Broome Street Academy Charter High School
Plenty of social and emotional support and services for students
No gym or outdoor area
Broome Street Academy Charter School provides a structured, friendly and caring environment for high school students from all over New York, about half of whom are in transient housing or foster care. The school, which opened in 2011, uses a philosophy of no-nonsense nurturing, which walks a fine line between high expectations and support for students social and emotional needs. Broome Street was founded by community-based organization The Door, which provides a wide range of services for at-risk youth in New York City. Broome Street is housed within The Door in SoHo, and students at the school have full access to its' services.
The school uses a number of systems to track students' progress in behavior and academics. Every two weeks students receive character reports based on positive and negative feedback that teachers regularly report using an online system. If discipline problems cannot be addressed in the classroom, students are sent to the help desk, a social work-oriented space that teachers and administrators take turns to staff. Every Broome Street student is paired with an adult "champion", a teacher or administrator at the school. On our visit we saw several students pull aside their champions to ask about things such as taking a few days off before the winter holidays. According to Barbara McKeon, head of school, the program encourages self-reliance and problem-solving and as a result, reduces incidents of negative behavior.
McKeon is a speech therapist by training and has a PhD in education. Prior to Broome Street, McKeon was chief academic officer for Metschools and head of school at the Cooke Center for Learning and Development. When she came to the school in 2013, average daily attendance was at a low 64 percent. In a little over a year, attendance rates rose to 83 percent, she said. McKeon attributes this dramatic improvement to a stronger school culture combined with strict policies around lateness and attendance. "You've got to make a school a place people want to come to," she said.
We saw traditional, teacher-led instruction with lots of SMART Board use, particularly for science and math. In English, one class was discussing a text in small groups while another listened to the audio book of Eli Wiesels Night and followed along with the text. Participation was uneven from class to class. There was low energy in some small classes of students re-taking coursework theyd previously failed, while students in a 9th-grade algebra class were practically jumping out of their seats to answer questions and receive merit points for participation.
The school makes a big effort to make math enjoyable, as nearly all students come to the school hating the class, according to Broome Streets director of admissions. For example, classroom walls were covered in colorful posters that students had made to demonstrate algebra functions. Teachers used positive reinforcement to encourage students to work through difficult problems. "I love your enthusiasm!" said a math teacher. "You've been awesome today."
English and global history units are taught in sync. For example, students study communism before reading George Orwells Animal Farm. An earth science teacher brings literacy into the classroom by having his 10th-grade students write haikus.
Broome Street does not offer any Advanced Placement classes but top students can participate in the College Now program at Borough of Manhattan Community College or other CUNY schools. However, few students have yet done so yet, administrators told us. Some seniors get hands-on training through Coop Tech in the afternoons, learning trades such as welding or cosmetology. These students will graduate with certificates in their chosen vocations. Rather than a traditional college counselor, the school has a transition counselor who supports and tracks students for four years after graduating.
During lunch period, students have 20 minutes to eat and then spend another 20 minutes in a seminar period, almost like a homeroom. These sessions sometimes include activities such as SAT prep but mostly are a free, unstructured period. Were just kind of hanging, one teacher said.
The Door offers career and study help, physical and mental health clinics, legal services, computer lab, a recording studio, and dinner. There are some downsides to sharing the space: A large portion of the schools budget goes to rent, McKeon said, and the building only has a small multipurpose space for physical education. Students play on nearby Canal Street basketball courts, but not year-round.
Special education: Approximately one-third of students have IEPs (individualized education programs). The school has ICT (integrated co-teaching) classes for every core subject as well as SETSS (special education teacher support services).
Admissions: Admission is by lottery with applications due April 1. Priority goes to students who: have siblings at the school, are homeless or transitionally housed, have ever received preventive services from the Administration for Childrens Services, or have ever been in foster homes. The school accepts many transfer students at all grade levels from all boroughs; some come from as far away as Co-op City. "This school is a real medley," a teacher said. Any student who can benefit from the schools individualized approach and support system is encouraged to apply. (Ella Colley/Pamela Wheaton, December 2014)
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Manhattan NY 10013
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Manhattan, NY 10013
Manhattan, NY 10013