J.H.S. 302 Rafael Cordero
BROOKLYN NY 11208 Map
J.H.S. 302 Rafael Cordero
JHS 302, a neighborhood school in Cypress Hills, goes beyond academics in its efforts to involve students, get them to school and help their families. But while its classes, performing arts programs and array of services, clearly engage some children, others come to school late, create some discipline problems and struggle academically.
Since she arrived at JHS 302 in 2007, Principal Lisa Linder has been trying to retool the academic program. The school has boosted arts classes, offering drama -- including sign language performance -- chorus and keyboard, as well as visual art. Linder hopes this will help MS 302 students gain admission to high schools requiring an audition. (Currently most students go onto William Maxwell, John Adams and schools on the Thomas Jefferson campus.)
Seventh and 8th graders chose between two learning academies: one with an arts focus, the other centered around law and journalism. Linder believes offering students options can boost their enthusiasm. "We looked at what we were offering to students, and they had no say so," Linder says. Also in 2012, the school is set to become part of the iZone, the city's effort to use technology to help better tailor instruction to each child.
Much attention goes into bulletin boards, which highlight impressive student work while detailing the assignment. School-wide events also aim to pique student interest. When we visited, students in all grades were studying and writing poetry in preparation for a school-wide poetry slam. In one class, students listened to a poem in an African language, not to understand but to sense the mood. “I felt like I was in church,” one girl said. In another, students grappled – with some difficulty –to define figurative language.
Linder has focused more attention on professional development and sought to create camaraderie --and a bit of competition -- among the staff. Particularly in math teachers try to tailor work to a student's abilities, providing one lesson with exercises at three different levels. And the school has worked on attendance, giving awards for students who have good attendance and creating an attendance team.
Partly to boost attendance, the media center and gym open an hour before schools for any student who wants to use them. "I have students waiting at 7:30," the librarian says. When we arrived at 8 a.m., students were at work on projects and playing on computers, while the gym was full with children playing basketball. JHS 302 remains open as late as 10 p.m. with a free Beacon afterschool program.
Although there has been some improvement, the school still has low test scores. Linder attributes some of the low scores to JHS 302's many English language learners. The school also has a number of overage students, Linder said as she tried to persuade several of them to get to class.
The school offers a variety of social services including a free clinic operated by East New York Diagnostic Treatment Center and English classes for the many Spanish-speaking parents. Parent coordinator Alicia Cortes collects food and clothing for needy families in the school. For a middle school, MS 302 has a fairly active PTA, which offers parenting workshops and workshop on emergency preparedness and first aid. JHS 302 now shares its space with Achievement First Apollo Charter School, which has space on the second floor and several trailers outside. Some JHS 302 students eat lunch at 10:30 a.m. because of sharing space with the other school.
The school can be a bit rowdy and at an assembly teachers moved quickly to discipline students during our visit. On the Learning Environment Survey, many students cited bullying and gang activity at the school. Overall, Linder said she does not think security is a problem, and the parent coordinator said she is more concerned about dangers on the streets outside JHS 302 than in the school itself.
Special education: The school has a number of self-contained special ed classes and one team-teaching class.
Admission: neighborhood school. (Gail Robinson, May 2012)