Achievement First Crown Heights Charter School
Unwavering academic focus to prepare all students for college
Strict discipline criticized by some parents
Achievement First Crown Heights Charter School, part of a network of schools based in Connecticut, offers a highly structured program with tight discipline and a long school day. The school, which opened in 2005, now serves children in grades K-12 in two different locations. While many parents appreciate the structure and generally high test scores, others have objected to the discipline and complained of what they see as insufficient opportunities for parent involvement.
Students in grades K through 8 attend classes at 790 East New York Avenue. The building is shared with New Heights Middle School, which opened in 2012 as a replacement school for the Middle School of the Arts. The school adheres to the Achievement First model where students are expected to work hard--both the school day and school year are longer than usual. Classrooms and hallways are lined with posters and labels reminding students of what they have to do and how they should do it. "We are an extremely intentional organization," says Mel Ochoa, the network's senior director for marketing and communications. "Efficiency allows for more time to teach."
Although AF Crown Heights has generally exceeded test scores for the community district as a whole, it has not met its own goals. In 2011-12, only 38 percent of 8th graders scored proficient on their state English Language Arts exam.
Some parents have complained of what they saw as petty rules that resulted in about one in six middle school students being held after school every day, and a high suspension rate. On its website, AF Crown Heights says it uses "fun incentive programs" to encourage good behavior. These include rewarding classes that have top homework completion and attendance rates with a party, and giving middle school students who complete their homework on time or come to school in the full uniform points to spend at the school store. The middle school principal is Gillette Eckler, a former teacher and dean at the school.
For grades 9 through 12, students attend Achievement First Brooklyn High School at 1485 Pacific Street, in a building shared with Uncommon Charter High School. The phone number is 718-363-2260. Paul Adler, a math teacher and former assistant principal at Brooklyn Preparatory High School, is the principal.
Every student there is expected to go on to college, and acceptance to a four-year college is a graduation requirement. On its website, Achievement First says it offers demanding academics through a longer school day and individual attention, as well as strict discipline. Its Regents pass rate exceeds the state average. All students must take AP US history and biology, and the school offers other AP classes as well. The school graduates its first class in 2013.
At all level, AF Crown Heights serves a largely African American, low-income student body. While the elementary school is evenly divided between boys and girls, by high school, according to the school's own figures, fewer than 40 percent of all students are male.
The school gets high marks for its environment based on its Learning Environment Survey, although only a small percentage of teachers and parents filled out the survey.
Special education: Achievement First says it provides team teaching and special education services at all of its schools.
Admission: By lottery. Most students enter in kindergarten or 1st grade, although Achievement First also holds a lottery for admission to the 5th grade. The schools select from their waiting lists to fill any vacancies in other grades. (Gail Robinson, website, interviews, June 2013)
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Brooklyn NY 11203