Brooklyn Urban Garden Charter School (BUGS)

Grades 6-8
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Location

500 19th Street
Brooklyn NY 11215
Windsor Terrace (District 15)

Contact

Phone
718-280-9556
Principal
Linda Rosenbury

What’s Special

Gardening, recycling and outdoor learning

The Downside

Teacher turnover and growing pains

Our Review

Brooklyn Urban Garden Charter School (BUGS) is a small middle school founded in 2013 by parents, educators and community members who wanted a school focused on environmental sustainability both in the classroom and out-of-doors. It’s a tall order and in its first few years the school had significant staff turnover as the administration worked to find educators who were both enthusiastic about the school’s mission and successful classroom teachers.

 “It took us a bit to stabilize our staff. We had teachers who were gung-ho about the mission but not so experienced in the classroom,” said Principal Linda Rosenbury. “[Now] we prioritize more experience in the classroom.”

On the positive side, the school has a strong sense of community and a friendly atmosphere, with plants in stairwells and classrooms, a small garden of wild plants out front, and a commitment to recycling and composting. The student body is racially and economically mixed, and children come from all over Brooklyn, including Canarsie and East New York.

The school year begins in late August, with 6th graders and new 7th graders starting a few days earlier, allowing them to get acclimated to the school culture. The school day runs from 8 am to 4 pm. As many as 50 children come at 7:30 am for breakfast or a half hour of recess, eager to connect with their friends, the principal said. Students learn to meditate and have 15 minutes of “quiet time” twice daily. “They reset their minds and energy,” said one of the school’s co-founders Susan Tenner.

Sixth graders take charge of a small garden of basil, kale, lettuce and other vegetables which are sometimes served in the cafeteria’s salad bar. Students built a greenhouse out of discarded clear plastic garden.  Seventh graders test the water quality in nearby Prospect Park Lake and the Gowanus Canal.

Eighth graders explore the theme of urbanization. Students visited stores in Bedford Stuyvesant to create a daily meal plan for families living on $8 a day. They contrasted gentrification—which displaces the poor—with revitalization, using the example of Industry City in Sunset Park with its art galleries and wine shops alongside job training programs for low-income residents. All 8th graders take the Living Environment Regents exam; one class of 8th graders takes the Algebra 1 Regents.

Student may take a prep course for the specialized high school exam during an “enhancement” period after lunch. There is both a social worker and a guidance counselor who helps with high school admissions. Graduates attend a variety of highly competitive high schools including Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Tech, Bard and Millennium Brooklyn. The largest number choose to go Murrow.

BUGS draws students with a range of academic skills, a strength that also presents a challenge. Teachers make a concerted effort to accommodate children of different abilities through small advisory sessions and plenty of group work.

In its first years, the school had issues with discipline. Staff have adopted a behavioral system in which students receive “additions” for positive behavior and deductions for infractions, which the principal says is making a difference.

BUGS shares the former Bishop Ford High School with a Pre-K Center and, as of September 2017, MS 442, a small District 15 middle school. The leased space also represents a challenge: there is no library, and the school has not secured permission to build a large garden. 

SPECIAL EDUCATION: Three of four classrooms on every grade are co-taught by a general education and a special education teacher. Some parents and teachers complain that students don’t get enough support and say the school needs more teachers trained in special education. The principal said the school puts a lot of effort into training for co-teachers.

ADMISSIONS: Lottery. Although the school gives preference to District 15, about half the students come from other Brooklyn districts. A weighted lottery gives preference to students who are learning English as a New Language, although very few are enrolled. (Pamela Wheaton, May 2017)

About the students

Enrollment
285
Asian
3.9%
Black
34.4%
Hispanic
39.0%
White
17.5%
Other
5.3%
Free or reduced priced lunch
54%
Students with disabilities
26%
English language learners
4%

About the school

Shared campus?
Yes
This school shares a building with a Pre-K Center
Metal detectors?
No
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

Attendance

Average daily attendance
95%
93% Citywide Average
How many students are chronically absent?
9%
20% Citywide Average

Is this school safe?

How many teachers say order and discipline are maintained at this school?
69%
77% Citywide Average
How many students think bullying happens most or all of the time at this school?
21%
28% Citywide Average
How many students say they feel safe in the hallways, bathrooms and locker rooms?
84%
82% Citywide Average
How many students say most students treat each other with respect?
38%
43% Citywide Average

About the leadership

How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?
86%
82% Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal has a clear vision for this school?
76%
88% Citywide Average
How many teachers trust the principal?
86%
82% Citywide Average

About the teachers

How many teachers say they would recommend this school to other families?
72%
81% Citywide Average
How many teachers think the staff collaborate to make this school run effectively?
93%
86% Citywide Average
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

Test scores

How many students scored 3-4 on the state math exam?
30%
27% Citywide Average
How many students scored 3-4 on the state ELA exam?
37%
30% Citywide Average

Engaging curriculum?

How many students say this school offers enough programs, classes and activities to keep them interested?
59%
75% Citywide Average
How many students say they are challenged in most or all of their classes?
37%
56% Citywide Average
How many students say the programs, classes and activities here encourage them to develop talent outside academics?
58%
72% Citywide Average

Are students prepared for high school?

How many 8th graders earn high school credit?
33%
26% Citywide Average
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

How does this school serve students with disabilities?

Average math score for ICT students
2.23
1.9 Citywide Average
Average math score for self-contained students
2.17
2.1 Citywide Average
Average ELA score for ICT students
1.76
1.9 Citywide Average
Average ELA score for self-contained students
2.41
2.2 Citywide Average
Average math score for SETSS students
2.27
2.3 Citywide Average
Average ELA score for SETSS students
2.48
2.3 Citywide Average
How many students say that students with disabilities are included in all activities?
65%
67% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school offers enough activities and services for their children's needs?
59%
88% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school works to achive the goals of their students' IEPs?
71%
91% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say they are satisfied with the IEP development process at this school?
75%
90% Citywide Average
For more information about our data sources, see About Our Data
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