Achievement First Brownsville Charter School
BROOKLYN NY 11233 Map
Achievement First Brownsville Charter School
December 2014 update: In 2012, Achievement First Brownsville Charter School expanded to a middle school. Keith Brooks, who was formerly dean of academic culture at Achievement First East New York Middle School, is the founding principal of the middle school. In 2013, Michelle Kagan replaced Gina Musumeci as principal of the elementary school.
March 2011 review: Achievement First schools are orderly academies that push hard on students to master their lessons and practice exemplary behavior. An operating principle of this network of 19 charter schools in New York City and Connecticut is that students must make every minute count to stay on the path to success. It aims to launch new schools with a highly structured culture that will lead students to absorb its college-preparatory curriculum without disruption. Founded in August 2008 as the network’s fourth elementary school in New York, Achievement First Brownsville seems to have faithfully and successfully implemented the network’s program.
On our guided tour of the K–4 school, the halls were full of punchy, inspirational- message posters like “Focus. Drive. Succeed.” T-shirts worn by staff members (a Friday practice at the school) also displayed motivating mantras. In a kindergarten classroom, we saw three grown-ups directing groups, as other students worked independently on math software. During a 3rd-grade math lesson, the teacher passed colored tiles to two students to tally and describe while the class watched. He offered some play-by-play praise: “It’s so easy to see they’re each doing the hard work themselves.”
Achievement First declined to let us observe any classrooms for an extended period of time, but looking through doorways we saw engaged students propelled by the high energy of their young teachers. We heard a variety of student chants coming from classrooms and saw placards listing teachers’ favorite books. The writing and artwork in the hallways illustrated students’ creativity. A 2010 SUNY Charter Schools Institute evaluation concluded that the school offered students solid yet sensitive instruction.
The school’s leaders frequently move floating staff to classrooms or pair them with individual students who need support. “Our job is to serve teachers, to take the rocks out of the road for them,” said Principal Gina Musumeci in a brief interview. The school day runs from 7:15 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., with a 1:30 p.m. dismissal on Fridays. Students have reading and math until 11 a.m., when they start arts (chorus, dance, art), science, and social studies lessons. Homework is demanding.
The hard-driving atmosphere is offset by arts classes each day; students switch among the arts three times a year. About 75 parents attended a late-morning Art and Culture Performance of kindergarteners and 1st graders. First graders performed intricate arm and leg pumps in unison to Ben Harper’s anti-violence song “Better Way,” and a kindergarten class sang Bob Marley’s “Buffalo Soldiers,” about black military regiments. Art teacher Kim Sadler said classes collaborated on folding 1,000 paper birds to illustrate Maya Angelou’s poem “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.”
The warmth at the school was evident during the performance as the principal amiably sat with a student’s younger sibling on her lap. A couple rows away, a teacher and a boy gently discussed his errant behavior. The gathering also showed the school’s emphasis on orderly transitions: students went up to the stage and back quietly, as a staff member solicited a high-five from each one.
Outside at 12:30 p.m., a couple of parents said that the school had been wonderful for their children. These Achievement First moms had only one complaint: “Right now, I don’t like that I have to come back at 1:30 p.m. again.” But lessons trump convenience, a school leader announced after the last act: “Parents, please wait in your seats for the classes to leave. The students are going back to their learning.”
The school shares its blocky building with Brooklyn Collegiate, a schools serving 600 students in grades 6–12. According to the SUNY evaluation, the two schools have had a “strained relationship” over lack of space.
The school offers after-school tutoring.
Special Education: The school provides SETSS services. In 2009–10, it reported 7 percent of the students had disabilities.
Admissions: Lottery, with District 23 preference. (Matt Fleischer-Black, March 2011; updated by Ella Colley, December 2014)
At a glance
Number of Students 828
Average Daily Attendance 98%
Safety & vibe
How many teachers say bullying is a problem at school?NA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE
How many teachers say order and discipline are maintained in the school?100% 75% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
ARE CLASSES BIG?
Number of students in an average kindergarten classNA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Number of students in an average fifth grade classNA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Number of students in an average middle school english classNA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE
DO TEACHERS LIKE THE SCHOOL?
How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?95% 79% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
How many teachers would recommend this school to other parents?NA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE
How many students are chronically absent?NA 22% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Percent of students in grades 3-8 who scored 3 or 4 on the state math exam
Percent of students in grades 3-8 who scored 3 or 4 on the state ela exam
Percent of 4th graders who scored 3 or 4 on the state science exam
Percent of 8th graders who scored 3 or 4 on the state science exam
Does the school encourage family involvement?
How many parents say they were invited to an event at the school at least 3 times in the last school year?NA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Do parents like the school?
How many parents would recommend this school to other parents?NA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Special ed & ELL
How well does this school serve students with disabilities?
This school NULL self-contained classes.
Percent of self-contained students who scored 3 or 4 on the state math exam:9% 6% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Percent of self-contained students who scored 3 or 4 on the state ELA exam:9% 2% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
This school NULL team teaching (ict).
Percent of ICT students who scored 3 or 4 on the state math exam:10% 14% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Percent of ICT students who scored 3 or 4 on the state ELA exam:3% 8% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Percent of SETSS students who scored 3 or 4 on the state math exam:NA 15% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
Percent of SETSS students who scored 3 or 4 on the state ELA exam:NA 9% CITYWIDE AVERAGE
How many parents say students with disabilities are included in all activities?
How many teachers say students with special needs are educated in the least restrictive environment appropriate?
How many parents of students with ieps say this school offers a wide enough variety of services and activities for their children’s needs?