Achievement First Brownsville Charter School
Brooklyn NY 11233
Extra support staff, orderliness
Long day, heavy homework load
December 2014 update: In 2012,Achievement First Brownsville Charter School expanded to a middle school. Keith Brooks, who was formerly dean of academic culture at Achievement First East New York Middle School, is the founding principal of the middle school.In 2013, Michelle Kagan replacedGina Musumeci as principal of the elementary school.
March 2011 review: Achievement First schools are orderly academies that push hard on students to master their lessons and practice exemplary behavior. An operating principle of this network of 19 charter schools in New York City and Connecticut is that students must make every minute count to stay on the path to success. It aims to launch new schools with a highly structured culture that will lead students to absorb its college-preparatory curriculum without disruption. Founded in August 2008 as the networks fourth elementary school in New York, Achievement First Brownsville seems to have faithfully and successfully implemented the networks program.
On our guided tour of the K-4 school, the halls were full of punchy, inspirational- message posters like Focus. Drive. Succeed. T-shirts worn by staff members (a Friday practice at the school) also displayed motivating mantras. In a kindergarten classroom, we saw three grown-ups directing groups, as other students worked independently on math software. During a 3rd-grade math lesson, the teacher passed colored tiles to two students to tally and describe while the class watched. He offered some play-by-play praise: Its so easy to see theyre each doing the hard work themselves.
Achievement First declined to let us observe any classrooms for an extended period of time, but looking through doorways we saw engaged students propelled by the high energy of their young teachers. We heard a variety of student chants coming from classrooms and saw placards listing teachers favorite books. The writing and artwork in the hallways illustrated students creativity. A 2010 SUNY Charter Schools Institute evaluation concluded that the school offered students solid yet sensitive instruction.
The schools leaders frequently move floating staff to classrooms or pair them with individual students who need support. Our job is to serve teachers, to take the rocks out of the road for them, said Principal Gina Musumeci in a brief interview. The school day runs from 7:15 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., with a 1:30 p.m. dismissal on Fridays. Students have reading and math until 11 a.m., when they start arts (chorus, dance, art), science, and social studies lessons. Homework is demanding.
The hard-driving atmosphere is offset by arts classes each day; students switch among the arts three times a year. About 75 parents attended a late-morning Art and Culture Performance of kindergarteners and 1st graders. First graders performed intricate arm and leg pumps in unison to Ben Harpers anti-violence song Better Way, and a kindergarten class sang Bob Marleys Buffalo Soldiers, about black military regiments. Art teacher Kim Sadler said classes collaborated on folding 1,000 paper birds to illustrate Maya Angelous poem I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.
The warmth at the school was evident during the performance as the principal amiably sat with a students younger sibling on her lap. A couple rows away, a teacher and a boy gently discussed his errant behavior. The gathering also showed the schools emphasis on orderly transitions: students went up to the stage and back quietly, as a staff member solicited a high-five from each one.
Outside at 12:30 p.m., a couple of parents said that the school had been wonderful for their children. These Achievement First moms had only one complaint: Right now, I dont like that I have to come back at 1:30 p.m. again. But lessons trump convenience, a school leader announced after the last act: Parents, please wait in your seats for the classes to leave. The students are going back to their learning.
The school shares its blocky building with Brooklyn Collegiate, a schools serving 600 students in grades 6-12. According to the SUNY evaluation, the two schools have had a strained relationship over lack of space.
The school offers after-school tutoring.
Special Education: The school provides SETSS services. In 2009-10, it reported 7 percent of the students had disabilities.
Admissions: Lottery, with District 23 preference. (Matt Fleischer-Black, March 2011; updated by Ella Colley, December 2014)