Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Friday's NYC Trip

We are taking about 45 students to NYC to visit two remarkable programs. 

On Friday, we'll be leaving at 6:30 am from John M. Greene Hall.

Our first stop will be StreetSquash which is a Harlem after-school youth enrichment program that combines academic tutoring with squash instruction, community service, and one-on-one mentoring. Here is a NY Times article "Using Squash to Put Youth on the Road to College" that highlights how squash is the hook that involves students in a program that supports their development as people and students. As their executive director says in the article, “Squash is the vehicle. It means more to me to help them figure out a math problem than how to hit a serve.”  Here is a Smith College article detailing a visit by StreetSquash youth to Northampton where they spent time experiencing the Smith campus. Our visit to StreetSquash will allow us to think about the role that after school programs can play in positive youth development.

Our second stop will be Bronx Lab Academy-- a school that I have visited many times. I believe that Bronx Lab is an extraordinary school. The story of how it came to be is inspiring and informative. 

For years Evander Childs High School in the Bronx was a large, struggling high school. In 2004, it had a graduation rate of somewhere around 25%. As part of a national reform movement called the small schools movement, Evander Childs was closed down and reopened as a building that housed six stand-alone and autonomous schools. The concept driving the small schools initiative was based on research that small schools can foster personalized relationships between the adults in a school and students. These relationships allow for more individualized instruction and attention that can result in positive outcomes in the social and academic realms. 

 Bronx Lab Academy was founded by Marc Sternberg, a Teach for America alum (he is presently been appointed by President Obama as a White House Fellow read his bio).  It's worth reading a NY Daily News op-ed that he wrote describing the founding of the school.
The Evander campus was unsafe for everyone. Less than 25% of the Evander Childs High School Class of 2004 graduated. Fewer still applied to college. In the greatest city in the world, Evander Childs had become a symbol of the worst in public education: a school turned into a warehouse of neglect and under-achievement.

Five years ago, emboldened by a mayor determined to reverse a remarkable trend of neglect, the chancellor invited me and a generation of school leaders, teachers and reformers to act. He believed in my ability although I was just 30. He empowered me by letting me make key decisions, including hiring autonomy without forced seniority transfers and moreover a considerably bigger budget.
Thanks to the mayor and chancellor, a band of tireless, talented teachers and hardworking students, 95% of Bronx Lab's Class of 2008 graduated with more than 350 college acceptances and $2.5 million in financial aid
We'll be shadowing Bronx Lab students in their classes. In the afternoon, each Smith student will sit with their high school partner and share a portfolio of college work. The college students have assembled a compendium of syllabi, papers, quizzes, tests, and other college projects in an effort to introduce the high schoolers to what college-level work looks like at a liberal arts college.

Read more about the Small Schools Movement

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