Bronx Academy for Software Engineering (BASE)
Students learn computer programming; emphasis on design-thinking
Too soon to tell; lop-sided boy-girl ratio; metal detectors
The Bronx Academy for Software Engineering (BASE) opened in 2013 with the goal of teaching students computer programming at a high level. Students learn programming languages like Java and Python, and related skills such as web and game design.
Like its sister school, Academy for Software Engineering (AFSE), BASE was founded with the support of venture capitalist, Fred Wilson and NYU computer science professor, Evan Korth, who chairs the advisory board for both schools. BASEs active advisory board is composed of community and tech industry leaders.
All BASE students complete a 4-year computer science sequence. In 9th grade students learn about data structures and basic coding. On our visit, 9th-graders were designing advertisements for a project tied into an English unit on identity. In 10th grade, students take a semester of web design as well as a semester learning Python and Java coding languages.
In the 11th and 12th grades, students choose between two tracks: Computer programming, which will lead to a Career and Technical Education (CTE)-endorsed diploma, or web and game design. The CTE sequence in computer programming will be the more academically challenging of the two tracks, requiring students to take Advanced Placement computer programming and higher level math.
While computer programming is the schools specialty, design-thinking goes to the core of the schools mission. We see the school as a design challenge, said founding principal, Ben Grossman. A former transfer high school teacher and schools network director of achievement, Grossman believes that design methodology bolsters academic stamina in students who may have the ability but lack motivation or tolerance for frustration. It pushes kids very hard to fail well and fail often
In every class, students complete four design challenges per year. For example, 9th-graders first challenge project in Global History was to design a survival kit for primitive people. These regular challenges culminate in a capstone project in senior year where students propose and implement a project using design-thinking methodology.
Traditional science instructionliving environment, chemistry and physicsstarts in 10th grade to avoid overloading freshman grappling with the challenge of learning computer programming, BASE plans to offer language instruction beginning in the 11th grade and provide arts instruction when the school grows to capacity.
Ninth-graders who arrive with solid algebra skills can progress immediately to algebra 2, which puts them on track to take calculus before graduation. Others spend one or two years learning algebra, depending on their skill level. Geometry is not a required course, but the school offers it as an upper grade elective class. Additional math electives planned for the upper grades include statistics and discrete math.
Teachers lead small group advisories called seminars, which meet twice daily: A quick 12-minute check-in session at the start of each day, and a full period seminar that delves more deeply into a range of topics. Through a partnership with iMentor each student is matched with a mentor from the tech or related industries. Students develop strong relationships with their mentors through email correspondence and monthly mentor/mentee events at the school.
BASE uses a restorative justice approach to discipline that minimizes suspensions. Student misbehavior is addressed through mediation and conversation circles with classmates. Grossman said he doesnt mind some students dislike of conversation circles because it leads them to be proactive in quelling bad behavior. Stop it or they will make us do a circle, some students say when a classmate starts acting up, according to Grossman.
When we visited, the school was roughly 85% male. The gender imbalance reflects similar trends in the male-dominated technology industrysomething the school wants to change. To help girls feel comfortable and confident at school, BASE matches them with female mentors and offers them access to girls-only activities and internship opportunities.
The school is located in the Grace Dodge Educational Campus along with Crotona International High School, The High School for Energy and Technology and Grace Dodge High School, which is being phased out due to poor performance. Campus schools share access to an onsite medical clinic, auditorium, gym, cafeteria and newly constructed fitness and dance rooms. Students must pass through metal detectors to enter the building. BASE provides free storage for students cellphones.
There are campus-wide PSAL sports, intramural sports run by the school and well as a range of activities such as robotics, girls and boys math clubs, 3-D printing, business start-up workshops and student government.
College advisory is built into to the seminar program and includes trips to colleges. The school plans to hire a college counselor when they have their first class of 11th-graders in 2015.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school has integrated co-teaching (ICT) classes and Special Education Teacher Support Services (SETSS).
ADMISSIONS: Limited unscreened. Priority to students who demonstrate interest by attending an open house or meeting with school representatives at a high school fair. The school hosts a girls-only open house. (Ella Colley and Laura Zingmond, October 2014)
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Programs and Admissions
Advanced Placement (AP) courses
AP Computer Science
Boys PSAL teams
Girls PSAL teams
Bronx NY 10458