Independent charter schools—sometimes referred to as "mom and pop" charters—are the oldest type of charter and they remain the most common. But with the rapid growth over the last decade in networks such as KIPP that draw vast resources from deep-pocketed philanthropists, their market share has been steadily shrinking. Without that same financial heft or the megaphone that comes with operating multiple schools serving thousands of students, independent charter operators say it's hard to get their message out.
But what, exactly, counts as an independent charter school?
The 5-year-old Brooklyn Urban Garden School, a middle school of about 300 students, is the epitome of an independent charter…
On the first day of the new school year, the schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, stood in an elementary school classroom in Queens beaming at a hushed room full of fourth-grade children sitting cross-legged on the floor.
“Please let your eyes close,” said a small boy named Davinder, from his spot on the linoleum.
Davinder gently struck a shallow bronze bowl.
“Take three mindful breaths,” he said, and the room fell silent.
“Do you do personal visits?” Ms. Fariña asked after the exercise was over. “Like to offices?”
In schools in New York City and in pockets around the country, the use of inward-looking practices like mindfulness and meditation is starting to grow. Though evidence is thin on how well they might work in the classroom, proponents say they can help students focus and cope with stress.
At the Brooklyn Urban Garden Charter School in Windsor Terrace, 15 minutes are set aside at the beginning and end of every school day, when students must either meditate or sit quietly at their desks…