Brooklyn Prospect Charter Middle and High School
Brooklyn NY 11218
Well-rounded k-12 school, fully accredited International Baccalaureate program
Few varsity sports teams, school in two locations, not all students in IB track
Brooklyn Prospect Charter School offers a close-knit community and a demanding, International Baccalaureate (IB) program. Students say they prize the personal attention, the welcoming environment, and the awesome teachers who are both enthusiastic and approachable.
The school opened in 2009 with 6th-grade. Since then it has attracted children of different races and educational preparation from across District 15, from Park Slope to Red Hook and beyond. Diversity is the core of who we are, said Dan Rubenstein, school director and founder, who encourages kids to sit "next to someone who doesnt look and think like you do.
One challenge of this diversity is that about 20 percent of incoming 6th-graders are behind two or three grade levels in reading, says Rubenstein, while others come in as twin 4s [the highest score on state exams]. That statistic may change when the school reaches full growth as a k-12.
In 2013 the school opened its elementary school with kindergarten classes in District 13. It is housed on the top three floors of Saint Joseph High School, an all-girls Catholic school located at 80 Willoughby. The director is Jumaane Saunders, a Teach for America alumnus who previously was director of external programming at The School at Columbia University. All the lower school classrooms have two teachers. [In 2016, the new Brooklyn Prospect Charter Clinton Hill Middle School opened in District 13. It will be temporarily located at 300 Willoughly Avenue. It is led by Jackie DeLuca and Kim Raccio, both experienced educators from the Brooklyn Prospect network.See the website for more information.]
A few miles away, middle and high school students go to school in an airy and bright four-story building, near the Fort Hamilton Parkway stop on the F train. Originally a Roman Catholic elementary school, the building got a $6 million upgrade to make it suitable for older students. Six science labs were installed, 750 lockers were added, and each floor got a coat of red, blue or yellow paint to match the lockers. The building has wireless Internet access and is air-conditioned. Every student has a school email account and much of the homework is submitted via Google docs. There is a 2 to 1 ratio of students to laptops.
Its almost like a small prep school, the parent of a 6th-grader said.
Small group advisories meet several times a week. The faculty joins students for lunch in the commons. The school day runs from 8:45 am to 3:45 pm. Many classrooms have two teachers; some are trained in special education, others are recent college graduates who are mentored by classroom teachers for a year.
Our goal is to prepare students for success in a rigorous high school diploma program. Its not about passing Regents, its about going in-depth in the subjects," said former principal LaNolia Omowanile.
Advanced students may do seeker projects, taking on more in-depth assignments. Students who need extra help go to small group tutorials.All school leaders have a strong background in math and science: Middleschool Principal Carolyn Michael was a founding math teacher, Saunderswas a science teacher, and Rubenstein was a math and chemistry teacher.Ingrid Wong was previously a humanities teacher and subsequently she becamesenior director of high school admissions at the city's Department of Education.
Field trips, or expeditions, complement in-school math and science instruction. On Pythagoras Day, a math class visited the Flat Iron Building in an event sponsored by the Museum of Math; Earth science students visited Central Park while studying glaciers. Beginning in 7th grade, students are grouped in math based on ability and about 38 percent of 8th-graders take the algebra Regents.
In middle school science, the focus is to teach students to think like a scientist, said former principal Omowanile. They learn to generate hypotheses and develop critical thinking skills. Sixth-graders produced Public Service Announcements about natural disasters and climate change, designed wind turbines and made stop motion animation movies. They write four lab reports and a policy brief on climate data that they submit to the city at the end of the year.
In the high school, there are an array of science classes, some for the Regents and others for students in the IB track. Non-IB classes include physics, Earth science and chemistry while IB classes are limited to biology and environmental science. Math classes can be mixed by grade.
For all its focus on math and science, Brooklyn Prospect remains a very well-rounded school with a strong humanities program. Ninth-graders are separated into two English classes: literature (for stronger students) and composition (for struggling readers and writers). During our visit, a composition class was watching a video of an inspired lecture by Nigerian writer Chinamanda Ngozi Adichie and making connections to Fahrenheit 451, a novel about the suppression of ideas. In the darkened room, students seem captivated by the speech and eagerly wrote down their thoughts.
There are 23 clubs, some for both middle and high school students. Sports include volleyball, lacrosse, rugby, soccer and basketball. Teams play mostly against schools outside of the city and are not part of PSAL, the citys varsity sports league.
Special education: There are several special education teachers and combined classes with two teachers. Support services are offered, although administrators acknowledged that it can sometimes take a month or two before services begin in the first year.
Admissions: Lottery in April. For middle and high school, priority goes to siblings and District 15 students. For the elementary school, priority goes to siblings and residents of District 13. Preference is given to students who qualify for free or reduced lunch in both kindergarten and 6th grade. There are plans to replicate the middle school in District 13, opening in 2016 when a suitable space can be found.(Pamela Wheaton, October 2012 and May 2014. Reporting contributed by Suzannah Tartan-Hunt; updated with new school information March 2015, December 2015 and May 2016)