Brooklyn Prospect Charter School
BROOKLYN NY 11218 Map
Brooklyn Prospect Charter School
Brooklyn Prospect Charter School offers a close-knit community and a demanding International Baccalaureate (IB) program. Students say they prize the personal attention, the welcoming environment, and the “awesome” teachers who are both enthusiastic and approachable.
Middle school students even like their uniforms (except for an “itchy sweatshirt,” one boy said.) “With the uniform nobody makes fun of your clothes and stuff,” a girl told us. Students told us they have about 1 1/2 hours a night of homework.
The school, opened in 2009, moved to a permanent location and added high school grades in 2012, helping solidify its reputation and culture of respect, intellectual curiosity and diversity. Brooklyn Prospect has attracted children of different races from across District 15, from Park Slope to Red Hook.
“Diversity is the core of who we are,” said Dan Rubenstein, school director and founder. He tells students they should spend their days "sitting next to someone who doesn’t look and think like you do.”
The modern four-story brick building, just a few blocks from the Fort Hamilton Parkway stop on the F train, is airy and full of light. Originally built as a Roman Catholic elementary school, the building got a $6 million upgrade to make it suitable for olders students. Four science labs were installed, sinks and toilets were raised, 750 lockers were added, and on each floor walls got a coat of red, blue or yellow paint to match the lockers. The building has wireless Internet access and is air-conditioned. Every student has a school email account and much of the homework is submitted via Google docs. There is a 2 to 1 ratio of students to laptops.
“It’s almost like a small prep school,” the parent of a 6th grader said.
Small group advisories meet several times a week. The faculty joins students for lunch in the “commons.” The school day runs from 8:45 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. most days. Many classrooms have two teachers; some are trained in special education, others are recent college graduates who are mentored by classroom teachers for a year.
Several founding staff members met in a Teachers College class about designing charter schools. One of them, middle school principal LaNolia Omowanile, previously taught at Frederick Douglass Academy, a predominately black school in Harlem.
“I found it frustrating that kids had stereotypes about other races,” she said. “I wanted to connect myself to a school that connects students from all walks of life.” And, she said, she likes that the IB curriculum is about developing the whole child.
“Our goal is to prepare students for success in a rigorous high school diploma program. It’s not about passing Regents, it’s about going in-depth in the subjects.” Students go on expeditions to deepen their knowledge, including a trip to Gettysburg, PA. Teachers bring in artifacts to add to social studies lessons.
Advanced students may do “seeker” projects, taking on more in-depth assignments. Students who need extra help go to small group tutorials to “reinforce skills and close the skills gap,” while others are in study hall, Omowanile said. Teachers stay after school or come in early for study sessions or test review.
Ninth graders are separated into two English classes: literature (for stronger students) and composition (for struggling readers and writers). A composition class was watching a video of an inspired lecture by Nigerian writer Chinamanda Ngozi Adichie and making connections to Fahrenheit 451, a novel about the suppression of ideas. In the darkened room, students seem captivated by the speech and eagerly wrote down their thoughts. A special education teacher roamed the room, gently encouraging a few seemingly disengaged students to stay with it. High school students who need extra help are encouraged to attend teachers’ office hours. Principal Kim Raccio, who most recently worked as assistant head of a school in England, does the Earth Science office hours.
Special education: There are several special education teachers and combined classes with two teachers. Support services are offered.
After school: There are 23 clubs, some for both middle and high school students. Sports include volleyball, lacrosse, rugby, soccer and basketball. Teams play mostly against schools outside of the city and are not part of PSAL, the city’s varsity sports league.
Admissions: Lottery in April. Priority goes to siblings and District 15 students. In 2012 there was a waitlist of 300 students for middle school. Continuing 8th graders may stay for high school. In 2012 about half of the students stayed. Most who left went to highly selective schools such as LaGuardia, Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Tech, Bard or Beacon. Now that the school has a permanent location and an established high school, Rubenstein estimates that about 70-75 percent of the students will stay for high school. (Pamela Wheaton, October 2012)