The charter school movement in New York State is approaching its 20th anniversary, and there is no better way to reflect on the impact of the law than by talking about how schools are living up to their promise.
At the Bronx Charter Schools for Better Learning (BBL), we focus on the whole child and acknowledge each is more than a test score. However, test results do provide important evidence, and it is irrefutable that our studentsare achieving greatness – and we don’t mean by doing just a little bit better than the district. We believe we aren’t doing right by our students and families unless our students are doing far, far better.
We are extremely proud to say our students have achieved that. The most recent New York State test scores show our one campus which had testing grades last school year, located in the northeast section of the Bronx, outperformed our district peers in Math proficiency 72 percent to 33 percent. Additionally, 57.5 percent scored proficient in ELA compared to the district average of 35 percent.
Numbers do not lie. The truth is what we are doing here is working for our kids.
So what makes us different?
We use a proven method of teaching children, called the Subordination of Teaching to Learning, created by Dr. Caleb Gattegno. This approach is supported by a staff that works relentlessly to provide our children with the best education possible.
For math, BBL practices Visible and Tangible Mathematics. The approach is firmly rooted in scientifically proven, well-established methodology. Relying heavily on the use of tools such as Cuisenaire rods, teachers ensure that students develop models for thinking mathematically. Essential objectives are achieved: students become swift and accurate in their computation skills while focusing on problem solving activities that involve practice and real-world application of those skills. This may sound very different from how other schools teach math – and it is. But look at our test results. We scored 40 percentage points higher than our neighboring schools did on the same state tests.
BBL teaches basic reading and writing skills through an approach called Words in Color. If you visit our school – and we love to share our practices with visitors – you will see words in different colors throughout our primary grade rooms. Our reading program focuses on elements of reading and writing one’s native tongue: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary expansion, text comprehension, spelling, and self-expression through writing. Again, what we do may look different than what is practiced at other schools, and what we’re practicing is translating into success. Our test results in ELA were more than 20 percentage points higher than the district.
Our children performed exceptionally well on these state tests, and we are very proud, but don’t be fooled. We are not a “test driven” school. We welcome every child and celebrate their unique ability to learn. “The learner within” each child can thrive in a school environment or it can atrophy. We do not let the latter happen. A school day dedicated to drilling and endless memorization can provide children with the “right answers,” but those correct answers may come at a great price: a duller mind and a diminished desire to learn. When school days encourage curiosity and exploration, students stay connected to their innate power to learn, and feel the sheer joy that comes from such learning. Those are the moments and days we endeavor to create, and we are proud to say we are succeeding.
Dr. Theodore Swartz Dr. Bruce Ballard
Director of Professional Development Professional Development Specialist
Bronx Charter School for Better Learning
3740 Baychester Avenue
Bronx, NY 10466