Great Oaks Charter School
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Daily tutoring for all students
One bathroom for staff, no auditorium or gymnasium
Great Oaks Charter is a tiny, structured middle school offering daily tutoring for all students in small groups, and plenty of one-on-one support. The school takes on many AmeriCorps volunteers—mostly recent college graduates—who tutor students throughout the day and lead after school activities. [see video of a day in the life of a tutor].
“This charter school is great for children who appreciate structure and flourish with extra academic support,” a commenter wrote on InsideSchools. “The teachers are young and energetic and clearly enjoy what they do. The daily tutorial sessions are a wonderful way to engage the students in smaller groups.”
Founded in 2013, Great Oaks has many of the hallmarks of highly structured charter schools: students click their fingers to express agreement or support of a classmate's answers. They carry around cards denoting “stars” and “deductions,” according an office administrator. The latest data for suspensions is twice the citywide average.
The unique tutoring system makes it possible for students to work at their academic level, according to the office administrator. Struggling readers work closely with tutors, while more advanced readers may tackle a novel on their own and then discuss it with their tutors. Students practice math skills using the self-paced Khan Academy program on laptops with earphones.
Overlooking busy Delancey Street where Chinatown meets with the Lower East Side, Great Oaks occupies the 2nd and 3rd floors of a building that also houses a daycare center and restaurant supply company. It is a bright, welcoming space, albeit small. There is no gym or auditorium and only one bathroom for the entire staff including tutor volunteers.
The school day runs longer than the usual public school day, with a half-day on Wednesdays, the staffer said. Students may go to Grand Street Settlement after school or opt to stay in the building for academic help or clubs. Preparation for the specialized high school exam takes place on Saturdays. The school has expanded its sports offerings to include soccer, Lacrosse and basketball in recent years.
Great Oaks is part of a New Jersey based charter school organization with the mission of preparing students for college. Its first school opened in 2011 in Newark.
In 2016, the first graduating class of 8th graders went on to competitive high schools including Brooklyn Tech and Millennium High School. The most common choices were nearby East Village Community and Manhattan Village Academy.
Admissions: Citywide lottery. (Lydie Raschka, web reports and interview, March 2019)