DTM: Icahn Charter School 1
“Many people say all children can learn. Well, that’s true. But a parakeet can learn, too. We look for people who believe that children can excel.”
— Jeffrey Litt, founding principal and superintendent
- Bronx District
- Icahn Charter School Network
- Grades K- 8
- Charter (random lottery admission)
- DTM awarded in 2011
Recognized as a Dispelling the Myth school in 2011, Icahn Charter School 1 remains a leader in New York state.
Icahn Charter School 1 occupies two small buildings on a quiet South Bronx street overshadowed by the towering Webster Homes. Inside, the buildings buzz with academic activity: While eighth-grade students discuss the Slave Codes, seventh-graders demand to know why tornadoes never threatened the Mayans, fifth-graders solve algebraic expressions, and third-graders report on inventions and their creators.
Icahn 1 is the brainchild of Founding Principal Jeffrey Litt, who currently serves as superintendent of the Icahn Charter School network of six schools. All Icahn schools use Core Knowledge curriculum, which builds students’ vocabulary and background knowledge through an emphasis on social studies, science, and literature. “Core Knowledge is my religion,” Litt says.
The results? In 2011 — the year the school won the Dispelling the Myth award — every single eighth-grader, 86 percent of whom come from low-income families, met state standards in mathematics, compared with just 60 percent of students in the state. In reading, 86 percent met standards compared with 47 percent of all students and only about 30 percent of African American and Latino students in the state.
Staff members say such results come from hard work, high expectations, and a staff-wide commitment to ensuring that each and every child succeeds in mastering a rich, coherent curriculum. Daniel Garcia, who was principal when the school won the DTM, regularly told his teachers to make sure they help the student in their room who struggles most. “If you can make a difference with the child in greatest need,” he said, “you’ll make a difference for every child in that room.”
Since winning the DTM, Garcia has become deputy superintendent for the Icahn Charter School network where he works with principals to look at teaching practices and data with an eye to improvement. “Where the scores weren’t what we wanted, how are we going to ameliorate the situation?”
Because of a change in assessment in New York state, many schools’ proficiency rates dropped precipitously in 2013, including Icahn’s. However, its results still put it near the top of the state; it was only 1 of 249 schools named by New York State Department of Education to be a “rewards” school, which recognizes academic performance.
• Ed Trust 2013 webinar series, “Building a Profession,” featured Jeffrey Litt.
• A Huffington Post article profiles the Icahn Charter Schools.
• New York City report card
• New York state report card
• More information on achievement in New York