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Meeting of the Board of Regents | January 2009

Wednesday, January 7, 2009 - 11:00pm

sed seal                                                                                                 







Johanna Duncan-Poitier


Charter Schools: Proposed Charter for the Brownsville Ascend Charter School


January 7, 2009


Goals 1 and 2







Issue for Decision


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


Reason(s) for Consideration


              Required by New York State Education Law §2852.


Proposed Handling


This question will come before the EMSC Committee in January 2009 for action.  It will then come before the full Board for final action in January 2009.


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. 

The BOR must act on a proposed charter submitted by the Chancellor of the city school district of the City of New York or other school district within 90 days of its submission or the proposed charter will be deemed to have been approved and issued by operation of law at the expiration of that period.


If the BOR chooses to return the proposed charter to the Chancellor of the city school district of the City of New York or school district, as the chartering entity, with comments and recommendations, the Chancellor of the city school district of the City of New York or the school district must reconsider the proposed charter, taking into consideration the comments and recommendations of the BOR.  The Chancellor of the city school district of the City of New York or the school district may resubmit the proposed charter to the BOR without modification, resubmit the proposed charter with modifications agreed to by the applicant in writing, or abandon the proposed charter. 


If the Chancellor of the city school district of the City of New York or the school district resubmits a proposed charter to the BOR, the BOR may, within 90 days of resubmission, either approve or again return the proposed charter to the Chancellor of the city school district of the City of New York or to the school district for modification.  There is no limit to the number of times the BOR can return a resubmitted proposed charter to the Chancellor of the city school district of the City of New York or to the school district.


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:


  • Brownsville Ascend Charter School  (New York City)


             The Brownsville Ascend Charter School (BACS or “the School”) would be located in Community School District 23, in the East New York section of Brooklyn.  The applicant is targeting the Ocean Hill and Brownsville communities.  The proposed charter school would open with 124 students in grades K-1 and expand to 640 students in grades K-6 by the fifth year. The School will implement 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.     


             The School will be a replication of the Brooklyn Ascend Charter School, located in New York City Community School District 18, in Brooklyn.  No student achievement data on New York State assessments is available for the school, as the Brooklyn Ascend Charter School does not yet have students enrolled in grades three through eight.  The School reports 98 percent average daily attendance and a waiting list of 1,000 students. 






              VOTED: That the Board of Regents approves and issues the charter of the Brownsville Ascend Charter School 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 January 12, 2014.


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 Brownsville 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:  Brownsville Ascend Charter School (BACS or “the School”)


Address:  TBD


Applicant(s):  Steven Wilson


Anticipated Opening Date:  September 8, 2009


District of Location:  New York City Community School District 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:                      2009-10:  K-1

2010-11:  K-2

2011-12:  K-3

2012-13:  K-5

2013-14:  K-6


Projected Enrollment:         2009-10:  124

2010-11:  210

2011-12:  250

2012-13:  550

2013-14:  640


Proposed Charter Highlights




              The lead applicant, Steven Wilson, is the founder and president of Ascend Learning, Inc.  Mr. Wilson is a senior fellow at Education Sector, a Washington-based think tank, and former senior fellow at the Kennedy School, Harvard University.  Mr. Wilson is the founder of the Brooklyn Ascend Charter School.  He is the founder and former Chief Executive Officer 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 Massachusetts’ 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. (ALI) is a 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 five-year contract, ALI 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, and other services.  ALI was formed in 2007 and manages the Brooklyn Ascend Charter School.  Performance data is not available for the School because no students are currently enrolled in grades 3 through 8. 


Approved by the Board of Regents:

  • Brooklyn Ascend Charter School – January 2008 – Brooklyn, NY




  • BACS’ 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 school will provide instruction in each subject in the seven general curriculum areas and the proposed curriculum is aligned with all 28 New York State (NYS) learning standards.
  • 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 (NYS) 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 NYS assessments.
  • BACS will have a school year of no less than 180 days. 
  • The school day will be from 8:00 AM until 4:15 PM.




  • The initial Board of Trustees are recruited for their expertise in charter schools, school reform, public management, and the community.
  • 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 re-elected 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 ALI, the School’s management partner.
  • 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 124 students in kindergarten through the first grade in Year One, and grow to 640 students in kindergarten through the sixth grade in Year Five.
  • The student to teacher ratio will be 25:1.
  • 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 percent of the student population is Black and 18 percent Hispanic; 12 percent SWD; four percent ELL; and, between 79 percent and 87 percent 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.
  • 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

Brownsville Ascend Charter School

(New York City CSD 23 – 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.


Community Support


  • Support for BASC was sought within the Ocean Hill-Brownsville community. The Lead Applicant submitted 244 signatures of interested parents of eligible school age children.
  • The applicant resubmitted letters of support written on behalf of the Brooklyn Ascend Charter School. 


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 Community School District 23 of the proposed application for Brooklyn Ascend Charter School and inviting comments for the public hearing. 
  • The public hearing was held on August 6, 2008.  No public comments were received.