Brooklyn Community High School of Communication, Arts and Media

300 WILLOUGHBY AVENUE
BROOKLYN NY 11205 Map
Phone: (718) 230-5748
Website: Click here
Admissions: Citywide, limited unscreened
unzoned
Principal: James O'Brien
Neighborhood: Bedford-Stuyvesant
District: 13
Grade range: 09 thru 12
Parent coordinator: DAWN FLYNN

What's special:

Students get four years of arts instruction

The downside:

Shared middle school building; few PSAL sports & no dedicated college counselor

The InsideStats

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Our review

At Brooklyn Community High School for Communication, Arts and Media (BCAM) students get four years of instruction in the arts, real world experience with internships and the opportunity to display their work in professional art galleries.

Only about one-third of the students choose BCAM because they are interested in the arts; others choose it for its strong academics, said Principal James O’Brien. Art provides the core curriculum at the school where every student get hands-on experience and  must assemble a portfolio of their work as a requirement for graduation. They also must pass the required Regents exams.

BCAM is one of four schools that share a middle school building in a rapidly gentrifying residential area of Bedford Stuyvesant. On the first floor are a transfer high school, Brooklyn High School for Leadership and Community Service and PS 369, a District 75 school for students with special needs. Peace Academy middle school is on the second floor. BCAM occupies the entire third floor. All four schools share the basement lunchroom, outdoor schoolyard, and other public spaces, creating some logistical challenges. In a 2010 upgrade, the building got six new “million dollar” science labs, two of which BCAM uses for physics and chemistry, O’Brien said.

Students wear simple uniforms of polo shirts and slacks or jeans, four days a week and may wear what they wish on “fresh Fridays.” As they pass between classes, instead of bells, the ‘batter up' melody familiar to Yankees fans signals the beginning of the new class period. Student ‘cohorts' change every quarter, so there's ample opportunity to mix with different peers throughout the year.

The most distinctive elements of BCAM's curriculum are the 3-day-a-week community arts and media electives-–called seminars here-–which are taught both by BCAM faculty and some outside artists. Students may choose to take academic subjects, such a certain literature genre, or arts-oriented seminars such as music production, hip-hop poetry or dance.

Students start with a foundations art course in 9th grade and later get instruction in digital photography, video production and graphic design among other specialties. A Pratt Institute-trained art teacher helps students create Chuck Close-style autobiographic portraits using tools like Photoshop.

According to O’Brien, the curriculum is “inquiry-based” and frequently involves community service and social issues. In an after school project that includes schools in Rio de Janeiro and Amsterdam, students are studying gentrification. Sponsored by an organization called World Up, the students from three different countries will produce a global music album.

Bringing students up to and above grade level is critical at BCAM, where most students arrive under-prepared for high school work. They participate in advisories for all four years, with a single faculty member as advisory leader, to foster strong relationships. Spanish is the only foreign language taught.

College admissions: A two year grant from CUNY brought a ”bevy of college prep” resources to the school, says O’Brien, although the school doesn't have the budget for a dedicated college counselor. Students may enroll in College Now courses with John Jay College of Criminal Justice and City Tech. Most graduates go to CUNYs and SUNYs with a handful going to arts school. Three graduates are now at Pratt on full scholarships.

After school: Students may participate in after school arts and sports clubs, do community services projects and get academic tutoring. Boys basketball is the only PSAL sport.

Admissions: Citywide. Students who attend an open house or otherwise express interest in the school have priority. (Helen Zelon, February 2008/updated Pamela Wheaton, interviews & Web reports, September 2012)

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