Brooklyn College Academy
Brooklyn NY 11218
Students study on Brooklyn College campus
Two different school locations; small gym at annex
Brooklyn College Academy, one of the first schools in the city linked to a college campus, is a small, sought-after alternative to Brooklyn's large neighborhood schools. Kids get personal attention from an attentive staff, and they enjoy the freedom of being in college setting during their last two years of high school. The school is especially popular with families from the Caribbean and students who come from parochial school.
The school was founded in 1986 as an alternative school--a program to help older high school students who have not done well in other settings -- but now most students enter in 9th grade through the regular high school application process. The school has two sites, located about a mile apart from each other. The 7th-10th grade lower school, called Bridges to Brooklyn or "the annex," is housed in a renovated warehouse; the upper school, grades 11 and 12, is situated on the Brooklyn College campus. Classrooms at both sites have the teachers' personal stamp on them and are full of student work, posters, and "word wall" vocabulary lists.
Principal Nick Mazzarella travels between the two locations daily but he admits that having sites so far apart, poses logistical problems and sometimes "gives you the feeling of two separate schools." One remedy: an after school bus picks up kids at one site for sports and orchestra and transports them to the other site.
The high school shares two floors of a campus building with college students. Space is tight, with classes topping out at 34 students in relatively small classrooms, but the feeling is congenial. Students visit the nearby "Junction" (where the subway stops) for lunch or the college cafeteria. They also can use the wonderful library, gym, and other facilities. A handful of students take college courses after school; they need to have an 80 or 85 average and meet other requirements. A few others take college courses during the school day.
Mazzarella, who began his career at Hostos-Lincoln High School in the Bronx and came to Brooklyn College Academy in 2005, is a real believer in a campus education for high school students. "By coming to the campus, their world changes," he said. "My mission is to offer more college courses. I love the collaboration with the college, and the kids have a lot more opportunities."
The lower school is at 350 Coney Island Avenue, across the street from the parade grounds adjacent to Prospect Park in the Windsor Terrace neighborhood. It is also on the list of 209 successful schools the chancellor exempted from the citywide uniform curriculum mandated in 2003.
The annex has a very different feel from the upper school. The site is spotless, spacious, and well-maintained. It is also quiet--until you wander in on a lunchroom gathering of the World Band, led by a dynamo music teacher, who collects odd and interesting musical instruments on her world travels. During our visit, a good number of sophomores were banging away on unusual instruments, encouraged by the teacher, who seemed adept at all of them. A science teacher, also a musician, came in to watch, also attracted by the music.
The school has a nicely equipped science lab and a small gym. It also houses an "8-plus program," run by the region for 8th graders who need to make up credits before entering 9th grade. These students share some classes with 8th graders at Bridges to Brooklyn.
Bridges to Brooklyn was one of the schools cited by the New York Daily News for the largest increase in 8th grade math test scores in 2005 "with a 27-percentage-point boost and 77% passing," the September 24, 2005 Daily News article said.
Special education: The school houses a model program for autistic children, who are placed into regular classes where they receive extra help. "It works beautifully," an English teacher told us. "They've been some of the best writers."Two autistic boys whom we saw on a previous visit several years ago successfully helping other students in a 9th grade science class are now seniors likely to graduate with honors, a staff member said.
College admissions: Almost all graduates go on to college, either two or four year schools. A few join the military. Recent graduates have attended Penn State, New York University, traditionally black colleges in the south, SUNY Binghamton, and many CUNY schools.
Admissions: There is one class of 7th graders and one of 8th graders. All applicants are interviewed, submit a writing sample, and take a test. School officials also meet with parents. High school students enter through the city's regular high school application process. Brooklyn College Academy is a screened program. The school looks for students who score on grade level or better on standardized exams and who have a good attendance record. A guidance counselor's recommendation is required. (Pamela Wheaton, October 2005)