS International Charter School in Springfield, Massachusetts.  Every graduate of this school has been admitted to college, and the scores of low-income students attending this school are 57 points higher in English Language Arts (ELA) and 44 points higher in math than those attending the local district schools.
  • Weekly laptop-administered SABIS tests, precisely keyed to the curriculum, will provide teachers immediate feedback on curriculum mastery and identify gaps in student understanding.
  • The SABIS program will be combined with a school culture modeled on KIPP, Achievement First, and other urban charter schools considered by BACS to be high performing.
  • Student prefects in every classroom will assist their peers in learning and offer one-on-one peer tutoring in an effort to prevent their classmates from falling behind
  • The SABIS “intensives” program will offer an accelerated path for incoming students performing below grade level to rejoin their peers.
  • The educational program will include a comprehensive special education program for students with special needs and a structured immersion program for English Language Learners.
  • In addition to all New York State assessments, the School will use the Iowa Test of Basic Skills or similar norm-referenced test for in Kindergarten through Grade 3 as a gauge of academic progress prior to the New York State assessments.
  • BACS will have a school year of no less than 180 days. 
  • The school day will be from 8:00 AM until 3:55 PM.




  • The initial Board Trustees are recruited for their expertise in charter schools, school reform, public management, and the community.
  • The initial Trustees shall be Ted Coburn, David Graff, Catherine Hickey, Marty Linsky, Lisa O’Brien, and Jonathan Rosenberg.
  • The number of Trustees shall be nine, including the six founding members, two representatives of local community-based organizations, and one parent of a student in the School.
  • The two community members will be selected for their ties to the community, professional capacity to serve as stewards and fiduciaries of the School, and commitment to the School’s distinctive educational philosophy and instructional system.
  • Trustees serve one-year terms and can be reelected at the annual meeting of Trustees.
  • The Board shall appoint a School Director who shall oversee the management and operations of the School.
  • The Board shall have final responsibility for the School, for broad policy, and for managing and evaluating the School’s education provider, Ascend Learning.
  • While Ascend Learning will license a comprehensive education system including curriculum, assessments, and school management software from SABIS. SABIS shall have no involvement in the governance or management of the School.




  • The School will enroll 189 students in kindergarten through the second grade in its first year, and grow to 730 students in kindergarten through the seventh grade in its fifth year.
  • Students will be recruited through a grassroots outreach program in the district in which the School is located and in neighboring communities. The outreach program will extend to locations serving students with special needs and English Language Learners.
  • BACS expects to serve students with a similar demographic profile to CSD 23, in which 78% of the student population is Black and 18% Hispanic, and between 79% and 87% are enrolled in the federal free and reduced-price lunch program.  Students in CSD 23 public schools perform below citywide averages; only four of every ten eighth graders perform at levels 3 or 4 on the New York State Math and English Language Arts exams.




  • The first year’s administrative staff shall consist of a School Director, an Assistant Director for Operations, an Academic Quality Controller, and a Director of Information Technology. 
  • The School’s Director will be supported by Building Excellent Schools, a national training program for aspiring charter school founders.
  • By the fifth year, the administrative staff will include an assistant director and an academic quality controller for the middle school grades 5-8.
  • The first year’s teaching staff shall consist of seven classroom teachers, one special education teacher, two specials teachers, one intensives (remediation) teacher, one part-time physical education teacher, and three kindergarten aides.
  • By the fifth year, the teaching staff will consist of 23 classroom teachers, with students in Grades 3 and higher jointly taught by teachers of humanities and teachers of math/science.




  • The first-year budget will be $2,770,433; the fifth year budget will be $9,107,516.
  • The School’s budget does not rely on private revenues; revenue sources are only per pupil allocations, state and federal entitlements, and start-up monies for charter schools from state and federal sources.
  • No loans are assumed in the proposed budget.
  • The School is evaluating three privately owned facilities to permanently house the School.
  • The applicant has identified a facility to accommodate the growth plan of the school.   The applicants are currently negotiating the terms of a lease.
  • The potential fiscal impact upon the District is represented below.  These projections are based upon several assumptions, which may or may not occur: that all existing charter schools will also exist in the next five years and serve the same grade levels as they do now; that the charter schools will be able to meet their projected maximum enrollment; that all students will come from New York City and no other districts; that all students will attend everyday for a 1.0 FTE; that the District’s budget will increase at the projected rate; that the per pupil payment will increase (and not decrease); and that the per pupil payment will increase at the projected rate.


Projected Fiscal Impact of the

Brooklyn Ascend Charter School

(New York City CSD 15 – Brooklyn)

2008-09 Through 2012-13

School Year

Number of Students

Projected Payment*

Projected Impact





























* Assumes a 3 percent annual increase in the District’s budget from the base of $20.12 billion in 2007-2008; and a 4.5 percent annual increase in the average expense per pupil per year from the 2007-2008 rate of $11,023.


Community Support


  • Support for BASC was sought within the Ocean Hill-Brownsville community. The Lead Applicant secured the requisite number of signatures to match the first year’s budgeted enrollment of 189 students.
  • The Lead Applicant has submitted two letters of community support, including East Brooklyn Congregations which has pledged support with respect to community outreach.


Public Opinion


  • A public hearing, hosted by the Community Education Council of Community School District 23, New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE), was held on September 27, 2007.   
  • Eight public comments were received.  Two comments endorsed the proposed charter school.  Six comments stated “We need a middle school, 6-8.”