In the impoverished South Bronx, an elementary charter school designed for children in foster care is thriving, writes Richard Whitmire on The 74.
At Mott Haven Academy, which opened in 2008, a third of students live in foster homes, another third receive “protective services” and another third live in the gritty neighborhood. About a fifth stay in homeless shelters.
Despite family instability, Haven students outperform students at the traditional school across the street, writes Whitmire. Ninety-five percent of students come back for a second year.
Class size is limited to 25 with two teachers in every class. The school also has two behavior interventionists, two social workers, a counselor and a special education specialist.
Principal Jessica Nauiokas hires experienced teachers.
“We need our teachers to empathize or they are not going to be able to educate this population,” said (New York Foundling CEO Bill) Baccaglini. “But the minute they become the social worker we lose the class. They are there to be teachers. So they have to empathize, not sympathize, or we’ll never move these young scholars down the road.”
Whitmire wonders why the school has so few visitors eager to learn from its success.
In Brooklyn, P.S. 446 Principal Meghan Dunn structured the school to handle her students’ “myriad physical and emotional needs,” Meredith Kolodner writes in Schoolbook.
More students are reading at grade level and fewer are getting into trouble.
At the heart of many success stories is an “uncommon principal,” writes Larry Cuban.
Principal Jack Spatola has led P.S. 172 in Brooklyn for 31 years, building a “strong, stable staff” and a “culture that prizes both student and adult learning.” His students — most are Latino and poor — are high achievers, reports the New York Times.
“But it may not be scaleable,” warns Cuban.