Brooklyn Ascend Charter Elementary School
Spanish immersion; school has its own building
Long hours not for everyone
Ascend Learning is a growing charter network based in central Brooklyn that primarily serves students from low-income backgrounds in poorly performing districts. Brooklyn Ascend Rockaway Campus opened in 2008 with a strict "no excuses" philosophy but in 2012 the network shifted to a Responsive Classroom model and made significant changes to both culture and curriculum. Responsive Classroom is designed to develop the social and emotional capacities of children and includes rituals such as morning meetings in each classroom and regular goal setting activities.
Network CEO Steven Wilson says there has been a "marked change in the demeanor and joyfulness of students and of classrooms" since the adoption of Responsive Classroom. Rates of suspension and office referrals at Brooklyn Ascend have fallen by 90 percent since responsive classroom was adopted, Wilson said.
All Ascend schools have their own buildings, avoiding the challenges that can arise in shared space, and all feature the same color scheme and general atmosphere. Brooklyn Ascend Rockaway Campus is the oldest school in the network. It is located in a new building that boasts a rooftop playground and a multipurpose space that is used for physical education and special events.
After a sharp decline in test scores following the introduction of Common Core in 2013, the network designed its own curriculum to be fully aligned with the standards. The network is "wildly enthusiastic" about Common Core, Wilson said.
Ascend wants to provide a liberal arts education to all students. Elementary students participate in "literature circle", where teachers use a college-style seminar to discuss themes of the books that students are reading. Books are selected because they present moral and ethical dilemmas and the goal is to enable students to articulate themes in their own voice and discuss them with classmates.
From 5th grade on, students participate in a humanities, writing and arts program twice daily. All students get art, music, physical education and Spanish instruction. Spanish classes are taught entirely in Spanish with three lessons per week. Native Spanish speakers focus on grammar and literature.
Ascend's hours are longer than the average school day. Tutoring is offered daily from 4-4:45 pm for students who need more time on task or support in a small group setting.
Parent teacher conferences are held three times a year and teachers are expected to have frequent phone contact with all families. Wilson says that parental involvement "is a point of real pride that schools and principals have developed with families."
The first Ascend high school opens in 2015 in the Loew's Pitkin Theatre building shared by Brownsville and Central Brooklyn Ascend schools. Lottery preference for the high school goes to current students, their siblings and District 23 students.
Special education: Ascend has Integrated Co-Teaching classes in every grade. Wilson said that specialists are available to students based on the requirements outlined in Individual Education Plans. Every Ascend school has counselors and social workers.
Admissions: Admission is by lottery. Preference is given to students in the district and siblings of current students. New students are accepted at all grades to fill seats. (Ella Colley, phone interview, October 2014)
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Brooklyn NY 11212