The educators at Broome Street Academy Charter High School (BSA) in New York City ceaselessly work toward improvement. Recognizing problems with low-track classes, the school eliminated them. Recognizing that too few students were graduating, the school added academic and cultural supports, dramatically raising its graduation rate. Seventy-three percent of its African American students graduated last year, outdoing the citywide rate of 65 percent.
Recognizing problems with excessive suspensions, the school put in place supports and restorative justice and decreased its suspension rate from 51 percent in 2012 to just six percent in 2015. In fact, BSA was recently awarded a state grant to share the positive cultural practices with other City schools.
BSA, a charter school with no application requirements, sets aside 50% of its enrollment-lottery slots for students in the child welfare system or in transitional housing, or who are (or recently were) homeless. The school is 92% Black and Latino, with 77% of students eligible for free- and reduced-price lunch. Because students come from all over the city, they receive free or discounted Metro passes.
In partnership with The Door, an on-site adolescent development and therapeutic intervention center, BSA offers comprehensive supports such as wrap-around services, three meals daily, legal assistance, housing support, workforce development, and medical and mental health services. The school embraces approaches that build relational trust and has become a place where students feel valued and cared for. A CHAMPIONS program, in which students meet daily with staff mentors, provides space and time for support and problem solving. A “Help Desk,” staffed all day by school personnel, offers assistance to students with problems as a strong complement to the school’s restorative practices.
BSA also builds equitable academic opportunities. Students with disabilities (23% of those enrolled) are totally integrated into the school’s classrooms. Almost all academic classes have two teachers, one of whom is usually trained in special education instruction. Enrichment opportunities such as college counseling and test preparation, yoga, arts, and design extend students’ learning opportunities during and after school. Partnerships with other community organizations include philosophy discussions, technology internships, and tutoring.
For Broome Street’s students, being part of a supportive and engaging school community is making a big difference.