Urban Assembly Institute of Math and Science for Young Women
Brooklyn NY 11201
Challenges top students, supports kids who need it
Some discipline problems
Urban Assembly Institute of Math and Science for Young Women (UAI), a small middle and high school near Borough Hall’s transportation hub, draws girls from across Brooklyn. It offers a focused track to college without a lot of frills. Many students enter with low reading, writing and math skills, but there are opportunities for high-achievers, including a healthy selection of math courses, an engineering class at nearby NYU Tandon School of Engineering and Advanced Placement Literature.
All 8th graders are offered Regents-level math and science classes. An afterschool program offers Girls Who Code, Green Team, LEGO League and other math and science related activities.
Class size is an average of 25 students and many classrooms have two teachers; a 9th grade algebra class had 13 children at the time of our visit, and some of the upper grades had more than 25 because the older girls are able to handle it, said Principal Kiri Soares, who has been at the school since its founding. The school has three full-time social workers, one guidance counselor, two part-time social workers and interns from Hunter College. Advisors meet with 6th and 9th graders two to three times a week.
During our visit, children worked in small groups on activities such as graphing or peer editing. In an 8th grade English class, a patient teacher led a discussion of the Langston Hughes poem, “I, Too,” allowing children time to reach the conclusion that the poem was written from the viewpoint of an African-American slave. “I think he overcomes,” a girl said, of the slave narrator. “He doesn’t let that define him.”
A course called “Family Life and Sexuality Education” helps students understand puberty and make healthy choices. In a weekly “Power Group”, a counselor or social worker helps students adjust to middle school, learn social skills and address other teen issues. In an after school “Job Club” students open savings accounts, and learn about career options and managing money.
There are few arts during the day, just visual art and movement, however, many middle school students stay after school for theater, guitar, chorus, sports, debate, Step classes and more. High school students tend to branch out into job shadowing, SAT prep, College Now classes, peer leadership and other options.
Nearly 90 percent of graduates are admitted to private and public two- and four-year colleges. This is a feat, given that about one-third of the girls leave after 8th grade and more than 25 of the incoming 9th graders read at about a 2nd grade level, the reading teacher said. She works with them up to three times a week.
The school has grappled with issues of discipline, order and attendance. On the day of our visit, a student spoke rudely about the principal to a visitor, yet the majority of the girls were calmly working together in class. To instill good habits, teachers insist on nonverbal cues that show interest, such as sitting up, and nodding in response to teacher directions.
The school shares the renovated former family court building with Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice and a District 75 school for children with disabilities. Girls in grades 7 to 12 are allowed to go out for lunch with parent permission.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The building is handicapped accessible. There are team-teaching classes on every grade.
ADMISSIONS: Interview, tour and participation in a group science activity strongly encouraged. The administration looks for enthusiasm about learning and parental support around math and science for girls. For high school, preference is given to continuing 8th graders. (Lydie Raschka, April 2017)
About the students
About the school
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Programs and Admissions
Boys PSAL teams
Girls PSAL teams