Brownsville Ascend Charter School

Phone: (718) 240-9162
Website: Click here
Admissions: Lottery. Priority to District 23.
Principal: Erica Murphy
Neighborhood: Brownsville
Grade range: K-6
Charter School

What's special:

Immersion Spanish classes, high expectations for students.

The downside:

Long hours; little outdoor play.

InsideSchools Review

Our review:

A clone of the Brooklyn Ascend Charter School, Brownsville Ascend Charter school opened in 2009 with kindergarten and 1st grade and plans to add a grade each year until it serves Kindergarten through-12th grade. [The school is nowhoused in a renovated theater] The two Ascend schools are nearly identical in tone and philosophy—the only difference is the color of uniforms.

Each morning, children shake hands firmly with one of the school’s directors as they enter the building, look her in the eye and say "good morning" with a loud, confident voice. This ritual is followed by a silent breakfast where scholars eat together. Jana Reed, Chief Operating Officer of Ascend Learning, explained this as a time for students to “regroup.”

Students wear a uniform of gray pants or jumper, white polo shirt, maroon sweater and black shoes. In August, new students attend a week-long orientation to learn the rules and expectations, acronyms and procedures. "Almost every kid falls into the culture and structure right away," explained co-director Kelly Bowers. "Kids crave structure." A teacher told us many students are sent home early or suspended in the first month of school, but as the year goes on they adjust to the rules and there are not as many disciplinary incidents.

On our visit, day started strong with focused students, called scholars at Ascend, sitting silently and participating eagerly in class. By lunch attention in the classrooms was waning and children had trouble sitting in their seats. Staff expressed concerns about the long school day and the large class sizes, which range from 25 to 30 students. An Ascend faculty member commented, "Other SABIS schools [days] are not as long. It's too much."

SABIS is the curriculum used by Ascend schools, a coherent system that leads step-by-step from kindergarten to 12th grade with the goal of preparing children to take 4-5 Advanced Placement classes. All students take a period per day of immersion Spanish, where the entire class is taught in the language. Each day, students also have 20 minutes of guided reading.

Though the school boasts a rooftop playground, we were told that scholars rarely use the outside play space. Instead, they have 20 minutes of recess each day playing games or drawing quietly in the classroom.

Morning tutoring help is available from 7:15.-7:30 a.m. and scholars may play soccer afterschool two days a week.

Special education: A SETSS teacher pulls out students for math and reading help in small groups.

Admissions: There is a lottery in April. Students in District 23 and siblings of students already enrolled have priority. In February 2011, the waitlist had 889 students. (Aryn Bloodworth, February 2011)


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