Achievement First Apollo Charter Elementary School
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High expectations and long school day in no-excuses environment.
Cramped quarters in shared building with some classrooms in trailers.
Achievement First Apollo is one of 22 Achievement First charter schools in Brooklyn and Connecticut. The schools, located in largely low-income neighborhoods, seek to close the achievement gap by stressing academics, college preparation -- even for kindergartners -- good conduct and character building.
Apollo features rigorous, highly structured lessons in a no-excuses environment where students are called scholars. Children generally arrive at 7:15 am for breakfast and stay until 4 pm. On Fridays they are dismissed at 1 pm to allow teachers time for training. Each day students spend about three hours on reading and two on math. They also get instruction in writing, science and social studies and participate in special activities such as the Brazilian martial art of capoeira.
The long day, principal Jabari Sims has said, "allows for individualized attention, targeted intervention, and a major focus on reading." Teachers break their classes into smaller groups so students can ask in-depth questions and provide more detailed answers.
The school assesses students every six weeks to track progress, retool lesson plans and address problems. A state evaluation, conducted during Apollo's first year, gave the school good reviews, saying teachers provided "rigorous, well-organized and effectively paced classroom instruction."
Despite the focus on academics and data, Apollo seeks to make learning enjoyable. "Through songs, games and special recognition, team members do whatever it takes to impart a love of learning," Sims, a veteran of Teach for America who has been with Achievement First since 2007, said in a Q&A with SchoolBook.
Admissions: Lottery with preference to District 19. In 2012, more than 900 families applied for 73 available slots. Parents are asked to volunteer for nine hours each school year.
The school is located at JHS 302 Rafael Cordero, with space on the second floor and in several trailers outside. Apollo, which opened in 2010 with kindergarten and 1st grade, will have grades K-4 in 2013-2014. Students may go on to Achievement First middle schools, which serve grade 5 through 8, and an AF high school in Crown Heights. (Gail Robinson, September 2012; web reports and interviews)Read more