Brooklyn Democracy Academy
Brooklyn NY 11212
Stable staff, creative classes
Brooklyn Democracy Academy, a transfer school, caters to students over the age of 16 who have struggled in traditional high schools, but still want a high school diploma. Many of the classes are creative and engaging. On our visit, we saw students in a hydroponics class preparing to plant their own garden of lettuce, cabbage and bok choy in water. Students learn chemistry, life science and math while they garden. [The photo at the left is from the school's Facebook page.]
Students in a criminal law class visit Brooklyn Criminal Court. Students may take acting, screenwriting, or a history class on genocide. Students and teachers kick off each school year with a school-wide art project that they work on together and display in the school's hallway. Teachers seem satisfied with their work: the school, opened in 2008, has had almost no staff turnover.
Counselors from The Jewish Child Care Association work one-on-one with students, monitoring attendance, making home visits and arranging for college guidance and visits. Many students get paid internships at local businesses and organizations. Despite these efforts to engage students, attendance is well below the citywide average.
Some students come in without any high school credits, while others arrive with just a few credits needed to graduate. The school runs on a trimester system - three 12-week sessions per year which allows students to earn credits faster than they would at a typical school. The school day runs from 8:40 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., which is a little longer than most schools.
To apply, students must give transcripts and attendance history and take a vocabulary and reading test. Both students and parents are interviewed. "We want people to be here because they want to be here," said Principal Thomas McKenna. [Andrew Brown replaced McKenna as principal after our visit.]
Some graduates have gone on to two-year or four-year colleges while others have gotten jobs. Not everyone sticks around, though. Nineteen students dropped out in the schools first year, most of them switching to GED or night school programs.
Special education: About 15 percent of students receive special education services, provided by two full-time special ed teachers who work with students in general classrooms. A part-time English as a Second Language teacher works with a handful of students.
Brooklyn Democracy shares a building with another transfer school, Metropolitan Diploma Plus, a middle school, Kappa V, and P140, a District 75 school for disabled students. (Jill Grossman, October 2010)