Ross Global Academy’s Fight for Life

Exterior of Ross Global Academy Charter SchoolM.J. GonzalezRoss Global Academy Charter School on 11th Street between First Avenue and Avenue A.

In 2009, teachers at the Ross Global Academy Charter School hung a blue banner across the main entrance that read, “We must become the change we want to see.” These days, the words on the banner are regarded by the school’s staff, parents, and students as more than an aspirational motto. In December, the Department of Education announced that the five-year-old school on East 11th Street near First Avenue will close at the end of the academic year. But some of the people involved with the school said that they are determined to convince the department to keep the school open.

They may have serious hurdles to overcome. When the academy was founded in 2006, it was given a five-year charter outlining academic, organizational and financial goals. Each year, the Department of Education performs a citywide evaluation to ensure that such goals are being met. This past year, the Ross Global Academy was ranked as the lowest performing charter school in the city.

Richard Burke, the executive director of a specialized enrichment and tutoring program at the school, said that the faculty is exploring every option they can think of to keep the school functioning.

“We’re doing everything possible to keep the school open,” he said. “Everything from a city to state level and a legal angle.”

While there are many at the school who share Mr. Burke’s goal, some of them said that they can’t help feeling worried about the future.

“We are dismayed,” said Stephanie Wilson, a member of the school’s Parent Teacher Association and Board of Trustees. “We’ve gone through the shock, and are now really sad and anxious.”

One of the things that Mrs. Wilson is most worried about, she said, is the possibility that the school’s successes will be overlooked. She said that the academy has had a positive effect on her two children.

Her 15-year-old son, Demetrius, graduated from R.G.A. in 2009 after completing eighth-grade, and was accepted into Brooklyn Technological High School, a highly competitive and academically rigorous specialized science high school in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

And Mrs. Wilson’s younger son, Elijah, 7, began at R.G.A. two years ago as a kindergartener.

“He’s learning Mandarin,” she said. “He’s in advanced math, and he is reading at a fourth-grade level.”

According to a report conducted in 2010 by the Department of Education, “Ross Global Academy’s students out-performed the District, City, and State on English Language Arts and Math exams in 2007, 2008, and 2009,” but experienced a significant drop in 2010.

There are some who suggest that the education department itself may be partly responsible for that dip. Since the school opened five years ago, it has moved four times. The near constant moves, along with the addition of two new grade levels in 2010 — resulting in an increase of nearly 50 percent in the student body — disrupted the operations of the school, Mrs. Wilson said.

“The school was trying to catch up its nearly 200 new students the year that it didn’t receive the best test scores,” she said, adding that deciding to close the school on the basis of one year’s performance is not fair.

Deputy Education Chancellor Marc Sternberg said the decision to close the school was a difficult but necessary one, adding that the Department holds all of its schools to high standards.

“Where a school has struggled to educate its students year after year, we must provide a better option,” he said.

Jack Zarin-Rosenfeld, a spokesman for the Department of Education, said that all 410 Ross Global Academy students will have a spot in their home local school district before the academy closes.

But that came as minor consolation to Mrs. Wilson, who said that R.G.A., for all of its difficulties, was still superior to the options available in her area of the North Bronx.

“We are getting a private school education in a public school setting,” she said. “Parents who live in neighborhoods with low-performance schools, with fighting and gang violence, we will be neglecting our kids by now dropping them off in these neighborhood school environments and saying ‘good luck.’”