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Harlem Link Charter School, a Pre-K to 5 public school, links academics, values and community to graduate articulate scholars who meet or exceed New York State Performance Standards and active citizens who learn and serve in their communities. Families, staff and community join together to provide a safe, supportive learning environment that empowers students to take an active role in learning and demonstrate good character.
Steve Evangelista and Margaret Ryan, the co-founders of Harlem Link, evolved their educational philosophy at Bank Street College’s Teacher Recruitment Initiative, a three-year partnership between Bank Street and Teach For America. Spurred by demand from parents for safer, more rigorous schools and the promise of greater autonomy in the charter law, after a two-year founding process they opened Harlem Link in the same building where they were teaching together, PS 242, with the blessing of that school’s principal. They put together a grassroots founding board with a diverse set of backgrounds and expertise, and chose the SUNY Charter Schools Institute as authorizer due to the consistency of message and high expectations exhibited by that office.
From 2011 to 2013, the school went through a number of changes in response to a leadership transition, Common Core adoption, and state assessment changes. The school was an early adopter of Common Core and, since the curriculum is home-grown, devoted a great deal of resources to revising curriculum during those years. The resulting shift in approach brought on reflection and a challenge to maintain the strong elements of the new, and return to best elements of the old.
In 2013-14, due to this reflection teams of teachers and administrators helped to create a school wide Culture Goal, making it the top priority for the school in the 2014-15 school year, and a five-year vision for Professional Learning. The Culture Goal--"Throughout every day, every child's experience will be both rigorous and caring through our team's consistency and developmentally appropriate practice; to support this hard work our staff's culture will be positive, supportive and trusting"--brought the school community full circle by incorporating new ideas from Common Core while maintaining the school's founding vision of grounding work in relationships. Some changes that resulted in 2014-15 included the piloting of Responsive Classroom practices in five classrooms and a new structure for teacher-led Professional Learning Communities.
In turn, these changes informed the development of the Instructional Vision statement, which captures 10 years of school growth and evolution, and guided the adoption of six Priority Initiatives for the 2015-16 school year. These initiatives are described in the chart below:
|1. Responsive Classroom rollout||Bring Responsive Classroom practices consistently to all classrooms in the school.|
|2. Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI) Pilot||Introduce and "try out" CGI to improve math instruction in number sense; 9 of 13 classrooms opted in.|
|3. Test Prep Plan||Help students transfer their learning to testing by creating opportunities for practice, growth mindset and feedback.|
|4. Revised Unit Assessment Protocol||Help teachers develop methods for learning about children through their unit-end work.|
|5. PLC's 2.0||Build on the success of 2014-15 Professional Learning Communities by diving deeper into vision-related topics.|
|6. Expansion||Grow the school by adding more sections and open up a new Pre-Kindergarten program, improving the scale of the school.|