The Urban Assembly Bronx Academy of Letters
Bronx NY 10451
Emphasis on research, writing and social justice
Attendance and academic achievement have a ways to go
At the Urban Assembly Bronx Academy of Letters, students complete imaginative research projects on a wide range of topics such as climate change, environmental racism, obesity in poor communities and incarceration rates. They also learn outside the school: at cultural institutions, through field work for research projects, helping out in the community, and getting involved in social justice causes.
While the school has struggled in recent years, it seems to be on the upswing. The Department of Education praised the quality of the school’s teaching staff, the imaginative curriculum, and the effective college placement office, according to the 2016 Quality Review. Ninety percent of teachers say Principal Brandon Cardet-Hernandez, who arrived in 2014, has a clear vision for the school, according to annual surveys.
Most students arrive with poor academic skills—and test scores in the middle school are very low. Attendance is below average. However, the school has thoughtful strategies to build basic skills, keep students engaged, and put them on the track for college. High school students we spoke with said they appreciated the level of support they received from teachers as well as the range of opportunities at the school, especially the chance to take several Advanced Placement classes or free courses at local colleges.
On our visit, students seemed relaxed and engaged; teachers address their students in conversational voices. In classes it’s common to find students working in groups and teachers circulating the room to check in on students’ progress.
Beginning in 6th grade students are expected to write a lot on a range of topics. Each year, students complete four research projects, called exhibitions, culminating with a written piece and an oral presentation before a panel of adults. For example, 7th-graders read scientific literature on climate change, and then visited PS 62 on Staten Island, a fully solar-powered school to learn about energy conservation.
Student activism is encouraged. Students interested in activism through art studied the work of Keith Haring and then created a Haring-style mural in the school. Others study gentrification in local communities, or visit nursing homes to create a “Humans of New York”-style scrapbook of the stories of longtime Bronx residents. High school students are involved in a group called IntegrateNYC4me, which advocates for school integration. Others work on LGBTQA rights. To combat high obesity rates in the surrounding neighborhood, the school provides the local community with fresh produce it grows in it organic garden.
The school has an advisory board, which raises money for student trips abroad, overnight trips to colleges, visits to cultural venues throughout the city and for the school’s residency program, which hires professional actors, writers and musicians to work with students on independent projects.
A fulltime college counselor guides students through the college admissions process. SAT prep is offered for free at the school. Graduates typically attend two- or four-year CUNY colleges and some attend SUNY and private colleges.
Housed in the former IS 183 building, Bronx Academy of Letters has an awkward layout because the middle school and high school classrooms are located in separate parts of the building. In between is a Success Academy Bronx 1 Charter School, which opened in the building in 2011.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: In addition to SETSS there are ICT and self-contained classes.
ADMISSIONS: Lottery, with preference for students who attend an open house. District 7 students get preference for the middle school. Nearly 50 percent of 8th-graders stay for high school. (Laura Zingmond, March 2017)
About the students
About the school
Is this school safe?
About the leadership
About the teachers
Are students prepared for high school?
How many graduate?
Are students prepared for college?
How does this school serve English Language Learners?
How does this school serve students with disabilities?
Programs and Admissions
Advanced Placement (AP) courses
AP English, AP Environmental Science, AP Spanish, AP US Government and Politics
Boys PSAL teams
Girls PSAL teams