Transformative Outcomes. Expanded Horizons.
Ithaca’s grassroots regional public high school, New Roots, is a national leader in a growing green schools movement, educating for a sustainable future in ways that have powerful and practical benefits for youth who want lives of passion, purpose, and economic opportunity.
- A horticulture major and women’s rugby team player on the Dean’s List at Cornell.
- A woman diesel mechanic. An Evergreen College student and future teacher studying child labor laws in Nepal.
- A photographer who shoots equestrian sports.
- An inspired local cook with a passion for farm to table.
- A computer scientist who chose a small college with an innovative, project-based curriculum, now headed to Yale for doctoral studies.
- A student at the nation’s top entrepreneurial college invited to direct a play by the college’s theater department.
- A doctoral student in Earth Systems Science studying mathematical modeling and climate change.
- A horse trainer with a BA in Animal Science.
- A slam poet on scholarship studying sociology.
- An aspiring environmental engineer researching how bacteria can transform toxins into beneficial substances in wastewater treatment plants.
What do these young people have in common? They are alumni of New Roots Charter School!
An Education for a Just and Sustainable Future:
The Time is NOW!
Young people want to make a difference; New Roots puts the power of possibility and optimism in their hands at a time when their future is wide open, empowering a new generation of citizens and leaders with vision, who are invested in and responsible for their communities and the natural world that sustains them.
The New Roots approach draws on research-based best practices in education to design high school curriculum for a new century, where success is driven by entrepreneurial thinking, working in teams to envision new innovations and bring them to fruition.
We prepare a diverse student body to embrace the opportunities of citizenship, work, and life-long learning in the 21st century. Our interdisciplinary academic program features hands-on, community-based learning that supports students in solving real-world problems. Students earn a Regents diploma and demonstrate readiness for higher education by earning college credit and creating a graduation portfolio that demonstrates that they have met or exceeded all 28 New York State Learning Standards. Our school community is a model of secondary education that integrates best practices in sustainability education with those proven to support educational equity.
New Roots Charter School empowers young people as citizens and entrepreneurs that create just, democratic communities, and thriving green economies that restore the natural world that sustains us. Excelling in both traditional and innovative curriculum areas, our students learn actively, think critically, and solve problems creatively and collaboratively, developing the knowledge and skills to redesign our communities for social, economic, and ecological sustainability. We support all students in defining and realizing their goals and aspirations, and in recognizing their ability to take leadership in improving the lives of their families and community. We put the best available tools and the power of informed optimism-in the hands of tomorrow’s leaders.
Program and Curriculum Highlights and Why They Matter
- Our cross-disciplinary, experience-based curriculum teaches the complex network of human and natural systems, laying the foundation for visionary thinking and innovative, hands-on solutions for a sustainable future.
- On our “extended campus” of Ithaca’s urban spaces and its surrounding farms and natural lands, students apply academic learning to projects that meet community needs, such as restoring wetlands, doing climate-related research, bringing solar panels to low-income neighborhoods, and creating small green business enterprises.
- Redefining “community service,” our budding social entrepreneurs learn the impact of their contributions to a more sustainable and healthy future for all. Relevant, real-world learning opens up a world of new possibilities.
“Make no mistake, the next generation will ask us one of two questions. Either they will ask: ‘What were you thinking; why didn’t you act?’ Or they will ask instead, ‘How did you find the moral courage to rise and successfully resolve a crisis that so many said was impossible to solve?’”Al Gore
“You are brilliant, and the Earth is hiring.”Paul Hawkin
Working in teams to create real solutions, students develop interpersonal skills that are essential to success in college and the contemporary workplace.
- Invited to join the Catalyst Network, the ten top schools recognized by the Green Schools National Network as national leaders in education for a sustainable future
- #1 Youth Project for 2017 People’s Choice Signs of Sustainability Award
- The first school in the nation to be certified as a Human Rights Friendly School by the Dorothy Cotton Institute (DCI) and Human Rights Educators USA
- 2012 Top Green High School award from the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation
- Navigated a rigorous oversight and evaluation process with SUNY and was awarded charter, an honor received by less than 10% of applicants
About Our Authorizer
Our authorizer, the State University of New York, is recognized as a national leader in best practices
for charter school authorizers.
- The Institute was recognized as having the “Best Application Process” for approving new charter schools by the National Association of Charter School Authorizers.
- The U.S. Department of Education featured the Institute’s policies and practices for new school approval, school oversight and charter renewal in the report, “Fostering Innovation and Excellence.”
- The new application approval rate is 18% for first-time applicants and 34% overall.
- Approximately 9% of SUNY authorized charter schools were not renewed for failing to meet accountability standards.
Frequently Asked Questions
WHAT IS A CHARTER SCHOOL?
A charter school is an independent public school granted flexibility to provide innovative curriculum in return for accountability for student performance.
IS NEW ROOTS RIGHT FOR MY STUDENT?
Each charter school has a unique mission and vision. To make the best decision for your student, we encourage you to explore your options and select the school that best meets your student’s unique learning style.
At New Roots Charter School, we offer an interdisciplinary academic program featuring hands-on, community-based learning that supports students in learning 21st century skills. All students earn college credit while in high school through our concurrent enrollment classes.
We invite you to contact us to set up a tour of New Roots to find out if our sustainably minded program is right for your student.
HOW IS NEW ROOTS UNIQUE AMONG SCHOOLS?
Our core curriculum is designed around essential questions and themes so that, at any given time, the topics studied in different courses are related to each other. Courses are inquiry-oriented and focused on critical thinking. We are a small public school that provides personalized accountability to all students. Students work closely with faculty members who supervise their academic progress and engagement.
WHAT IS THE FOOD PROGRAM AT NEW ROOTS?
We are very proud of our FREE Farm to School breakfast and lunch featuring healthy “teen comfort food” for ALL enrolled students!
We’re part of an innovative initiative across the country connecting school lunch programs & hands on learning with local farms. Understanding the impact of healthy nutrition on a student’s ability to think creatively and contribute powerfully at school is an important part of the New Roots experience. Our Farm to School meal team strives to serve a variety of local whole foods daily. We do not use processed, packaged, or pre-made foods, and are committed to keeping sugar, additives, and preservatives out of our food.
DO STUDENTS HAVE COMMUNITY SERVICE OPPORTUNITIES AT NEW ROOTS?
Students contribute to the community through service learning projects, where they apply their learning to projects outside of the classroom. Students use an extended campus that includes our main building, TC3’s downtown campus, area farms, businesses, organizations, and natural areas.
WHAT IS THE VALUE OF ATTENDING A SMALL SCHOOL?
Research demonstrates that students who attend smaller schools are safer, have better attendance and behavior, demonstrate higher achievement and engagement, and are more likely to graduate. Smaller high schools improve achievement because they include a culture of caring, greater student contact with teachers, greater parent involvement, and more meaningful and engaged curricula. Small high schools have been shown to reduce the graduation gap between various demographics.
WHAT ARE THE NEW ROOTS FACILITIES LIKE?
Our main campus is in the heart of downtown Ithaca. We have been in the historic Clinton House since our doors opened in 2009. We recently expanded to occupy the entire first and second floors! Some of our new spaces include a music studio in the historic Mural Lounge, a yoga studio, and an a new art room with abundant natural light. All renovations were mindful of the historic character of our unique school building.
Our downtown Ithaca campus provides us with many great spaces to support our school program while enhancing the community-based education that New Roots is known for. We cook and serve lunch in the beautiful social hall of the Greek Orthodox Church, hold community meetings in the auditorium of the Community School for Music and Art, and use facilities such as the gym at Southside Community Center, City Health Club, and Ahisma Yoga Studio for diverse physical education activities. Students have many opportunities to walk out of the Clinton House and engage the wider community and its facilities through our programs, which enhances the school’s collegiate feel.
HOW IS A NEW ROOTS EDUCATION FUNDED?
New Roots is an independent public school, and is not part of a school district. Each student’s district of residence collects federal, state and local funding on the student’s behalf. When the student chooses to attend New Roots or any other charter school, the district of residence pays the charter school a portion of their funding at a rate determined by the New York State education department.
WHAT IS THE SCHOOL’S SCHEDULE?
Our school day starts at 9:00 am and ends at 4:00pm with extended class periods that allow teachers the opportunity to get students out of the classroom and into the community. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday classes focus on core academic subject areas. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, students apply academic learning to labs, field studies, and service learning.
DOES NEW ROOTS PROVIDE TRANSPORTATION FOR STUDENTS?
If you live within 15 miles of Ithaca, your home school district will provide busing for you to get to our campus. Eligible students may also receive a school-provided T-CAT bus pass.
HOW IS NEW ROOTS GOVERNED?
Our local Board of Trustees, with expertise in education, organizational management, and sustainability, reports to the State University of New York, the NYS Education Department, and the State Comptroller. Our Board is responsible for strategic planning, fiscal and academic oversight, and for hiring and supervising the Principal and Superintendent. The community is welcome at the Board’s monthly meetings.
WHAT IS THE NEW ROOTS APPROACH?
We prepare our diverse student body to be citizens and entrepreneurs that create just, democratic communities, and thriving green economies that restore the natural world that sustains us, ready to meet the challenges of citizenship, work, and life-long learning in the 21st century. We put innovative tools and the power of informed optimism in the hands of tomorrow’s leaders.
Excelling in both traditional and innovative curriculum areas, our students earn actively, think critically, and solve problems creatively and collaboratively developing the knowledge and skills to redesign our communities for social, economic, and ecological sustainability. Our interdisciplinary academic program features hands-on, community-based learning that supports students in solving real-world problems.
WHAT IS SUSTAINABILITY EDUCATION?
Sustainability is defined as meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. Sustainability education at New Roots prepares students to organize their communities to promote a long-term, high quality of life for all people and preserve the natural systems that support us.
HOW ARE CHARTER SCHOOLS HELD ACCOUNTABLE?
Charter public schools are academically accountable in two ways. We are held accountable by our authorizer and, most importantly, by the families we serve. We defined our academic goals when we submitted our charter petition. To be authorized, the goals must be rigorous, and to stay open, we must demonstrate that students are reaching our academic goals. We were recently renewed for another 5 years based on our academic achievements without conditions, the best possible outcome for a charter renewal process.
DO NEW ROOTS STUDENTS HAVE TO MEET NEW YORK STATE GRADUATION REQUIREMENTS?
Yes. New Roots students must meet or exceed New York State graduation requirements, in addition to meeting New Roots graduation requirements. These include graduating with college credit through our concurrent enrollment program with TC3, demonstrating mastery of essential skills and knowledge areas through the creation of an online digital graduation portfolio and a senior team capstone project.
DO STUDENTS TAKE REGENTS EXAMS?
Yes, our students graduate with a Regents diploma, which requires that they take 5 Regents exams, one science, one math, one English, and two social studies. Students take a core curriculum sequence of four years of science, math, Social Studies and English featuring interdisciplinary connections, problem-based learning and a global perspective. Students learn Spanish as the foreign language requirement.
HOW DO SENIORS GRADUATE WITH COLLEGE CREDITS?
Through the CollegeNow program at Tompkins Cortland Community College (TC3) and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, New Roots students receive college credit for concurrent enrollment courses successfully completed during junior and senior year. Research demonstrates that students who graduate from high school with college credits are more likely to apply to and graduate from a four-year college. Our goal is to prepare our students for the next level of education and empower them with the tools for success.
HOW DOES NEW ROOTS PROMOTE ACADEMIC SUCCESS OF ALL STUDENTS?
Two approaches that inspired the New Roots model are Environment as Integrating Context for Education (EIC) and Expeditionary Learning Schools (ELS). Both approaches improve both achievement scores and student engagement.
HOW DO I ENROLL AT NEW ROOTS?
You may submit a online Enrollment Form directly from our website using the Enrollment Form. Once we receive the form, we will respond to you within 24 hours. You may also call or stop in for a tour of the school. We look forward to meeting you!
DOES IT MATTER WHERE I LIVE? WHAT ARE THE ATTENDANCE BOUNDARIES?
As a New York State charter school, we are open to all high school eligible students who live in New York State, regardless of school district of residence, space permitting.
WHO IS ELIGIBLE TO BECOME A STUDENT?
Students in 9th through 12th grades are eligible to enroll at New Roots. Any student eligible to attend public school in New York State may apply. Please go to the “Enroll” or “Inquire” options at the top of this page and fill out an online interest form.
HOW MANY STUDENTS ARE ENROLLED AT NEW ROOTS?
New Roots is designed as a small high school for up to 40 students per grade, or 160 overall. The actual number enrolled at each grade level fluctuates depending on the courses that students at that level need and the size of the classrooms that hold them. Our enrollment continues to grow year after year, so we recommended enrolling as early as possible to secure your place in our school community.