Bushwick Community High School
Brooklyn NY 11221
A nurturing atmosphere for struggling older students
Metal detectors, poor attendance and graduation rates
Bushwick Community High School has a reputation as a loving, supportive, safe-haven, staffed by caring people who help turn students lives around.
By many measures, this school looks bleak: Attendance is poor. Low graduation rates landed Bushwick Community on a state list of troubled schools in 2011 (making it eligible for $800,000 in federal grant money). Yet students lobbied for their beloved school and it was saved from closure in 2012. [photo at right from the New York Times article]
Teachers and school leaders have long been committed to making whatever accommodations are necessary to meet the needs of their students. About 30 to 40 percent of the population live without a parent or legal guardian, some are parents themselves, and some reside in homeless shelters. Many teens have no adult guidance outside of school.
When one boy stopped attending class, a teacher posted signs around his neighborhood in East New York, and spoke to his neighbors, until she got word to him, staffers told us during our visit in 2005. Two days later he returned.Staffers empathize with the kids, in part because some of them, too, struggled to survive on rough Bushwick streets during their youth. A school guidance counselor recalls the day she was expelled from Bushwick High School, and arrived at Bushwick Outreach (the organization that became Bushwick Community High). She graduated from high school, went on to college, obtained her bachelor's degree, and now holds two master's degrees.
Students are not sorted into class by age, but take classes based on their achievement to date in a particular subject. In addition to Regents preparation courses in Global and U.S. history, Earth Science, and Living Environment, there are a raft of courses of special interest to black and Hispanic students: African-American studies, Latino studies, history of slavery in America, and the Harlem Renaissance.
The school shares space with Math, Engineering, and Science Academy, a charter school opened in 2013, and J.H.S. 291, which has a reputation for being rough. Bushwick is housed in a small wing on the fourth floor of J.H.S. 291, and although the middle school has long had metal detectors, Bushwick never did, until they were installed in 2012, much to the dismay of the older students.
Special education: Teachers work inside students' regular classrooms to provide additional support. There is also a classroom with supplies for students with special needs.
After school: The school conducts classes including Spanish for travelers, finance, film and hidden voices in women's literature. There are also lectures and guest speakers.
Admissions:Open to students from throughout the five boroughs, ages 17-21, who were not successful at their previous high school and can read at a 5th grade level or above. (Vanessa Witenko, April 2005, updated from web reports and DOE statistics, Lydie Raschka, 2013)