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Charter School of Inquiry in Buffalo gains approval from Regents

Buffalo’s newest charter school – the Charter School of Inquiry, or CSI – will open next year, focusing on children at risk of academic failure up to sixth grade.

The school, co-founded by former Buffalo Board of Education President Helene H. Kramer and using an inquiry-based approach to instruction, won approval from the state Board of Regents this week.

CSI will open in August 2015 with 50 children each in kindergarten, first and second grades, officials said. Another grade will be added each year for a total of 350 students by the end of the five-year charter term.

A site has not yet been selected, but planners are looking to locate it on the East Side, where there is a greater need for high-quality educational options.

“We’re definitely planning to make a difference,” Kramer said.

“We’re not interested in incremental change, but in breakthrough outcomes. It’s not about memorizing and repeating. It’s about learning with the ability to apply knowledge in any circumstance,” said Kramer, who also will serve as chairwoman of the school’s board of trustees.

Using inquiry as the approach to learning, youngsters will learn how to plan, think critically, navigate the digital world, reason and evaluate, uncover new evidence-based information and share their findings with peers, according to organizers. They also will learn how to read, write, speak and think critically and creatively.

In addition, the school day will be about two hours longer and the school year 10 days longer than in the Buffalo Public Schools to allow for academic remediation, homework help and extracurricular clubs, organizers said.

The school’s key instructional elements will include:

• A rigorous, inquiry-based curriculum in which students will learn by raising questions and conducting investigations, then interpreting and communicating the findings.

• An academic focus on literacy that will enable every student to read fluently and with good comprehension by the end of third grade.

• A responsive classroom approach recognizing that the social curriculum is as important as the academics.

• A collaborative team-teaching technique in every classroom, including a teacher, teaching assistant, literacy coach and an inquiry coach.

• Data-driven instruction and continuous monitoring of progress in reading, literacy, math and science.

• Instruction in African and African-American history and culture to give all of the students perspectives they may not ordinarily receive.

• Integrating the arts into the program to stimulate innovation and creative risk-taking.

Interim Buffalo School Superintendent Will Keresztes said the Buffalo Public Schools have a great regard for Kramer and the organizers of the new charter school.

“My expectation is that we will create shared professional opportunities to support each other so that all children in Buffalo, regardless of the educational option chosen by parents, get the education they deserve,” he said.