Explore Excel Charter Lower School
Brooklyn NY 11236
Established charter network
Many new teachers; some discipline issues
Explore Excel Charter School opened in 2011 in Canarsie as part of the Explore Schools network, which operates several other schools in Brooklyn including the original Explore Charter School. Excel opened with kindergarten through 3rd grade students and will be a full K-8 school by 2016.
Explore schools offer personalized attention, small group instruction, a back-to-basics philosophy and two-teachers in each elementary classroom, a model which Morty Ballen, the network's CEO, says he adopted when he realized it was used by many high-performing schools.
The school's first principal, Ethan Mitnick, a former bilingual special education teacher in the Bronx, left the school to become a consultant after the 2011-2012 school year. Dana Bogle, a Bank Street graduate who also worked for Teach for America, became principal. She was formerly the academic director at Explore Schools network and an Explore teacher.
Explore Excel shares space with PS 114, a troubled school that had been slated for closure in 2011 before winning a partial reprieve; the school remains open, but its enrollment was cut to make room for Excel. At the time, PS 114 parents and teachers expressed concern about how the two schools would share space and resources in the century-old building, located in a neighborhood that was once largely Italian and Jewish but is now home to families of mostly Caribbean and African American backgrounds.
There have been complaints about the state of the school building with 35 percent of the teachers reporting on the Learning Environment Survey that it was not kept clean. A majority of teachers have fewer than four years of experience in the classroom; 47 percent of teachers answering the survey said there were some problems of order and discipline at the school.
Admissions: According to Explore Schools' Director of Strategy Lizz Pawlson, Explore gives priority in admissions to District 18 students who are at risk of academic failure, particularly those who are zoned for PS 114. For its first year, 2011-2012, Excel received more than 750 applications for 240 spots in kindergarten through 3rd grade. About 60% of the applicants attended or are zoned to attend PS 114. These students receive first preference in the lottery. (Amanda Hass, September 2011; updated 2013)