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Meeting of the Board of Regents | December 2008

Monday, December 1, 2008 - 8:20am

                                                NYSED Seal                                                               





Johanna Duncan-Poitier


Charter Schools: Proposed Charter for the Explore Charter School II


December 5, 2008


Goals 1 and 2




Issue for Decision

Should the Regents approve the staff’s recommendations concerning the proposed charter of the Explore Charter School II (New York City)?

Reason(s) for Consideration

            Required by State statute, Education Law §2852.

Proposed Handling

This question will come before the EMSC Committee in December 2008 for action.  It will then come before the full Board for final action in December 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 for the establishment of the following charter school:

  •  Explore Charter School II


            The Explore Charter School II (ECS2 or “the School”), with the Explore Schools, Inc. as its management company, will be located in Community School District (CSD) 17, in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn.  The School will open in September 2009.  Initially, the School will serve 177 students in grades K-2 and grow to serve 366 students in grades K-6 in the fifth year of the initial charter. The School's mission is “for all students to demonstrate the academic skills and critical-thinking abilities they need to be successful in a college-preparatory high school.” 

            The School will be a replication of the program offered by Explore Charter School I (“ECS1”).  However, at the present time, Explore Schools, Inc. is not affiliated with ESC1.  ECS1 is located in CSD 17, in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn, and serves 423 students in grades K-8.  The initial charter became effective in June 2001.  An application for renewal came before the Regents in April 2006.  ECS1 was renewed for a period of five years effective June 12, 2006.  For Explore Charter School I’s performance on State assessments, see Attachment 1. 


            VOTED: That the Board of Regents approves and issues the charter of the Explore Charter School II as proposed by the Chancellor of the city school district of the City of New York, and issues a provisional charter to it for a term of five years, up through and including December 15, 2013.

Reasons 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 Explore Charter School II is effective immediately.


New York State Education Department

Summary of Proposed Charter

Name of Proposed Charter School: Explore Charter School II (ECS2 or “the School”)

Address:  TBD

Applicant(s):  Morton Ballen

Anticipated Opening Date: September 1, 2009

District of Location: New York City Community School District 17, Brooklyn

Charter Entity: Chancellor of the city school district of the City of New York (“the Chancellor”)

Institutional Partner(s):  N/A

Management Partner(s): Explore Schools, Inc.

Grades Served:                   2009-2010: K-2

2010-2011: K-3

2011-2012: K-4

2012-2013: K-5

2013-2014: K-6

Projected Enrollment:       2009-2010: 177

2010-2011: 228

2011-2012: 277

2012-2013: 324

2013-2014: 366

Proposed Charter Highlights


            Morton Ballen is the founder and executive director of Explore Charter School I; a trustee of Friends of Explore Charter School, Inc. and an initial director of the proposed management company Explore Schools, Inc.  He is also the chairperson of the board of trustees for the St. Hope Leadership Academy Charter School.  Mr. Ballen is a former school director for the Teach for America Summer Institute and teacher of high school humanities at the Baker High School in Los Angeles.  Mr. Ballen earned an M.A. in Educational Administration from Columbia University and a B.A. from Franklin and Marshall College.  The applicant is a permanently certified school administrator/supervisor in New York State.

Institutional Partner


Management Partner


Explore Schools, Inc. (ESI) is a not-for-profit organization formed (1) to raise the quality of public education in under-resourced communities within and without New York State; (2) to work with educators, schools and school districts to improve student performance and close the achievement gap between urban and suburban students; (3) to provide educational career development, leadership development and training for educators; (4) to provide data tools for educators to measure achievement and assist with analysis and assessment; (5) to support the educational purposes and educational activities of the Explore group of charter schools, which may be comprised of one existing school and four additional schools currently in the planning stages; and (6) to advance the educational programs, plans and goals of such schools.  Explore Schools, Inc. was incorporated in the State of New York on July 30, 2008.  ESI has a signed Memorandum of Understanding with the applicant.  ESI is also in negotiations with the Explore Charter School I to serve as its management company in the future.


  • The School states that it will provide an educational program that balances explicit skills instruction with critical thinking and problem solving. 
  • The School defines “skills instruction” as basic tools for literacy and numeracy. 
  • The School’s early literacy program features a phonics component to build decoding skills, letter recognition, and identification of connections between sounds and letters, and letters and words. The early math program emphasizes competency in counting, completing basic operations and recognizing patterns of both numbers and shapes.
  • Core values of the School affirm the beliefs that all students have the ability, desire and right to achieve; and further, that students achieve when multiple instructional strategies are used to balance skills instruction that encourage critical thinking and problem solving; when they are assessed regularly and when instruction is data-driven; when schools are safe and exude a strong culture; when parents are involved; and when school staff has regular and ongoing professional development. 
  • Distinguishing characteristics of the School include a longer school day and longer academic year, small class sizes, data-driven instruction and the use of research-based best practices.
  • The reading and writing curriculum will use a variety of curricular resources including Voyager, Fountas & Pinnell, Teachers College Reading and Writing Workshop, Scholastic and Sunshine leveled trade books and titles, the Mondo Big Book Collection and others.
  • Math instruction will be anchored around Everyday Math and supplemented by TERC and Scott Foresman.  The School will also use Orchard Software.
  • Science instruction will be based on the Full Option Science System (FOSS) and supplemented with titles from Capstone Press, Raintree Publishers and Orbit Shared Reading Non-fiction Charts.
  • Social studies instruction will be based on a variety of internally developed resources and the selection of various titles from Capstone Press and Raintree Publishers.
  • The School will provide 180 minutes of literacy instruction each day. The specific instructional strategies will include large group read-aloud, small-group guided reading, individual independent reading, large-group writing instruction, individual independent writing, vocabulary work, as well as, decoding and phonemic awareness.
  • The School will provide 90 minutes of mathematics instruction each day.  The specific instructional strategies will include a daily morning math routine, problem-solving, spiral review and fact fluency.
  • The School will employ specific end-of-year benchmarks based on New York State (NYS) Learning Standards.
  • The School will administer all required state assessments.
  • ECS2 intends to administer norm-referenced assessments in reading and math such as Terra Nova.
  • ECS2 will assess student progress towards achieving pre-determined goals through several school-developed interim assessments and the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) for grades K-2.
  • The School will conduct periodic internal assessments in the core subject areas to assist in differentiating instruction and providing additional support to students as needed.
  • The School will provide Special Education Teacher Support Services and will educate students with disabilities (SWD) in the least restrictive environment.
  • The School will employ a structured immersion strategy to help English language learners (ELL) students achieve proficiency in the English language.  The extended instructional day will offer additional opportunities for ELL students to acquire proficiency.   
  • The School proposes a 192-day school year from September 1 to July 22.
  • The School will provide instruction from 8:20 a.m. – 3:45 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.  Classes will conclude at 2:00 p.m. on Wednesdays to conduct professional development activities.
  • Over the course of the school year, ECS2 students will have had 30 percent additional schooling as compared to students attending traditional New York City public schools.  This equates to nearly 25 additional school days.



  • The number of trustees shall not be fewer than five (5) and shall not exceed sixteen (16).
  • Trustees will be elected to serve three term(s) for a maximum of three years.  Parent trustees are appointed for one-year terms.
  • No more than 40 percent of trustees will be affiliated with the School as a compensated employee or contractor. 
  • No more than 40 percent of trustees will be affiliated with Explore Schools, Inc. or any other single entity; and such persons will not serve as chair or treasurer of the Board.
  • The applicant is the only board member of the proposed charter school who will also serve on the Explore Charter School board.
  • Regular meetings of the Board of Trustees shall be held at least ten times a year during the academic year.
  • The initial committees of the Board of Trustees shall be Executive, Audit, Education Accountability, and Compensation. 
  • The officers of the Board of Trustees are president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer.



  • ECS2 will serve 177 students in grades K-2 in Year One and will grow to 366 students in grades K-6 in Year Five.   
  • The School will enroll 20 students per grade in Year One. 
  • The School anticipates class sizes in grades K-3 will average 18-20 students.  Class sizes beginning in grade four will average 24 to 26 students.
  • The School’s recruitment plan includes strategies to advertise widely to families from the community school district, including ELL and SWD populations.
  • ECS2 will advertise in community newspapers and make enrollment information available via the School’s website; additionally the School will distribute flyers, brochures and applications to elementary schools, community and social service organizations, children service organizations and communities of faith.
  • The School anticipates the ages of students enrolled in grades K-6 will range between five and eleven.
  • The School expects the student body to reflect the population of the Explore Charter School I, which in 2008 is: 98 percent Black and two percent Latino; 78 percent of the area public school children participated in the federal free/reduced lunch program.  The School anticipates that as many as 15 percent of those enrolled will be SWD, and that less than five percent will be ELLs.



  • The School is pursuing alternatives to conventional lease/purchase arrangements that include securing underutilized New York City Department of Education (NYCDOE) space, and partnerships with other school-facilities organizations. 
  • The School has developed comprehensive contingency plans in the event fund-raising targets are not met.  Targets have been set based on conservative estimates of previous campaigns operated by the management partner.
  • The School’s Year One revenue is anticipated at $3,007,689 and will grow to $5,131,968 in Year Five. 
  • The School anticipates $100,000 in philanthropic contributions in Year One.
  • The School expects to carry forward a cash balance of $176,348 from the start-up budget.
  • The Year One budget anticipates total expenses of $2,653,462, and by Year Five expenses of $4,392,497.
  • The School anticipates an ending fund balance of $304,227 at the end of Year One and approximately $820,000 at the end of Year Five.
  • The School intends to reserve $25,000 per year towards its dissolution fund, starting in Year One through Year Three.
  • The School will seek a State Stimulus Grant (SSG) and the Charter Schools Program (CSP) Planning and Implementation grant.  The School anticipates receiving a New York City Start-up Grant in the amount of $159,207.
  • The School ensures that it will perform all programmatic and fiscal audits annually as required by the New York State Charter Schools Act, in accordance with auditing standards and Government Auditing Standards issued by the Comptroller General of the United States.
  • The potential fiscal impact upon the District is represented below.  Please note that 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 NYC 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

Explore Charter School II

(New York City – CSD 17 – Brooklyn)

2009-10 through 2013-14

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.



  • The School will be led by the principal. 
  • The work of the principal will be supported by an academic director, a finance manager, director of operations, and an operations assistant, each of whom will be hired in Year One.
  • A second academic director will be hired in Year Four.
  • The School will employ the following staff in Year One: 11 classroom teachers (22 in Year Five); three special education coordinators/teachers (four in Year Five); three teaching assistants (three in Year Five), and one counselor/dean of Students (two in Year Five).
  • The special education teacher will be New York State certified in Special Education.
  • Staff will receive four weeks of professional development in the summer prior to school opening.


Community Support

  • The School provided 250 signatures from parents with children eligible for enrollment.
  • The School has received support from the following community leaders, foundations, and community organizations: Yvette D. Clark – 11th Congressional District; Kevin S. Parker – 21st State Senatorial District; Joseph R. Lentol – 50th Assembly District; the Caribbean Women’s Health Association; and, the Madison Square Boys and Girls Club.


Public Opinion

  • The New York City Department of Education sent a letter and posted the notice on its website, notifying the public and independent schools in CSD 17 of the proposed application for Explore Charter School II and inviting comments for the public hearing. 
  • The public hearing was held on July 7, 2008.  No comments were received.






















Explore Charter School I (ECS1)

Performance on State Assessments


Table 1


Grades 3-8 State ELA and Math Assessments

Percent of ECS1 Students at Levels 1 – 4

3-8 ELA

3-8 Math























Table 2


Grades 3-8 State ELA and Math Assessments

Percent of ECS1 Students at Levels 1 – 4

3-8 ELA

3-8 Math























Table 3

2006-2007 and 2007-2008

Grades 3-8 State ELA and Math Assessments

Percent of ECS1 and District 17 Students at Proficiency Level