Dear Commons Community,
The New York Times has a profile of a successful public school in one of the poorest neighborhoods of New York City. Mott Hall Bridges Academy is a public middle school, it is seen by many families as a safe zone in a crime-plagued neighborhood, and a gateway out of generational poverty for those born with few advantages in life. Nearly all 191 students in grades six through eight are black or Hispanic; more than 85 percent are poor enough to qualify for free or reduced-price lunches.
The school prides itself on what the principal, Nadia L. Lopez, calls its “holistic approach” to educating children for whom nothing can be taken for granted. Staff members lead peer groups on Monday afternoons to keep tabs on whether students have problems at school or at home, and try to teach coping strategies. In September, they checked students’ backpacks to make sure they were keeping up in class. And in a neighborhood where many people have never even traveled into Manhattan, they give children a new aspiration: to experience life beyond Brownsville.
“You think about Manhattan, and there are skyscrapers and million-dollar properties, and then you’re in Brownsville, and the only skyscrapers you see are projects,” Ms. Lopez said. “That’s not fair. There’s nothing here. There’s no equity. There’s no reminder that tomorrow is hopeful.”
In what has become a fall tradition, the sixth graders join hands and walk across the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan to symbolize their connection to the world. Eighth graders take a class with a guidance counselor to learn about high schools around the city; they compare programs, admission rates and commuting times. Last spring, 72 of the school’s 75 graduates enrolled in high schools outside Brownsville.
The school’s approach has drawn praise from parents and city educators, including the schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, who has visited several times. “Mott Hall Bridges Academy is proving that any school — no matter its ZIP code — can deliver a great education for its students,” Ms. Farina said.
In its most recent evaluation by the city’s Education Department in October, the school was rated “proficient” in the rigor of its curriculum and the effectiveness of its teaching and learning. It excelled at establishing a culture of learning that communicated high expectations to staff, students and families. But the school’s performance on state math and English tests, though improving, still falls well below the citywide average.
I agree with Chancellor Farina, this is a successful school and is focused on things that matter most in life and not simply on standardized test scores.