Citizens of the World Charter School 1 Williamsburg
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Strong arts program
Friction with community, shared building
Citizens of the World Williamsburg is one of two Brooklyn charter schools created by the California-based Citizens of the World network,the other being Citizens of the World Charter School 2 in Crown Heights.Both schools opened in fall 2013 with kindergarten and 1st grade, touting a model of project-based and social-emotional learning combined with rigorous academics.
The Williamsburg school got off to a rocky start. A group of local parents filed suit against the state of New York for approving the Williamsburg location, according to DNAinfo, claiming that the school was approved behind closed doors and without community support. CWC was under-enrolled when it opened and the state placed it on probation. By March 2014, administrators said they had doubled the number of students. A representative from the SUNY Charter Schools Institute confirmed in March that the school remains on probation, but that no action has been taken to revoke its charter.
The school also got some bad press for focusing recruiting efforst on affluent families, but founding Principal Meredith Cronk says she is committed to maintaining a diverse student body that reflects the neighborhood. Cronk was an elementary school teacher and literacy coach in Texas, California, Illinois and Colorado before coming east where she served in various leadership roles at Future Leaders Institute (FLI) Charter School in Harlem and as founding principal of the Mastery Charter Clymer Campus in Philadelphia. Parents may attend weekly cafecitos to discuss any issues or goals with the principal.
CWS occupies part of the third floor of an old building shared with MS 126 and Believe Northside Charter High School. It has its own entrance and administrators keep elementary students separated from the older kids. The school has full use of the auditorium and stage and cafeteria, as well as an outdoor play yard behind the building. McCarren Park is across the street and also used by the students occasionally.
Classrooms in CWC are orderly and colorful, filled with student artwork and writing. The school day lasts from 8:30 am until 3:15 pm except for Wednesdays when students get out at 1 pm. There are 20-25 students in each class with two teachers. Small group instruction is a cornerstone of the schools instructional model. The groups are created based on students needs, and provide an opportunity to work on areas of weakness.
CWC says its approach to discipline emphasizes the importance of fostering independence and self-control in its students. Teachers use a stop and think approach. If a student needs time out of the classroom they spend it in a buddy room. As of March 2014, the school had reported eight out-of-school suspensions for kindergartners, an unusually high number for an elementary school. Suspensions are only issued after numerous measures have been implemented involving the family and multiple CWC staff members, the principal said, "following the disciplinary procedures outlined in our handbook."
In math, students use manipulatives and illustrate how to solve their math problems in posters that appear on classroom walls. Each week, classes hold a math congress where students discuss a math problem and find the solution with their peers. Reading instruction consists of word study, guided reading and workshops that break students into small groups based on their levels. In kindergarten the students were writing and illustrating their own How to books.
On our visit, we saw the 1st-grade classes making colorful posters of human bodies, labeling all of the body systems that they had learned in science class that week. Kindergarten students made posters of the Arctic tundra, and went on a field trip to the American Museum of Natural History after they learned about different ecosystems.
Specials art, music and dance are offered four times per week. In music class students learn to play the piano. The school is also developing a strings program. Music and the Brain sponsors an after school program that teaches students to play the violin.
Special education: Students with special learning needs are paired with a paraprofessional and receive small group instruction everyday. ELL teachers work with students in class and in small group settings.
Admissions: Lottery with preference to siblings and District 14 residents. (Sabrina Alli, March 2014)Read more