Harlem Children's Zone Promise Academy Charter School

Grades K-12

Location

245 West 129th Street
Manhattan NY 10027
Harlem (District 5)

Contact

Phone
212-534-0700
Principal
Tonya White/Shakira Petit

What’s Special

More than a school-an entire support system to get kids into college

The Downside

Some students grumble that kids dont respect each other

Our Review

Promise Academy Charter opened in 2004 as an outgrowth of Harlem Children's Zone, an organization dedicated to providing the children of central Harlem comprehensive academic, medical and social support from birth to college.

The school serves children in grades K-12 in a five-story building with 52 classrooms equipped with WiFi, three science labs, lockers, two libraries and two outdoor play areas.

The building, opened in 2013, is surrounded by the towers of St. Nicholas Houses, and residents of the public housing project get priority for admissions. According to parent comments on websites like Great Schools, school safety staff escort children to public transportation and patrol the neighborhood at night. [photo at right from DNAinfo taken at the ribbon cutting for the new building]

In addition to a longer school day and year, students have access to free after-school sports, tutoring and arts programs. There is an onsite health center with free medical, dental and mental-health services. Children receive healthy breakfasts and lunches.

Class size is small with at least two teachers in every room. The school day lasts until 4 pm and after-school programs for the elementary grades are offered until 6 pm, while middle and high school activities run until 7 pm. Most charter schools require students to wear uniforms, but Promise Academy requires teachers to adhere to a strict dress code, too.

According to the calendar on the school's website, there are literacy and other academic workshops for parents, as well as social events like the Parent Cafe Night and Grandparents Social. Students take trips to the American Museum of Natural History and the local farmer's market. Some trips are further afield, such as to Boston, to visit colleges.

Parents are enthusiastic and both students and teachers say expectations are high, according to the Learning Environment Survey. However, nearly one-third of the teachers responding to the survey complain of problems with order and discipline and say they don't get the help they need to address behavior problems.

The school declined our repeated requests to visit, but data shows that Promise Academy students perform better than at other area public schools and surveys and websites indicate the school enjoys stable leadership. Tonya White is the principal of the lower elementary (K-2), Achil Petit leads upper elementary (3-6), Shakira Brown Petit leads the middle school (7-8) and Marquitta Speller leads the high school (9-12).

Middle school math and English Language Arts test were at the citywide average in 2013, but science scores were well above average. The leader of the middle school, Brown Petit, was previously a science teacher at the school. In 2008 she was tapped to join an 8-week expedition to Antarctica sponsored by the National Science Foundation as an explorer-educator.

"When I was younger, I hated science," a Promise Academy student of Ms. Brown's was quoted in a New York Times article that year. "The teachers talked too much. After they talk a lot, you get bored. Ms. Brown gives us examples from real life."

Speller worked in Bedford-Stuyvesant before she became principal of the high school in 2010. She believes that the extra assistance children receive from adults makes a big difference for Promise Academy students, according to an article in the New York Times. There is a social worker, a guidance counselor and a college counselor in the high school. Top students may attend free college-level classes held onsite by Bard College professors.

There were 62 seniors in the first graduating class in 2014 and Speller predicted that all would go to college according, to an article in Ed. Magazine from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. In college teens will continue to be supported by the College Success Office, just like all participants in Harlem Children's Zone.

The Harlem Children's Zone extends from 116th to 143rd Streets, between Madison Avenue and Frederick Douglass Boulevard. The organization has placed teaching assistants, known as peacemakers, in many of the elementary school classrooms in the area and poured money into refurbishing playgrounds and parks. The visionary behind the zone is Harvard-educated Geoffrey Canada, who was raised by his mother in the South Bronx. He has received many awards for his work.

Admissions: Most of the students come from the surrounding neighborhood and there is always a waiting list. Admission by lottery is held in April. Priority is given to residents of District 5. (Lydie Raschka, web reports and DOE data, December 2013)

About the students

Enrollment
1147
Asian
0.4%
Black
82.7%
Hispanic
14.3%
White
0.7%
Other
2.0%
Free or reduced priced lunch
84%
Students with disabilities
15%
English language learners
4%

About the school

Shared campus?
No
This school is in its own building.
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

Attendance

How many students are chronically absent?
12%
15% Citywide Average

Is this school safe?

How many teachers say order and discipline are maintained at this school?
60%
76% Citywide Average
How many students think bullying happens most or all of the time at this school?
40%
21% Citywide Average
How many students say they feel safe in the hallways, bathrooms and locker rooms?
84%
88% Citywide Average
How many teachers say their students are safe outside around this school?
68%
81% Citywide Average
How many students say most students treat each other with respect?
35%
57% Citywide Average

About the leadership

How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?
86%
81% Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal has a clear vision for this school?
92%
84% Citywide Average
How many teachers trust the principal?
84%
82% Citywide Average

About the teachers

How many teachers say they would recommend this school to other families?
71%
84% Citywide Average
How many teachers think the staff collaborate to make this school run effectively?
89%
83% Citywide Average

Do parents like the school?

How many parents responded to the school survey?
63%
64% Citywide Average
How many parents say they are invited to visit classrooms?
55%
73% Citywide Average
How many parents say this school offers enough courses, activities and services to keep their children interested in school?
85%
85% 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?
55%
56% Citywide Average
How many students scored 3-4 on the state ELA exam?
38%
52% Citywide Average

Engaging curriculum?

How many students say this school offers enough programs, classes and activities to keep them interested?
69%
73% Citywide Average
How many students say they are challenged in most or all of their classes?
46%
51% Citywide Average
How many students say the programs, classes and activities here encourage them to develop talent outside academics?
61%
72% Citywide Average

Are students prepared for high school?

How many 8th graders earn high school credit?
16%
46% Citywide Average
How many graduates of this school pass all their classes in 9th grade?
85%
91% Citywide Average
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

How many graduate?

How many students graduate in 4 years?
98%
84% Citywide Average

Are students prepared for college?

How many students graduate with test scores high enough to enroll at CUNY without remedial help?
24%
45% Citywide Average
How many students take a college-level course or earn a professional certificate?
39%
61% 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
2.43
2.3 Citywide Average
Average math score for self-contained students
2.38
2.2 Citywide Average
Average ELA score for ICT students
1.9
2.2 Citywide Average
Average ELA score for self-contained students
2.27
2.2 Citywide Average
Average math score for SETSS students
2.67
2.7 Citywide Average
Average ELA score for SETSS students
2.3
2.5 Citywide Average
How many students say that students with disabilities are included in all activities?
53%
63% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school offers enough activities and services for their children's needs?
81%
83% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school works to achive the goals of their students' IEPs?
84%
88% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say they are satisfied with the IEP development process at this school?
83%
87% Citywide Average
How many special ed students graduate in 4 years?
80%
65% Citywide Average
For more information about our data sources, see About Our Data
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