Success Academy Union Square Charter School
Share this school
Racially mixed school with high test scores
Rules not for everyone; no outdoor play space
Founded in 2013, Success Academy Union Square is one in a growing network of Success Academy schools modeled on the flagship school in Harlem. Unlike some schools in the network,Success Academy Union Square has done a good job of retaining teachers, has various options for children with special needs, and rarely suspends children. And, while most of the schools in the network serve low-income children of color, Union Square has a racially and socioeconomically diverse student body.
Children at Union Square enter the impressive oak paneled lobby of Washington Irving educational campus, which houses five small high schools and is bursting with teenage energy. The younger children climb a flight of stairs immediately to the right of the security guard to get to their second floor classrooms. The school lacks a playground, so for recess children walk to the park except kindergartners who play on the 8th floor.
On the day of our visit children were dismissed at 12:30 pm for a weekly teacher planning day and gathered outside with parents to buy ices before heading to Union Square park or clambering aboard a van or car to carpool home to Roosevelt Island, the South Bronx, Staten Island or other parts of the city. The children are a mix of skin colors and ethnicitiesthe offspring of bus drivers, building supervisors, nurses and teachers, among other occupations. Kids carry hefty blue backpacks and wear blue, white and orange uniforms.
Success Academy schools offer children a rich curriculum that includes daily science experiments, exposure to the arts, a well-rounded approach to math and frequent class trips. Children spend 45 minutes in a block room daily in kindergarten. Electives here include art, sports, chess, music and dance.
Parents we spoke to raved about Union Square's academic rigor, the schools egalitarian bent and even its famously strict discipline. "I'm strict at home too," said the mother of a 2nd grader who transferred her child from PS 183 on the Upper East Side.
A father said that even in the final week of school his son had a full packet of homework. "It's rigid," he said with a smile. They never give up. Attendance and punctuality are enforced. If a child misses precious minutes of reading time, and is behind in reading, said Principal Jennifer Waldman, it is crucial parents know and follow through. The level of communication comes as a surprise to some parents at first, she said. If youre not on board its hard to work together.
Kindergartners attend school for half days for the first two weeks then switch to whole days except the one half day a week. At first, some kids fall asleep, Waldman said, but they get used to it. They are capable and they eat it up, she said.
Teachers test children all the time, Waldman said, to ascertain skill level, build stamina and promote habits of great reading, writing and math.
On our visit, we saw two teachers in most classrooms, who cheered childrens progress in a demonstrative way: Its almost like you jumped inside my brain! said a 2nd grade teacher when a child answered a question correctly. So clever! So clever! said a teacher as a boy presented his math strategy to the class.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: There are team-teaching classrooms on every grade with one teacher who is trained in special education. The school has small classrooms with 12 students and two adults on several grades. We want to serve all kids and keep them in our setting, Waldman said. The school has a full-time school psychologist as well as occupational and speech therapists.
ADMISSIONS: District 2 priority. The school takes roughly 5-10 children in each upper grade per year. (Lydie Raschka, June 2017)