Explore Charter School
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Diverse staff, community feeling
Disruption from moves, unremarkable English scores
Explore Charter School styles itself as a back-to-basics, college-prep charter, with a low-key and warm atmosphere. Like many charter schools, Explore relocated during its early years. Now among the oldest operating charter schools in the city, few of its students and teachers remember the disruption caused by its 2004 move from downtown Brooklyn to the Flatbush neighborhood. In fall 2011, the full-grown school again relocated, to the MS 2 building [shown in this Brooklyn Eagle photo] a mile away.
Classes of 16 to 22 students are aided by a handful of staff members who work with small groups of students on the side to support academics or resolve behavior issues. Teachers use uniform gestures and expressions to keep students focused on learning. Several times we heard, "SLANT check-in: 3-2-1,"; or some variant. (The acronym stands for "Sit up, listen, ask and answer, nod for understanding, and track the speaker.") The day runs from 8:20 a.m to 3:45 p.m for lower-school students; older students start at 7:45 a.m. The school divides the year into five terms, sending a report card home every eight weeks.
These structures helped 74 percent of students pass the state English tests in 2009. To further increase the success rate, the school has started using reading tests from Achievement Network, whose coaches work with teachers four times a year to create plans for specific students. "It's something we've done with math for a long time and hadn't found a way to do with literacy," says Tracy Rebe, principal at the time of our 2011 visit. [In 2012, Tracy Rebe was replaced by Rod Bowen.]
In K-4 classes, students were engaged in math, reading, and social studies lessons. For a class newspaper project, a 4th-grade class split into groups to draft articles on an aspect of the Revolutionary War. When some students' attention strayed, teachers were generally able to draw them back, but some teachers let more noise bubble in the classroom than would be acceptable at some other "no excuses" charter schools. A 5th and 6th grade English class on metaphors had some students less than engaged, as they sat on the rug.
Upper-school classrooms have SMARTboards. Students use computers almost exclusively in the library, said librarian Mark Engel.
Parents praised the school's frequent reports and notices, its strictness on rules, and the energy of the staff; 10 of 11 parents had high praise for the school. The teaching staff is ethnically more diverse than at some other network-supported charter schools. All staff must respond to parent messages within 24 hours.
Afterschool: For K-4, a handful of neighborhood after-care programs pick up at the school. The upper-school students stay for tutoring and clubs that include glee, flag football, basketball, running, and cooking.
Special Education: The school provides SETSS services to 17 percent of students.
Admissions: Lottery, District 17 preference. (Matt Fleischer Black, March 2011)Read more