Urban Assembly Unison School

Phone: (718) 399-1061
Website: Click here
Admissions: District 13
Wheelchair accessible
Principal: Emily Jarrell
Neighborhood: Fort Greene/ Clinton Hill
District: 13
Grade range: 06 and 07

What's special:

Commitment to parent involvement; school day ends at 6 p.m.

The downside:

Low enrollment

The InsideStats



Our review

The Urban Assembly Unison School is a new middle school District 13 that offers a school day which ends at 6 p.m and a commitment to parent involvement. Teachers make home visits and invite parents on field trips such as an overnight trip to an outdoor education center. Unison, opened with a 6th grade in fall 2012, shares space with PS 56.

The Urban Assembly, a nonprofit organization, has a track record for opening small, innovative, theme-based middle and secondary schools.

The inspiration for the Urban Assembly Unison School came from the work of New York University Professor Cynthia McCallister, who pioneered a practice called “unison reading.” Working closely with a successful Manhattan school, PS/MS 126, McAllister introduced this structured, yet hands-on method of teaching reading. “Her instructional model is the best one I have seen,” said Jennifer Ostrow, Unison's founding principal. Ostrow left the school for personal reasons after the 2012-2013 school year but was replaced by Emily Jarrell,  a "learning cultures coach" in the unison reading instructional model. (Video on this page, taken from the school's website, describes the unison reading model.)

In unison reading, students of different levels “read aloud in synch but stop when they have an ‘huh?’ or ‘ahah’ moment,” said Ostrow.  “The slower readers do better when reading with a social group and the more proficient readers improve their skills when they stop to explain to others.” In class, students alternate between group activities (such as unison reading), working independently on projects or one to one conferences with the teacher.

The school day at Unison ends at 6 pm. Extended day activities are provided by Citizen Schools, an organization which works with middle schools in low income neighborhoods. Students connect with adults from different professions, get academic support and take part in teamwork activities.

Enrollment in the first few years has been low, making it difficult to offer as many courses and activities as the school would like, according to Sharon Jacker, Unison's business manager.

Satellite III middle school, also sharing the PS 56 building, is phasing out and will close by 2014.

Special education: Integrated co-teaching classes are offered.

Admissions: Priority goes to District 13 students who attend a fair or information session or otherwise express interest in the school. (Pamela Wheaton, interviews, July 2013 and March 2012)

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