University Prep Charter High School
BRONX NY 10455 Map
University Prep Charter High School
June 2013 Update: Green Dot changed its name to University Prep High School, after ending its relationship with Green Dot Public Schools, the former parent organization. Students, parents and teachers selected the name “University Prep Charter High School.” The new partner will be the United Federation of Teachers Educational Foundation.
March 2011 Review: Many charter schools operate under the premise that teachers’ unions are a barrier to good education. But Green Dot New York Charter High School is out to prove that well-paid, unionized teachers, when treated like professionals and protected from capricious firings, are fundamental to students’ success.
Opened in 2008 on the fourth floor of I.S. 162 in the South Bronx, this high school aims to replicate the success of a network of Green Dot schools in California. Teachers at the New York City school have a special contract that pays them more than other members of the United Federation of Teachers in exchange for a longer school day and year. [As of 2011 the school also shares a building with Hostos-Lincoln Academy of Science.]
Green Dot emphasizes “respectful, responsible, and responsive” behavior. Students say their teachers are skilled and inspire them to success. “You are not set up to fail here,” says a 10th grader. So far, the vast majority of 10th- and 11th-grade students have passed Regents’ exams. Incoming 9th-grade students attend a four-week SummerBridge program that introduces them to the school’s “3R” behavioral code and reviews basic academic skills. Students have 30-minute advisory periods four times a week.
“Our push here is English, math, science, social studies, a foreign language,” says Principal Ashish Kapadia. Students take those subjects all four years, unlike many high schools in poor neighborhoods that offer only two years of a language and three years of math and science. Ninth graders learn to use the Excel, PowerPoint, and Word software programs. Students start gym in 10th grade. Seniors choose art and music electives.
Ninety-minute classes begin at 7:50 a.m. and end at 4 p.m., except for a 10:15 a.m. start on Tuesdays and an early dismissal (1:20 p.m.) on Fridays. Students’ main classes meet only three days a week, making regular attendance particularly important. Following Green Dot principles, the school tries to keep classes (except gym) under 25 students.
We saw mostly traditional instruction, with teachers lecturing and questioning students. While several students said that the 90-minute periods were difficult to sit through, teachers appeared to mix the activities throughout the class period. The instruction was solid and engaging. An otherwise-positive Charter Schools Institute review observed that Green Dot may not tailor lessons to individual students’ skills as well as it might. However, in a 10th-grade writing class we watched, the teacher went from desk to desk to give feedback to each student while the other students wrote on laptops. (The principal replies that teachers do regularly adjust students’ work according to their skills.) Student projects cover the classroom walls in most classes. The 11th-grade area in particular displayed some creative student work. Each room has a SMARTboard.
Principal Kapadia says that he has not asked any students to leave for poor performance, but a few have departed out of discontent, mostly after the first year. Some students have been harassed in the neighborhood as outsiders.
Students wear a uniform of a white polo shirt (or sweatshirt), khaki dress pants, and dress shoes. (On the snowy day we visited, nine students received detention for not having the correct shoes.) The school has moderate parent involvement requirement.
After School: The community organization SoBRO helps with tutoring four days a week and runs art and dance clubs twice a week. English language learners (ELLs) and struggling students attend mandatory classes after school. Green Dot offers basketball, baseball and softball teams, plus volleyball and crafts clubs.
Special education: More than 10 percent of the students receive special ed services. Green Dot currently has SETSS (pull-out) classes, and has offered CTT/ICT classes. The assistant principal and two teachers are certified to teach special ed.
Admissions: Lottery, with District 7 and sibling preferences. (Matt Fleischer-Black, March 2011)