The Urban Assembly Unison School

Grades: 6-8
170 Gates Avenue
Brooklyn NY 11238
Phone: 718-399-1061

Our Insights

What’s Special

CTE programs in computer programming, hydroponics and agriculture

The Downside

Low enrollment, spotty attendance

Tiny Urban Assembly Unison School offers a rare middle school CTE (career and technical education) program in which teens grow kale in a hydroponics lab, build websites, and study coding. Located among the gracious homes and tree-canopied streets of Clinton Hill, the school is housed on the third floor of the PS 56 building.

The school serves children from three major housing projects as well as long-time, homeowners. The area "has a richhistory—families who have been here forever, as well as newcomers from Yemen, Senegal, Bangladesh and Dominican Republic," said principal Emily Jarrell. “They come from wide and far in Bed-Stuy—but not from the houses on the block,” she said.

Prior to becoming principal at Unison, Jarrell was an English language arts coach in the Urban Assembly charter network and taught for eight years at PS 126, Jacob Riis in Manhattan.

Jarrell wants to make the building more modern and inviting and to expand programming to entice more students. “We would like more kids, more heterogeneity,” Jarrell said. Unison’s low enrollment means no money for visual arts, a librarian or teaching a second language, she said, though the school gets some extra support.

New York Cares cleaned out dumpsters-full of stuff from the auditorium stage and painted bright murals on the walls. Million dollar grants are earmarked for a greenhouse in the building, the expanding CTE program and upgrades to the playground and auditorium. We saw iPads, dry erase boards and SMART boards in use on our visit. The school has a salad bar and a recess coach.

In 2016, five 5th graders from PS 56 chose Unison for 6th grade; in 2017 it was a dozen. “We are a rapidly changing school, to meet a rapidly changing neighborhood,” said Jarrell.

On our visit, 6th-graders worked with good concentration on papers several pages long about Pakistan, Greece, China and other countries. Teachers analyze state test scores to identify the five highest and lowest scoring kids in each class so they can adjust instruction. In an English class, instead of reading two texts to write a literature paper, high-achievers read three texts, which included a poem, for example.

Although the culture at Unison has improved, the numbers of students, test scores and attendance rate remain low. The school had a rough first year in 2012 earning a reputation as a chaotic school with an odd reading program (kids read aloud in unison in groups), which it has since abandoned, and a high suspension rate. Today, a “crisis intervention room” staffed by a friendly dean helps reduce suspensions, as do small advisory groups that meet 20 minutes a day. In one, a teacher demonstrated how facial expressions give us cues to emotional behavior. In another, kids identified problems and set goals to improve: “I have a lot of missing assignments,” said a boy.

Almost all the students attend the free extended-day program. Clubs take place three days each week and include sports, arts, dance. apprenticeships and more. The other two days are hands-on academic projects with AmeriCorps volunteers.

SPECIAL EDUCATION: Thirty percent of the students have special needs and are placed in ICT (integrated collaborative teaching) classrooms with their general education peers. A District 75 program housed in the building, P369 @ P351K, has four mixed-level classrooms for children with serious special needs through 5th grade. If these children need small, self-contained classrooms in middle school they look elsewhere, but otherwise they may join ICT classrooms at Unison.

ADMISSIONS: Preference to District 13. The school has plenty of room and welcomes all students, even mid-year. (Lydie Raschka, November 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 2019-20 NYC School Survey

How many students say they feel safe in the hallways, bathrooms and locker rooms?
89% Citywide Average
How many students think bullying happens most or all of the time at this school?
27% Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?
88% Citywide Average

From 2019-20 NY State Report Card

How many students were suspended?
2% Citywide Average

From this school's most recent Quality Review Report

Are teachers effective?

From 2019-20 School Quality Guide

How many teachers have 3 or more years of experience teaching?
80% Citywide Average
Years of principal experience at this school

How do students perform academically?

From 2019 State ELA+Math Results Summary

How many middle school students scored 3-4 on the state math exam?
40% Citywide Average
How many middle school students scored 3-4 on the state reading exam?
44% Citywide Average

From 2019-20 School Quality Guide

How many 8th-graders earn high school credit?
34% Citywide Average

Who does this school serve?

From 2020-21 Demographic Snapshot

Free or reduced priced lunch
Students with disabilities
English language learners

From 2019-20 School Quality Guide

Average daily attendance
92% Citywide Average
How many students miss 18 or more days of school?
26% Citywide Average

From 2020 School Directories

Uniforms required?

How does this school serve special populations?

From 2019 State ELA+Math Results Summary

How many students with disabilities scored 3-4 on the state math exam?
14% Citywide Average
How many students with disabilities scored 3-4 on the state reading exam?
15% Citywide Average
How many English language learners scored 3-4 on the state math exam?
14% Citywide Average
How many English language learners scored 3-4 on the state reading exam?
6% Citywide Average

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

Contact & Location


Clinton Hill (District 13)
Trains: S Line to Franklin Ave; G Line to Classon Ave; C Line to Clinton-Washington
Buses: B25, B26, B38, B44, B44-SBS, B45, B48, B49, B52, B65, B69


Emily Jarrell
Parent Coordinator
Arlette Barton Williams

Other Details

Shared campus?
This school shares a building with PS 56
Uniforms required?
Metal detectors?

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