Thursday, November 14, 2013

Notes From School of the Future Brooklyn Visit

School of the Future Brooklyn

One Sentence Take-Away: Giving students the opportunity to reflect upon their progress with their teacher in a "coaching" setting on a regular basis will improve engagement and hence student learning.  

View out of the school window in East NY/Brownsville-Brooklyn  
My second school visit in New York City was in some ways the opposite of my first visit. Today, I visited one of New York's newest public schools. This Brooklyn location of School of the Future is based on the more established Manhattan School of the Future. 100% of the 75 sixth graders in this school qualify for Free and Reduced Lunch. The school will be adding new sixth grade students each of the next two years to become a 6-8 middle school. The goal is to keep class sizes at 25 and under.
They are working on the fourth floor of a very old school building that lacks some of the resources other schools take for granted. The school is located in the Brooklyn neighborhood of East New York. It is filled with housing projects and neighbors Brownsville, a neighborhood notorious for crime and high murder rates. The schools face a great deal of challenges. For example, a local high school, Thomas Jefferson High School was close in 2007 after having a 29% graduation rate and 2% of their students entering at grade level reading and math. Despite these historic challenges, the caring staff and friendly students welcomed me just the same.

 Student list of things they want to improve in their community.
I enjoyed my time meeting with these students and talking perseverance strategies with new principal, Sarah Kaufmann. Sarah is also a member of the grit discussion group being held at UPENN. She is dedicated to working with this challenging population, in a challenging setting. One of the pillars of their school is building resilience. The new school takes the time to help students think through their impulsive reactions and practice new strategies for self-control on a regular basis. I'm grateful to have had a chance to visit and look forward to hearing about their progress in the coming years.

**This is a five minute video of principal Sarah Kaufmann from when she was working as an ELA teacher at the Manhattan School of the Future location.  


  1. Key words: " help students think through their impulsive reactions and practice new strategies for self-control on a regular basis."

    There is a lot of work/time built into this brief statement.
    1. Think - thinking takes time and the proper setting
    2. impulsive reactions - identifying these 'actions' in terms that young people understand is a big job in itself. There is little time dedicated for self-reflection in most curriculum
    3. stragies for self control - a list of 10 strategies, 3 strategies? Again, time for developing the vocabulary and execution of a strategy will take time. Granted, many strategies are intuitive to students, but having that student make a concious effort to employ a strategy will take at least a few tries.
    4. a regular basis - this is where the persistance of the teacher and intstitution comes in. It will certainly take a sustained program as students have seen 'programs' come and go, and they will not neccesarily "jump on board' with a program they feel might just fizzle into a distant memory by the next accademic year.

  2. Well said. The question for me is what strategies to teach and when? Is it during a particular class? Can we embed those lessons within core curriculum?