At Fahari Academy, every student will be prepared for college. Our education program is marked by high expectations, a structured environment, a longer school day and a rigorous academic program.
December 12th, 2013
300 FAHARI ACADEMY PARENTS ASK ELECTED REPRESENTATIVES TO JOIN EFFORT TO KEEP SCHOOL OPEN
Department of Education to Meet with School Community on Saturday
Three hundred Fahari Academy Charter School parents representing more than 80% of the student population sent letters to state and city elected representatives yesterday asking for their help in reversing the Department of Education’s November decision to close the school. Fahari, which serves 400 students in grades 5-8 in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn and is in its fifth year, learned of the decision in November, hours after the DOE’s school progress reports were released and less than a week after Chancellor Dennis Walcott announced that the Bloomberg Administration would not close schools this year.
Fahari scored an F on the progress report, but school officials have argued that missing data in the DOE’s calculation compromised its reliability as a measure of the school’s achievement. After struggling initially, Fahari dramatically improved its performance and had been taken off probation by the DOE in August, suggesting that the decision to close the school hinged primarily on the progress report.
DOE charter school officials will address parent concerns at a 12:30 public meeting at Fahari on Saturday. The school’s charter expireson Sunday. The DOE says it plans to recommend to the state Board of Regents on Monday that Fahari remain open until the end of the school year.
“It’s impossible to visit Fahari and conclude that it’s failing,” said Elizabeth Lenig, Vice-Chair of the school’s Board of Trustees. “The vitality of the school’s culture, seriousness of instruction, high expectations for students and teachers, and quality of the high schools Fahari students go on to attend all attest to the amazing determination of this community to surmount the problems of the past and our success in doing so.
“We need to do far better still, but it’s not clear why DOE would move to close us given the extent and momentum of our turnaround. Progress reports, and ours particularly, are not sufficiently free from error and distortion to be used alone in making the highest-stakes decision of closing a school.”
Fahari (which derives from the Swahili word for “pride”) is an independent charter that opened in 2009 with a particular on focus on students who underperformed in elementary school. Its population is more than 98 percent black and Hispanic, including a large West Indian population, and nearly 90 percent are economically disadvantaged. Half of its fifth- and sixth-grade students have disabilities, and the large majority of these receive services for more than 60 percent of their school day.
Fahari struggled in its early years to establish a positive school culture. Large numbers of students and teachers left the school and suspension rates were unacceptably high. Thanks to a dedicated core of educators, the school began to turn itself around. Ironically, some of the changes essential to the turnaround, including hiring new school leadership and replacing the board of trustees, were cited by the DOE as reasons for non-renewal.
The result of these changes include a drop in student attrition from 37 percent in 2010-2011 to four percent in 2012-13. Teachers unionized, and with help from the United Federation of Teachers teacher turnover began to drop from a high of 73 percent in 2010-2011 to 13 percent today. Suspensions are down by 50 percent.
The growing health of the school was not reflected in this year’s progress report: Fahari received an F and a very low numerical score. The report omits important data, however, including figures for students passing core courses. The progress scores of the school’s large disabled population are appropriately included but those of several dozen higher-scoring students are omitted. Fahari has raised these issues to the DOE several times in recent months.
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Saturday: 12:30 pm, Fahari Academy, 72 Veronica Place, Brooklyn, NY 11226
Elizabeth Lenig (518) 217-8760