Uncommon Charter High School
Brooklyn NY 11216
Serious focus on achievement, new building
Very limited admissions, long hours and rules not for everyone
Uncommon Charter High School, housed in a brand new building, has a serious, orderly atmosphere geared toward success in college. Students who choose to attend must agree to regular testing and be willing to have reports on their academic performance and behavior posted publicly. When students earn rewards or punishments, the whole school is informed.
Opened in 2009 with a ninth grade class, the school will expand each year until it has 200 students in each grade. The teaching styles are mostly traditional, with lectures rather than class discussions or group work. Students were attentive in every class we visited, with almost no side talking. All students wear uniforms. Students may not wear brown belts, only black. Hoop earrings must be no more than 1.5 inches across. Students chant mottos at the end of some classes.
Each week, the students have two advisories to help with school and college planning. Every Wednesday morning, each grade assembles for an hour. During our visit, the assembly celebrated student and group achievements, described outside academic programs, and included problem-solving exercises. In an orderly school, this appears to be a weekly chance to make some noise.
Students must complete four years of math, science, English and social studies, three years of a foreign language, and arts classes. The high school has long hours (7:45 am to 3:45 pm) except on Wednesday. Some students are asked to come to school on Saturday morning for extra academic help.
Reading Days are set aside to practice for exams. Students belong to a house named after the colleges that the teachers attended. Teachers hold office hours afterschool; students struggling in class must sign themselves up for that afterschool help. We saw several lessons that focused on study skills like taking notes from lectures, annotating articles, and organizing ones notes. The library looks like many college libraries, with long wooden tables and closed study rooms. As in the cafeteria of a large corporation, the lunchroom displays a loop of school announcements on three 14-foot wide screens hanging beside the eating area.
Clubs include soccer, photography, writing, glee and theater. The school has step and basketball teams and plans to offer varsity sports once it reaches its full size.
Special education: Co-director Minnie Setty said the school has a special education coordinator, but very few students receive special education services. [Minnie Setty left the school in 2012 and was replaced by Thomas O'Brien, who was formerly at Williamsburg Collegiate. Minnie Setty co-founded the schoolwith co-director Maya Roth Bisignano.]
Uncommon Charter shares a building with Brooklyn East Collegiate Charter School, and Achievement First Crown Heights Charter High School.
Admissions: preference is given tostudents who attend Uncommon Schools network middle school.
Uncommon Charter High School operates under more than one charter and data for the students at this high school can be found in the profiles of the the network's middle schools.(Matt Fleischer-Black, October 2010; updated by Ella Colley, December 2014)