DREAM Charter School
Manhattan NY 10029
Sleek, new facilities, free after-school and summer programs
Too soon to tell about the high school
DREAM Charter is a popular option among East Harlem families looking for solid academics, a supportive environment and strong ties to the well-regarded DREAM organization, (formerly known as Harlem RBI), which founded the school in 2008.
Dream is a good neighbor, eager to serve its community: It reserves 50 percent of its seats for students living in public housing and, unlike many charters, it admits new students in all grades, space permitting. In 2017 the school opens its high school with a 9th grade and will graduate its first class in June 2021.
The schools main location is a sleek, modern building that opened in 2015, attached to a new residential building with affordable housing. DREAM's bright, airy facility includes a large gymnasium and outdoor space, and thoughtful features such as a small classroom on each floor to accommodate children who need extra help. The main building houses grades k to 8. Pre-k classes are held in the nearby PS 50. The high school is located roughly 15 blocks away at 443 East 115th Street.
The vibe throughout is sweet and calm. In classes we saw of range of teaching styles. Elementary and middle school science classes we observed were very hands-on with students tinkering with experiments in groups. In other classes students sat in rows listening to the teacher lead a lesson, with time set aside for students to work independently and with a partner.
Teachers connect lessons to topics studied in other subjects. For instance, 7th-graders read George Orwells Animal Farm in English while they study the Cold War and Stalinism in social studies.
There are two teachers in all elementary school classes, which allows for individualized instruction. After a class-wide discussion on the literary technique of flashback, 4th-graders were handed different packets of work to complete based on their skill level--some containing a few simple questions and others requiring extensive work and complex responses.
Students read a range of books of their choosing and at their skill level and write and revise multiple drafts of work on a variety of topics. Teachers balance this with some class-wide readings that are at above grade level. In middle school students read at least 10 full-length novels a year (in addition to shorter texts) and get to keep the books to help them build their own library at home.
Math instruction emphasizes conceptual learning and multiple approaches to problem solving. In a 5th grade class we observed, students worked through problems with the use of manipulatives--small objects that help them count, measure and visualize their thinking.
DREAM students attend summer programs run by the DREAM organization that vary by grade-level, and the school reinforces the organizations belief in the importance of physical activity: Students get active recess (indoors or out) every day; swimming, tennis and rugby are part of the physical education curriculum.
All students have art and music instruction. A second language is not taught until high school.
The high school curriculum includes two 9th grade math classesone in problem solving and one in algebraand two 9th grade English classesa writing seminar and a literature class. Students will read contemporary American fiction such as Kite Runner and The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Woo and non-fiction such as Ta-Nehisi Coates letter to his African-American son Between the World and Me and Raquel Cepedas memoir Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina.
Jared R. Francis, the founding principal for the high school, grew up in East Harlem. He was assistant principal at Fahari Academy Charter School and cofounder of Lyons Community School in Brooklyn, where he adopted a non-punitive approach to discipline known as restorative justice.
For grades pre-k-8, the school day runs from 8 am to 4 pm, Monday through Thursday and 8 am to 1 pm on Friday. Students in all grades have after-school activities including sports, which start at 1 pm on Friday.
The school has a dental and legal clinic as well as a full-time family counselor to help parents get the services they need. Each year, staff pay home visits to every student. Parents volunteer to serve as family ambassadors visiting local public housing complexes to recruit applicants. Teachers also receive training in social-emotional support for children through the Child Mind Institute.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: There are ICT classes and SETSS.
ADMISSIONS: The school accepts new students in all grades, space permitting. Priority is given to siblings of current students and then to District 4 residents. Fifty percent of pre-k and kindergarten seats are reserved for students residing in NYCHA housing located in District 4. (Laura Zingmond, January 2017; updated July 2017)