Cornerstone Academy for Social Action
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Pre-k through 5th, with middle school option
Instruction for students with disabilities is a work-in-progress
Founded in 2007, Cornerstone Academy serves pre-kindergarten through 5th grade students, who also get preference at Cornerstone’s middle school, which opened in 2009 under separate leadership on the fourth floor of the building.
Enrollment is on the rise again under the leadership of James Bellon, who took the helm in 2011. Creating a safe, orderly and well-run school has been a priority. When Principal Bellon arrived, the school had spent time on a list of dangerous and low-performing schools; but now, safety looks good on school surveys and teachers overwhelmingly recommend the school to new families. Bellon places an emphasis on simple structures for order, and boosting math, writing and reading skills. “It has taken us eight years to get those systems and structures in place,” Bellon said. “Families are coming back.”
One benefit of having the elementary and middle schools in the same building is that teachers can plan and schedule together to prepare students for success in high school. Fourth and 5th grade teachers “departmentalize,”— meaning one teaches only math, another only reading—in part to prepare younger students to take algebra in middle school, which may lead to better college options after high school.
The school has worked with PS 97, another neighborhood school, to strengthen small group reading and writing instruction. Books are housed right inside the classroom so kids may choose books of interest, and they are encouraged to talk about what they read.
Cornerstone is a Computer Science for All school: teachers are trained in the uses of technology, not only because it’s fun for kids, but also because faster learners can zoom ahead, while struggling students can get more practice.
Reading and writing is a challenge for many students at Cornerstone, according to the Comprehensive Educational Plan (CEP), with state reading scores below average. Through testing, teachers identify children who need additional help with punctuation, grammar, research and non-fiction writing. In small groups, young children add labels, descriptive words, and phrases to pictures about their topic, be it whales or baseball. This approach has helped their writing, but teachers have not been as successful in assisting students with disabilities, the Quality Review shows.
Students participate in music, dance and theater programs, in partnership with the New Victory Theater and Education through Music.
A District 75 elementary school for students with severe disabilities occupies the ground floor of the building, known as the Rosa Parks Educational Complex.
ADMISSIONS: Neighborhood school. About 90 percent of the elementary school graduates choose to stay through middle school, according to the principal. (Lydie Raschka, web reports and interview, October 2019)Read more