Park Slope Collegiate
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Park Slope Collegiate
Park Slope Collegiate has carved out a challenging task: preparing kids with poor academic skills for college. A 6-12 school housed on the 4th floor of the John Jay complex, it serves mostly children whose parents have not gone to college and are unfamiliar with the process.
Originally called the Secondary School for Research, the name was changed in 2011 to reflect the new focus on preparation for college, Principal Jill Bloomberg said. "These are kids who are not predicted to graduate from high school or go on to college," says Bloomberg, who has been at the school since 2004. "But every single graduate gets accepted to college."
Many come to the school with low test scores and will need more than four years to graduate. Classes, which tend to be fairly small and last 55 minutes, try to address students' academic shortcomings in a school day that runs from 8:15 a.m. to 3:20 p.m. In response to feedback from Collegiate graduates, the school is pumping up the level of reading and writing. Teachers guide student on how to make an argument and work on their vocabulary. "When it comes to academic language," Bloomberg says, "everyone is an English language learner."
There are also kids who arrive midyear and don't speak English. We saw two recent arrivals, immigrants from the Dominican Republic and Yemen who had no English skills. In an 8th-grade humanities class, one girl copied words from "Young Cam Jemsen," a book for elementary school students, while the other read a book in Spanish.
At times, even high school classes can seem elementary. In one class, students identified countries on an outlined map. Although they were supposed to work from memory, many consulted maps. An energetic science teacher peppered her class with questions to try to get them to engage in a lesson on DNA but met with lackluster response.
With students required to take four years of science and math, seniors have a full program. The school also offers some intriguing classes, such as an elective on Spanish film, guitar and the Science of Food, an interdisciplinary class that looks at nutrition, regulation of food and depiction of food in the media. There are no AP classes.
Students work on their college essays in school. Many describe their struggles. One boy related how he began working in a restaurant. "At first I did not know how hard the working class really had it, but when I started work I was a changed man," he wrote.
Collegiate has a full-time college counselor who regularly meets with every junior and senior. The school cultivates contacts with colleges, focusing on some small, private schools that may admit students who do not meet the grade point average and test score thresholds for CUNY and SUNY. Bloomberg said. Popular choices are Muhlenberg in Pennsylvania and Drew University in New Jersey.
Two other schools in John Jay chose to do away with their middle school grades because of low enrollment but Bloomberg says she likes the 6 to 12 model and notes that it spares parents and teenagers from having to go through the high school application process. There is only one middle school class per grade and more than two thirds of Collegiate 8th-graders remain there for high school. Students appreciate the personal attention --"teachers are always there to help you" – one student said. However a few complained about the lack of sports teams. Teams are shared with the Law and Journalism schools, but not Millennium Brooklyn.
Recruiting poses challenges, particularly for middle school. The metal detector -- it is the only middle school in the district that has one -- and the presence of high school students discourage some 5th graders from applying. Although Collegiate seems safe, some students indicated on the 2010-2011 Learning Environment Survey they do not feel comfortable in the rest of the building and outside of it.
Admissions: District 15 priority. For high school, the Department of Education lists the school as screened but the low number of applicants means that most students who apply are admitted.
Special education: Collegiate offers team-teaching classes and a small self contained class. It says it has a good record in moving students out of the self-contained class to a more inclusive setting. (Gail Robinson, April 2012)