Williamsburg Charter High School
BROOKLYN NY 11206 Map
Williamsburg Charter High School
Williamsburg Charter High School was designed to offer a demanding curriculumincluding two years of Latin and four years of math and sciencein a neighborhood with few options for college-bound students. The school has a new building, an extended day (with classes from 7:55 a.m. to 4:10 p.m. most days), and more extensive special education services than many other charter schools. However, it has had a revolving door of principals, significant staff turnover, and disappointing levels of academic achievement. Only about half of the students graduate on time, a decline from the school’s first years.
Marsha Spampinato, the school's founding principal who left for a job closer to her Long Island home in 2008, returned in June 2010 to "get us back to where we should be." There were three other principals, called "instructional directors" during her two-year absence. "The bar has to be higher. We can't just allow our students to squeak by," she said. She has hired several new staff members to coach teachers and counsel students. [In 2014 Marsha Spampinato was replaced by former assistant principal Kathleen Gaffney.]
School founder Eddie Calderon-Melendez, who serves as the CEO of Williamsburg and the two other charter schools in the Believe Network, attributes the school's declining graduation rate to changes in the student body, noting that average reading levels for incoming freshman has decreased significantly since the school first opened in 2004. "We don't push out students," he said. "If it takes you five years or six years [to graduate], then it will take that long."
On our visit, the classes seemed to be standard high school fare: Ninth graders were dissecting frogs in biology and reading Romeo and Juliet in English. Tenth graders were reading Lord of the Flies and 11th graders were reading the Crucible. Most students paid attention, and class changes were orderly. Students wear dark green blazer or cardigan, white button down shirt, tie, khaki pants or a knee-length skirt and black shoes.
The school's new building, opened in 2010 in an industrial area of Bushwick, is clean and bright, with big windows in every classroom. However, it has no outdoor space, and there were some glitches at the time of our visit. An open space on each floor, intended as area where students could relax, was converted to classrooms without walls, which some students found distracting. Administrators said walls would be built in the future.
There are two college counselors on staff. Recent graduates have gone to SUNY and CUNY schools, as well as some private colleges.
Special education: About 14 percent of students receive special education services. The school has two speech teachers and several special education teachers. English as a Second Language classes are offered once a day.
Admissions: Students are admitted by lottery. (Jill Grossman, December 2010; updated by Ella Colley, December 2014)
At a glance
Number of Students 972
Average Daily Attendance 89%
Metal detectors? NA
INCOMING STUDENTS' PROFICIENCY: 2.29 2.38 CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Safety & vibe
ARE CLASSES BIG?
Number of students in an average english classNA 25 CITYWIDE AVERAGE
DO STUDENTS LIKE THE TEACHERS?
How many students say their teachers inspire them to learn?65% 63% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
DO TEACHERS LIKE THE PRINCIPAL?
How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?86% 82% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
IS THIS SCHOOL SAFE?
How many students say they feel safe in hallways, bathrooms and locker rooms?86% 85% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
How many teachers say order and discipline are maintained in the school?77% 82% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
How Many Students are Chronically Absent?29% 36% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Class of 2015
How many students passed a Regents exam for algebra 2, physics or chemistry?20%
Is the guidance counseling helpful?
How many students say that this school provides helpful counseling on college or job-seeking?79% 76% CITYWIDE AVERAGE