Unity Prep Charter Middle School
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Social justice focus and community service
High suspension rate
Unity Preparatory Charter School, opened in 2013, has a strong emphasis on social justice. Teachers attempt to connect academics to children's experiences. For example, a 6th-grade English class reading Lois Lowry’s dystopian novel The Giverconnected themes in the book to police “stop-and-frisk” activity.
The administration has impressive credentials; Founder Josh Beauregard has a doctorate from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education.
The middle school is located at 432 Monroe Street in a building shared with PS 44 Marcus Garvey. The high school is 2.5 miles away, at 584 Driggs Avenue in Williamsburg. Both schools have an extended school day and school year.
Many Unity Prep students enter the school with test scores well below grade level. To help them catch up, students get a good dose of word study, grammar and phonics, but they also role-play in history and do investigations in science. There is an academic summer academy plus after-school and Saturday tutoring. All students participate in a year-end showcase to present their academic accomplishments before an audience of teachers, parents and others.
High school students must do internships and community service in order to graduate. Some volunteer as tutors in the middle school, the middle school secretary said. All 9th graders take a yearlong course in college and career readiness, including visits to five colleges and presentations from professionals from a variety of fields.
Students begin their mornings with mindfulness training, a period of silence in classrooms with their daily advisory group or in larger groups in the gymnasium. Yoga and interactive games help students alleviate stress and manage emotions according to the website.
Discipline is strict, however. Students are expected to be silent during class transitions. A teacher checks uniforms at the entrance to the school. The suspension rate is far above the statewide average. Beauregard sees the disciplinary code as a form of empowerment, noting that it helps kids succeed as scholars and citizens.
Admissions: By lottery. Priority to siblings and students who live in District 13. Unity accepts students in all grades. Roughly 60 percent of middle school graduates attend the high school. (Lydie Raschka, brief interview and web reports, February 2019)