Achievement First Bushwick Charter School
BROOKLYN NY 11207 Map
Achievement First Bushwick Charter School
Achievement First Bushwick Charter School, part of a network of schools based in Connecticut, offers a highly-structured program with tight discipline and a long school day. The school serves children in grades K-12 in three different locations.
Grades K-4 are housed in the IS 296 building on Covert Avenue, sharing space with three other schools. Grades 5-8 are housed in IS 383 at 1300 Greene Avenue, about 18 blocks away. High school students may continue at Achievement First Prep high school, housed in the JHS 166 George Gershwin building on Van Siclen Avenue.
Nothing is left to chance at Achievement First: Classrooms and hallways are lined with posters and labels reminding student of what they have to do and how they should do it. A traditional teaching style features repetition of tasks and strict rules to promote good student behavior and minimize disruptions. While many parents appreciate the approach, the discipline and long day may not be right for some children.
Children are expected to be alert, obedient and prepared. They use hand signals in class -- putting two fingers in the air to ask for certain help or patting one's head to indicate they agree with what is being said. Teachers clap to get students to pay attention and the children clap in return. Teachers track behavior with a system called stars and strikes. Too many strikes may lead to a parent being called in or detention, "We are an extremely intentional organization," says Mel Ochoa, the network's senior director for marketing and communications. "Efficiency allows for more time to teach."
Elementary school classes are small and the lower grades have two teachers. Teaching proceeds on a schedule, a lesson from a teacher and then perhaps 15 minutes of writing or math drill. In a 3rd grade class, the teacher instructed the class on writing a response involving similarities and difference. Students had 15 minutes to write their responses, before regrouping to discuss them. "Tame and wild rabbits are similar in many ways," one boy wrote. "They both see better than humans."
While a few students seemed easily distracted the day of our visit, most were attentive, asking questions, volunteering to provide answers and responding with the appropriate hand signs. Many seemed to enjoy being paired with classmates to review their assignments.
Elementary school children take a half year each of science and social studies. They have physical education every third day as well as art and music. The day runs from 7:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m., with various afterschool activities, some of which charge a fee. Once that's over, students then have homework: 20 minutes of reading, one to three math maybe a bit of science or social studies as well.
Most students from the elementary school go on to the Achievement First middle school at 1300 Greene Avenue. (The telephone at the middle school is 347-471-2560.) Mike Rosskamm became principal of the middle school in 2012. The middle school has the same philosophy as the elementary school: Not a minute is wasted, and students who misbehave must wear white shirts, as opposed to the standard uniform of colored shirt. Students must earn the right to wear colored shirts by representing the school's values that go by the acronym REACH (Respect, Enthusiasm, Achievement, Citizenship, Hard Work).
Discipline in the middle school comes in the form of calls home or one-on-one conferencing to remind students of their responsibilities. Before students enroll, school staff members visit their homes, and the school day includes no shortage of opportunities for social support, including community meetings, advisories, and advisory lunches, where students and teachers eat lunch together.
Special education: Unlike many charter schools, Achievement First Bushwick elementary school has a large number of special education students and English language learners. Elementary Principal Stacey Park says the number of these students has increased, probably as word spread that the school has services them. Achievement First Bushwick Elementary has team teaching classes for all elementary grade levels.
Admission: By lottery with preference to District 32 residents. Most students enter in kindergarten and first grade. Students in other grades may be put on a waiting list. High school students must have attended an Achievement First middle school. (Gail Robinson, March 2013)