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Meeting of the Board of Regents | January 2008

Tuesday, January 1, 2008 - 9:55am

sed seal                                                                                                 








Johanna Duncan-Poitier



Charter Schools: Proposed Charter for The Equity Project Charter School


January 4, 2008


Goals 1 and 2






Issue for Decision


Should the Regents approve and issue the proposed charter of The Equity Project Charter School as submitted by the Chancellor of the city school district of the city of New York?

Reason(s) for Consideration


              Required by State statute, 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 for the following:


  • The Equity Project Charter School (New York City)


              The Equity Project Charter School (TEP or “The School”) would be located in New York City Community School District 6, in Washington Heights.  The proposed charter school would initially serve 120 students in grade five and would expand to serve 480 students in grades 5-8 at full capacity in the fourth year of the initial charter. TEP aims to put into practice the central conclusion of a large body of research related to student achievement: teacher quality is the most important school-based factor in the academic success of students, particularly those from low-income families.




              VOTED:  That the Board of Regents approve and issue the charter of The Equity Project 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.


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 applicants can demonstrate the ability to operate the school in an educationally and fiscally sound manner; and (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 Equity Project Charter School is effective immediately.




New York State Education Department


Summary of Proposed Charter


Name of Proposed Charter School: The Equity Project Charter School (TEP or “the School”)


Address:  TBD


Applicant(s):  Zeke Vanderhoek


Anticipated Opening Date: September 8, 2009


District of Location: New York City Community School District 6, Washington Heights


Charter Entity:  The Chancellor of the city school district of the city of New York


Institutional Partner(s): N/A


Management Partner(s): N/A


Grades Served:                      2008-09: 0 (planning year)

              2009-10: 5

              2010-11: 5-6

              2011-12: 5-7

              2012-13: 5-8


Projected Enrollment:         2008-09: 0

2009-10: 120

2010-11: 240

2011-12: 360

2012-13: 480



Proposed Charter Highlights




Zeke Vanderhoek has a B.A. from Yale University and a Masters in Philosophy & Education from Teachers College at Columbia University.  He began his educational career as a 6th and 8th grade teacher at I.S. 90, a public middle school in Washington Heights (NYC). Mr. Vanderhoek founded Manhattan GMAT, a national GMAT test-preparation company. The company employs over 60 administrative and instructional staff, has classroom centers in five major US cities, and is on pace to serve over 5000 students and to earn revenues of $6,000,000 in 2007. In addition, from July 2005 through July 2007, Mr. Vanderhoek served as President of the Board of Trustees of New Heights Academy Charter School in New York City.




  • TEP aims to put into practice the central conclusion of a large body of research related to student achievement: teacher quality is the most important school-based factor in the academic success of students, particularly those from low-income families.
  • To single out teacher quality as the essential lever in educational reform, TEP will focus on attracting and retaining master teachers.
  • TEP will implement a three-pronged strategy that it terms the three R’s: Rigorous Qualifications, Redefined Expectations, and Revolutionary Compensation.
  • TEP will spend over 15 months recruiting master teachers who meet eight rigorous qualifications. These teachers will then meet TEP’s expectations that center on the following: a professional work-day that includes daily peer observations and co-teaching, a work-year that includes an annual six week Summer Development Institute, and a career arc that fosters professional growth through a mandatory sabbatical once every five or six years.
  • TEP teachers will be valued and sustained through compensation of a $125,000 annual salary as well as the opportunity to earn an annual bonus based on school-wide performance.
  • Since school-wide performance (not individual teacher performance) is the determining factor, every teacher is awarded the same Current Year School Performance (CYSP) bonus in a particular year. This system was created to foster a culture of collaboration that the School finds essential to the growth-oriented teacher development culture that is intrinsic to the mission of TEP.
  • Three core principles will guide TEP’s instructional model:

(1) TEP’s educational program is structured around extended and varied interaction between students and master teachers. TEP students are in class from 8:25 AM to 4:00 PM, in 55 minute periods. In addition, TEP has a mandatory extended-day program three days a week from 4:00 to 5:00 PM for extra-curricular activities as well as academic assistance for struggling students.

(2) TEP’s educational program will emphasize language development. TEP’s design includes three elements that have been shown to have strong positive effects on student reading ability, vocabulary development, and grammatical facility. These elements are: (a) the high verbal ability of TEP teachers (as measured by standardized exam scores); (b) the study of Latin; and (c) the study of music. (TEP students are required to take 4 years of Latin and 4 years of music.)

(3) TEP will leverage its culture of teacher observation and collaboration to shape an interdisciplinary curriculum. TEP teacher schedules have been designed to enable teachers to plan and implement interdisciplinary units. Every TEP teacher spends at least three periods each day observing, co-teaching, and debriefing/planning with a partner teacher.


  • TEP will administer annual comprehensive diagnostic and summative assessments in six core subject areas  - ELA, Math, Science, Social Studies, Latin, & Music - using New York City & State Exams and two additional assessment tools: (1) the Stanford 10 Achievement Test (SAT-10) and (2) TEP-created subject-specific assessments.
  • Where appropriate, TEP will employ an “inclusion” model in which students with disabilities (SWDs) receive the majority of their instruction together with general education students in classrooms that support a variety of ability levels and learning styles.
  • SWDs will be supported by TEP’s two full-time special education teachers who “push-in” to general education classes and work one-on-one with students during TEP’s extended-day program.
  • TEP’s educational program, specifically its emphasis on language development, is geared towards English Language Learners (ELLs) in particular. Because of TEP’s location in NYC Community School District 6, TEP anticipates serving a significant population of ELLs. These students are supported by four TEP teachers who serve as ELL Leads and two TEP teachers who serve as Reading and Language Specialists.




  • TEP will be governed by a Board of Trustees that provides legal, fiscal, and operational oversight, establishes an educational accountability plan, and promotes TEP’s mission to the public.
  • TEP’s Board will consist of between five (5) and seventeen (17) Trustees.
  • TEP Trustees will serve one-year terms and there are no term limits.
  • TEP has identified six founding Board Trustees who have been chosen for their expertise in finance, operations, facilities, and education.
  • Individuals are considered qualified to serve on the TEP Board of Trustees if they (1) share an interest in promoting TEP’s mission, (2) have relevant community and/or employment experience in the fields of education, finance, law, real estate, non-profit management, health services, technology, marketing, or other relevant fields, and (3) are able to meet the responsibilities of Board membership.




  • TEP will serve 120 5th grade students in 2009-10, adding a new 5th grade cohort each year, and growing to full capacity in 2012-13 with 480 students in grades five through eight.
  • TEP will recruit students through advertising, mailings, community events, promotional brochures, and door-to-door canvassing.
  • TEP anticipates that its student population will roughly mirror that of public schools in its proposed location with approximately 88% Hispanic students and 9% African American students and the vast majority of students eligible for free lunch.
  • TEP anticipates that 20% to 30% of its students will be ELLs and that approximately 10% of its students will be SWDs.
  • Students will be selected in a blind, random lottery. Preference will be given to students residing in NYC Community School District 6.
  • Thirty percent of the seats will be reserved for students that meet an admissions criterion. The School defines “at-risk of academic failure” as having scored a level one or level two on either the NY English Language Arts or Math exam.




  • TEP’s Principal is the school’s instructional and operational leader. The principal will assume responsibility for the following: establishing and implementing TEP’s educational program, directing day-to-day operations, allocating resources, reporting to the Board each month, and communicating with parents.
  • Zeke Vanderhoek, the lead applicant, will serve as the founding Principal.
  • TEP’s Director of Finance & Operations will report directly to the TEP Principal and is responsible for administering TEP’s daily fiscal and operational functions.
  • The administrative team for TEP’s first school-year will also include a Social Worker and an Office Manager.
  • TEP will add a Facility Manager and an Administrative Assistant in TEP’s third school-year.
  • At full capacity, TEP will have 28 teachers: six teachers for each grade level, two Special Ed teachers, and two PE/Health teachers.
  • TEP teachers must meet eight requirements in order to demonstrate their qualifications in four major areas. The four areas are: (1) Expert Subject-Area Knowledge demonstrated through (a) a 90% or higher standardized test score in relevant subject area and (b) significant undergraduate and/or graduate coursework and excellent grades in relevant subject area; (2) Outstanding Verbal Ability demonstrated through (a) a 90% or higher score in the verbal section of the GRE/GMAT/LSAT and (b) two writing samples, one long-form and one-short form; (3) Teaching Expertise and Experience demonstrated through (a) a portfolio of achievement of past students, utilizing both quantitative and qualitative data, (b) three live teaching auditions, and (c) an essay describing personal pedagogical beliefs and approach; and (4) Strong Curriculum Development Ability demonstrated through (a) one originally developed and refined curricular tool of any form.
  • In addition to his or her teaching responsibilities, each TEP teacher will be required to lead an activity during the extended-day program and serves in one whole-school service position (e.g. Home Visits Director, Discipline Dean, Assessment Data Analyst).




  • TEP will take a planning year in 2008-2009 before opening in 2009-10.
  • TEP’s 2009-10 budget is estimated to equal $2,054,560.
  • TEP anticipates a surplus of $140,303.
  • TEP’s five year budget includes no private funding or loans other than an already-committed $400,000 donation from Manhattan GMAT and $85,000 in grants from the NYC Center for Charter School Excellence.
  • The TEP budget indicates that it will fund its teacher compensation program primarily through cost-savings accrued from its high teacher quality and productivity.
  • TEP believes that it has a lean administrative and support staff (e.g. no assistant principals), TEP does not contract out any instructional services, and all professional development costs (such as the mandatory annual Summer Development Institute) as well as costs for TEP’s extended-day program are incorporated into teacher salaries.
  • TEP will lease commercial incubation space in Washington Heights for the 2009-10 and 2010-11 school years with a projected rent of $28/square foot.
  • TEP has identified three prospective incubation spaces.
  • The West Side Federation for Senior & Supportive Housing (WSFSSH), a NYC non-profit affordable housing developer, has signed an agreement to develop TEP’s permanent school facility as part of a mixed-use project that combines the school with affordable housing.
  • WSFSSH had identified 12 possible sites in Washington Heights and is currently in active negotiations for a particular site.
  • The facility is expected to be ready for the 2011-2012 school-year.
  • TEP has projected annual facility payments of $505,000. Upon completion of a 30-year payment schedule, WSFSSH will transfer ownership of the school to TEP.
  • 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 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.



Fiscal Impact of the

The Equity Project Charter School

(New York City CSD 6 –Washington Heights)

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


  • TEP collected 120 signatures from interested parents who have children that will enter 5th grade in September 2009.
  • TEP collected an additional 115 signatures from interested parents who have children that will enter 5th grade between 2010 and 2012.
  • TEP received letters of support from Robert Jackson, NYC Councilmember and Chair of the Education Committee; Adrianno Espaillat, New York State Assembly member; Ellen Baxter, Executive Director of Broadway Housing; and Matthew Mahoney, Executive Director of Operation Exodus Inner City.


Public Opinion


              All comments that were generated at the public hearing for TEP on September 20, 2007 were enthusiastic and supportive. These comments were sent under separate cover to NYSED by the NYCDOE in mid-October 2007, and SED has confirmed receipt of these comments.