Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Young Achievers school preview - Jan. 21

When Young Achievers went citywide again, I knew I had to check it out. When I was tucking in my son a few months ago, he asked, very seriously, “Mommy, will my next school have math?” I laughed out loud and said, “Oh, honey. They ALL have math.” (That’s one thing they all have in common.) No joke -- he actually gasped in delight. So, he seems to be curious at least about science and math.

Young Achievers is a K-8 pilot school focused on those subjects. Last year, they moved from JP to the old Lewenberg middle school in Mattapan. After the move, they absorbed the Lewenberg students into the 7th and 8th grade classes. The school is actually not that far from their old place on Walk Hill Ave., current home to the BTU school.

With some creative schedule wrangling, we made it to Young Achievers’ open house on Thursday. I confess – I was exhausted, so my notes from this visit are scant.

For starters, it’s a big school. This year, there were 550 students. Since we went at night, we didn’t get a chance to see the classes in action, which is a shame.

As a science and math pilot school, they try to embed math and science into other units of study. At the kindergarten level, their science development includes a touch table, neighborhood walks, cooking, plants, weather, that sort of thing.

There are five kindergarten classrooms, but K1 students are in the same rooms as K2 students. About one-third of students are K1, and roughly two-thirds are K2. At kindergarten, they learn a lot about nature and social justice. Their special subjects include yoga, tennis, dance, drumming, and tai kwon do. They also get PE... their gym has beautiful murals. Again, because we couldn’t observe students in their natural environment, I couldn’t really tell you how it was different from a non-pilot school. From my bleary eyes, the kindergarten classrooms looked similar to other schools I’ve visited.

Like most Boston public schools, they serve a wide range of learners. One-fourth of students receive special education, but they operate under an inclusion model. Students who are more advanced have the opportunity to go up to reading groups at higher grades.

They’re not certain of school hours next year. This year, the hours are 8:30-4:30 Monday through Thursday. On Fridays, students only attend classes from 8:30-12:00. The after-school program runs until at least 6 every day. From Monday through Thursday, after-school activities include Playworks, mentoring, Read Boston, and intramural athletics for the upper grades. On Friday after school, there are programs with the Boston Nature Center, Berklee School of Music, as well as tae kwon do and field trips. The before-school drop-in starts at 7 a.m.

Although the school day ends at 4:30, the last hour of the school day seems to be devoted to enrichment for the younger grades (some of those specials I talked about) and clubs for grades 5-8 (e.g., Boston Urban Music Project, First Lego League (!), girls’ self defense, theatre and performing arts, to name a few).

As far as lottery assignments go, their school bulletin that they handed out says that 50% of students will come from the neighborhood (not sure if “neighborhood” means walk zone or East Zone) and 50% will come from the whole city. You’ll have to check with the FRC or somewhere else for an accurate breakdown.

I’ve sort of made my peace with potentially sending him to a school in Roxbury since I’ve had some time to get used to the idea. We put a couple Roxbury schools on our list. I’m not quite as comfortable with Mattapan yet. Perhaps it was driving to the school at night in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Every parent has their own comfort level with these things. Some probably wouldn’t step foot in my neighborhood, which is certainly not crime-free.

Blue Hill Ave. is just one area that makes me a little uneasy, especially when we’re talking about my kid. The school is set back off Blue Hill Ave. in a residential neighborhood on a hill. That neighborhood felt safe. From this crime map, you can see that incidents mostly occur along the Blue Hill Ave. corridor and don't usually extend into the Outlook Road area. I probably just need to shift my thinking: “it’s just on the other side of the Boston Nature Center” sounds much nicer than “it’s a couple blocks off Blue Hill Ave.”

From the reviews of current parents, this school seems well-loved.

Note: the school's citywide status is not yet finalized. The Boston School Committee still has to vote on it.

1 comment:

andrea said...
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