Dr. Richard Izquierdo Health & Science Charter School
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High expectations for all students, especially English language learners and special education students, with a community focus
Middle school test scores need improvement
The Dr. Richard Izquierdo Health & Science Charter School opened in September 2010 as the first charter in New York City to offer career and technical education (CTE). It also has robust academics, and thriving college-prep, sports, and music and arts programs. Principal Richard Burke, who came on in 2013, has transformed the school from failing to competitive. It shares space in a large building (formerly IS 158, which closed in 2007) with Bronx Career and College Preparatory High School and Bronx Latin.
Hallway walls are lined with the artwork of Romare Bearden, and classrooms are student-centered and interactive. Administrators are proactively addressing student performance issues in the middle school grades. “The big challenge here is 6th grade,” Principal Burke explains. “Seventy percent of incoming students are two to four years behind grade level.” To lay a stronger foundation, the administration implemented collaborative teaching for 6th and 7th grades, with three teachers in the room for the major subjects. This allows for more targeted instruction and the ability to meet groups at the appropriate learning level. In addition, Saturday Academy offers test prep and extra ELL and special education instruction for middle school students; in the 6th grade, there is a dual-language program, as well as Tae Kwon Do to help with discipline and focus.
Teachers use creative technology to assess student progress. With an app called Plickers, math teachers capture students’ answers to math problems by scanning a bar code; the answers are then automatically plotted onto the Smart Board in seconds and teachers can see right away what skills need to be strengthened.
Every student has a Chromebook that can be signed out to complete assignments. All 8th graders take Algebra 1 and the U.S history Regents. Though middle school scores are strong within the district, Health & Science Charter still has a way to go to compete on a citywide level. However, Principal Burke felt confident enough about the school’s progress to take his daughter out of private school and enroll her here.
The school has a dual focus: to provide both strong academic courses—especially in math and science—and hands-on career training. All 9th-graders take pre-AP courses. Tenth-graders with an interest in medicine can begin taking classes at the Sophie Davis School of Biomedical Education (part of the CUNY School of Medicine); 11th- and 12th-graders learn about being first responders, and 18-year-olds can earn emergency medical technician (EMT) two-year certification upon graduation. During school breaks, students go on sustainability trips to Arizona and Yellowstone National Park to assist Native tribes.
After-school programs for middle schoolers include music, art, drama, gaming, robotics and coding. Those programs are electives for high school students, since they take part in College Now and various scholarship programs after school.
The school has a full-time college director and counselor. In the middle school grades, every Wednesday is College Day, with activities designed to enhance students’ awareness of higher-education opportunities. The school’s first class graduated in 2017: 65 percent went on to four-year colleges, including SUNY and CUNY schools. The rest were divided among two-year colleges, culinary schools, and trade or military options. The school’s graduate relations counselor works to maintain alumni engagement, and many graduates return to mentor current students. And there are success stories from both the ELL and special education populations. One young man who came to the school in 10th grade, straight from the Dominican Republic, is now in the honors program in physics and engineering at SUNY Cortland. A 12th-grader who came to Health & Science in 6th grade with a special ed. designation has been accepted to several colleges and plans to pursue a career in medicine.
Parent outreach is also strong. There is a parent room for families where they can take computer workshops on such topics as résumé writing, developing job-search skills and financial aid guidance. More than 80 percent of parents attend parent-teachers conferences. The school is the brainchild of Dr. Richard Izquierdo, who was a pediatrician for more than 40 years and founded Urban Health Plan (UHP), a network of health centers providing medical services to underserved communities in the South Bronx and Queens. One of the centers is located right in the school building and provides medical and dental services to all the students there (with parent consent).
SPECIAL EDUCATION: Inclusive setting with collaborative teaching and strong graduation achievement.
ADMISSIONS: The school admits students in every grade except 12th. There are 110 seats available in 6th grade (applications are due in mid-April). Preference is given to siblings, English language learners and special education students; remaining seats are filled by lottery, and there is usually a waitlist. (Jacquie Wayans, January 2018)Read more