Girls Prep Bronx Charter Elementary School
Bronx NY 10455
All-girls school with lots of science
In the life of a school, Girls Prep Bronx seems to have hit its stride. Teachers put thought, care, and training into their instruction rather than follow scripted lessons, and the school offers an unusual amount ofscience, plus yoga, choir and art.Girls may begin their schooling in one of three pre-kindergartens and continue through 8th grade. The best entry points are in Pre-k or kindergarten, and again in 6th grade when the middle school takes in about 30 new students.
Founded in 2009, it is modeled on Girls Prep Lower East Side, the first all-girls charter in New York City. Girls Prep differs from no-nonsense charters like Success Academy and Bronx Classical by favoring more input from teachers and a more relaxed atmosphere, according to Josie Carbone, who works for the Girls Prep network.
Teachers look for a balance in kindergarten between academics and play. Many kindergartens in the city lack blocks and dress-up areas, but Girls Prep has block-building and girls go on fieldtrips, though teachers introduce lots of writing and reading around these activities.
Children spend extra time in reading and writing lessons. The girls study phonics, vocabulary, and oral reading, but also enjoy fun-to-read books of their own choosing, as they sprawl on a rug in beanbag chairs. Fridays are reserved for handwriting and dictation. The elementary school uses CGI (cognitively guided instruction), a hands-on, problem-solving approach to math in which teachers pay attention to children's mathematical efforts and use them as a basis for instruction, rather than following by-the-book lessons.
Full-time math and literacy coaches help teachers choose a goal for math lessons or structure a reading lesson, the fine points of teaching that make a school not just safe and orderly but stimulating. Parts of 3rd grade and all of 4th and 5th grades are "departmentalized," like in middle school, where one teacher leads all the math lessons and another leads the language lessons. On the day of our visit, the 5th-grade math teachers were at a workshop on fractions and decimals at Metamorphosis, a math-coaching center. Math scores are beginning to rise. "Reading scores outperform district schools but are still not where we want them to be," said Carbone, who left her job as principal here in 2016 to work for the Girls Prep network. She was replaced by Sharon Stephens, formerly principal of Madiba Prep Middle School in Brooklyn. Stephens grew up in Bedford-Stuyvesant and taught English at Benjamin Banneker High School.
The girls have an unusual four days a week of science with a trained science teacher. Kindergartners observe, draw, and write about trees they visit in the neighborhood. Second-graders study the water cycle and simple machines with hands-on experiments and work up to lab reports based on collected data in older grades. "Science is incredibly important for girls and it's really difficult to make time for it in regular classrooms because of the preparation involved," said Carbone.
The middle school is at 890 Cauldwell Avenue.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school offers special education services in team-taught classes that mix children with special needs in general education classes.
ADMISSIONS: There are roughly 2,300 applications for 75 seats. In grades 2-5 fewer than ten spots open up. (Three 5th grade spots were filled in 2015.) Priority goes to siblings, NYCHA housing residents and the offspring of teachers. (Lydie Raschka, November 2015; updated by phone, August 2016)