Urban Science Academy
BRONX NY 10456 Map
Urban Science Academy
Urban Science Academy is one of three schools created when CIS 145 was restructured in 2004 because of poor performance. The other two schools are a downsized CIS 145 and the New Millennium Business Academy.
During its first two years, Urban Science faced many challenges. Most of its students arrived performing below grade level, and unlike many new schools that grow in phases, adding one grade a year, Urban Science opened at full capacity. It was launched with 5th graders new to the building while also absorbing one third of CIS 145's former students, including 8th graders with only one year left until graduation. Making matters worse were a high number of student suspensions and the departure of Urban Science Academy's founding principal during the school's first year. Principal Patrick Kelly took over in spring 2005.
Despite its rocky start, the school seems to have found its stride. A congenial school culture is developing, with students chatting easily with Kelly in the hallway and teachers finding thoughtful ways to engage the school's very needy student population. On the day of our visit, a literacy teacher was taking a group of 8th graders on a field trip to a local bookstore so that she could treat each of them--out of her own pocket--to a book of their choosing. Some of her students had never been in a bookstore before. Elsewhere, the music teacher was leading a boisterous group of students in a round of show tunes as he played along on a keyboard that travels with him from class to class.
During our tour we observed some solid teaching, although we found the younger students, in general, to be more engaged than their older counterparts. Hallways around the 5th and 6th grade classrooms were calm, and the only noises we heard there were the voices of teachers and students engaged in instruction. In one 5th grade class, soft music played as students read books quietly. During a 6th grade math lesson, many hands were raised in response to the teacher's questions. Fifth and 6th grade follow an elementary school format, with students staying put for most of the day in one classroom headed by their full-time teacher.
Low attendance and achievement, as well as student misconduct, are bigger problems among 7th and 8th graders; in 2005, the school's first year in existence, only 10 percent of 8th graders passed the standardized exams in English. The needs of the older students weren't served well during the restructuring of CIS 145 and Urban Science's tumultuous first year; the children never really identified with the school or benefited from the programs now in place, according to Kelly. "The longer you have the students, the better the relationships you develop, which translate into better achievement," he said.
Although the school originally planned to offer a concentration in science, reality has dictated that it focus more generally on boosting student achievement in core subject areas. Science, however, is getting some special attention through a partnership with the Urban Science Education Center at Teachers College of Columbia University. A group of doctoral students is helping the school design its science curriculum.
Each school in the complex occupies its own floor and shares the common facilities: cafeteria, auditorium, gymnasium, and outdoor yard. Urban Science has a nicely-equipped science room that it will share with the other schools. Kelly said that during his first full year in the building he was able to stock every classroom library with at least 1,000 books. Plans are to start the 2006-07 school year with 6 laptop carts, each holding 25 to 30 laptop computers, for students to use in their classrooms.
English as a Second Language: Beginning in September 2006, the Urban Science Academy will be the complex-wide site for "transitional bilingual" classes, in which instruction will be delivered in both English and Spanish. English language learners in the country for less than three years who are zoned for a school in the complex will be enrolled in Urban Science.
Special education: There are "self-contained" classes, only for children with special needs.
After school: The Children's Aid Society provides academic and recreational programs for students in all three schools in the CIS 145 complex. Urban Science also runs its own after-school enrichment activities in math, drama, and chess. (Laura Zingmond, May 2006)