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The Urban Assembly Bronx Academy of Letters

Grades: 6-12
Staff Pick for Special Ed Noteworthy
339 Morris Avenue
Bronx NY 10451
Phone: 718-401-4891
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Our Insights

What’s Special

Emphasis on research, writing and social justice

The Downside

Attendance and academic achievement have a ways to go

At the Urban Assembly Bronx Academy of Letters, students complete imaginative research projects on a wide range of topics such as climate change, environmental racism, obesity in poor communities and incarceration rates. They also learn outside the school: at cultural institutions, through field work for research projects, helping out in the community, and getting involved in social justice causes.

While the school has struggled in recent years, it seems to be on the upswing. The Department of Education praised the quality of the schools teaching staff, the imaginative curriculum, and the effective college placement office, according to the 2016 Quality Review. Ninety percent of teachers say Principal Brandon Cardet-Hernandez, who arrived in 2014, has a clear vision for the school, according to annual surveys.

Most students arrive with poor academic skillsand test scores in the middle school are very low. Attendance is below average. However, the school has thoughtful strategies to build basic skills, keep students engaged, and put them on the track for college. High school students we spoke with said they appreciated the level of support they received from teachers as well as the range of opportunities at the school, especially the chance to take several Advanced Placement classes or free courses at local colleges.

On our visit, students seemed relaxed and engaged; teachers address their students in conversational voices. In classes its common to find students working in groups and teachers circulating the room to check in on students progress.

Beginning in 6th grade students are expected to write a lot on a range of topics. Each year, students complete four research projects, called exhibitions, culminating with a written piece and an oral presentation before a panel of adults. For example, 7th-graders read scientific literature on climate change, and then visited PS 62 on Staten Island, a fully solar-powered school to learn about energy conservation.

Student activism is encouraged. Students interested in activism through art studied the work of Keith Haring and then created a Haring-style mural in the school. Others study gentrification in local communities, or visit nursing homes to create a Humans of New York-style scrapbook of the stories of longtime Bronx residents. High school students are involved in a group called IntegrateNYC4me, which advocates for school integration. Others work on LGBTQA rights. To combat high obesity rates in the surrounding neighborhood, the school provides the local community with fresh produce it grows in it organic garden.

The school has an advisory board, which raises money for student trips abroad, overnight trips to colleges, visits to cultural venues throughout the city and for the schools residency program, which hires professional actors, writers and musicians to work with students on independent projects.

A fulltime college counselor guides students through the college admissions process. SAT prep is offered for free at the school. Graduates typically attend two- or four-year CUNY colleges and some attend SUNY and private colleges.

Housed in the former IS 183 building, Bronx Academy of Letters has an awkward layout because the middle school and high school classrooms are located in separate parts of the building. In between is a Success Academy Bronx 1 Charter School, which opened in the building in 2011.

SPECIAL EDUCATION: In addition to SETSS there are ICT and self-contained classes.

ADMISSIONS: Lottery, with preference for students who attend an open house. District 7 students get preference for the middle school. Nearly 50 percent of 8th-graders stay for high school. (Laura Zingmond, March 2017)

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School Stats

Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

Is this school safe and well-run?

From 2017-18 NYC School Survey

How many teachers say order and discipline are maintained at this school?
75% Citywide Average
How many students say they feel safe in the hallways, bathrooms and locker rooms?
84% Citywide Average
How many students think bullying happens most or all of the time at this school?
44% Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?
79% Citywide Average
How many teachers say they would recommend this school to other families?
83% Citywide Average

From 2016-17 NY State Report Card

How many students were suspended?
3% Citywide Average

From this school's most recent Quality Review Report

Are teachers effective?

From 2017-18 School Quality Guide

How many teachers have 3 or more years of experience teaching?
74% Citywide Average
Years of principal experience at this school

How do students perform academically?

From 2018 State ELA+Math Results Summary

How many middle school students scored 3-4 on the state math exam?
35% Citywide Average
How many middle school students scored 3-4 on the state reading exam?
46% Citywide Average

From 2018 Middle School Directory

What high schools do most graduates attend?
The Urban Assembly Bronx Academy of Letters and Frederick Douglass Academy III Secondary School
Accelerated courses offered for high school credit
Living Environment

From 2017-18 School Quality Guide

How many 8th-graders earn high school credit?
46% Citywide Average
How many students graduate in 4 years?
86% Citywide Average
How many students graduate with test scores high enough to enroll at CUNY without remedial help?
58% Citywide Average
How many students take a college-level course or earn a professional certificate?
48% Citywide Average
How many graduates stay enrolled in college for at least 3 semesters?
76% Citywide Average

From 2017 NY State Graduation Outcomes

How many graduates earn Advanced Regents diplomas?
16% Citywide Average

Who does this school serve?

From 2017-18 Demographic Snapshot

Free or reduced priced lunch
Students with disabilities
English language learners

From 2017-18 School Quality Guide

Average daily attendance
89% Citywide Average
How many students miss 18 or more days of school?
31% Citywide Average

From 2018 School Directories

Uniforms required?

How does this school serve special populations?

From 2017-18 School Quality Guide

How many students with disabilities graduate in 4 years?
73% Citywide Average
How many English language learners graduate in 4 years?
71% Citywide Average

From 2018 State ELA+Math Results Summary

How many students with disabilities scored 3-4 on the state math exam?
12% Citywide Average
How many students with disabilities scored 3-4 on the state reading exam?
16% Citywide Average
How many English language learners scored 3-4 on the state math exam?
9% Citywide Average
How many English language learners scored 3-4 on the state reading exam?
7% Citywide Average

For more information about our data sources, see About Our Data · More DOE statistics for this school

Programs & Admissions

Bronx Academy of Letters
Admissions Method: Open
Program Description:

Our school focuses on writing and social justice, giving all scholars a place to leverage their leadership and amplify their voice. Our extended school-day means there are additional opportunities for students to take high-interest classes and connect their interests and passions in new ways. At BAL, students do A LOT of writing, using their thinking to explain, process, and drive understand in new areas!


Language Courses

Arabic, Spanish

Advanced Placement (AP) courses

AP English Literature and Composition, AP Environmental Science, AP Statistics, AP U.S. History


Boys PSAL teams

Baseball, Basketball, Soccer

Girls PSAL teams

Basketball, Indoor Track, Softball, Volleyball

Coed PSAL teams


Read about admissions, academics, and more at this school on the NYCDOE’s School Finder
NYC Department of Education: School Finder

Contact & Location


Mott Haven (District 7)
Trains: 2 Line to 149th St-Grand Concourse; 4 Line, 5 Line to 138th St-Grand Concourse; 6 Line to 3rd Ave-138th St
Buses: Bx1, Bx13, Bx15, Bx19, Bx2, Bx21, Bx32, Bx33, Bx41, Bx41-SBS


Brandon Cardet Hernande

Other Details

Shared campus?
This school shares the building with Success Academy Bronx 1 Charter and a District 75 program, PS 168
Uniforms required?
Metal detectors?

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