A “failing” Brooklyn school district now has a blueprint for change, and it starts with school collaboration, closing the disparity gap in after-school services, and engaging parents as key stakeholders.
The recommendations are detailed in Raising the Stakes: Investing in a Community School Model to Lift Student Achievement in Community School District 16, a new report released today by the Brooklyn Community Foundation, Black Male Donor Collaborative, and the Brooklyn Movement Center, which aims to attract foundations and education funders to inject new targeted financial support into the Central Brooklyn district.
Encompassing the eastern half of Bedford-Stuyvesant and sections of Crown Heights and Brownsville, Community School District 16 (CSD16) is repeatedly among the worst performing school districts in New York City. In 2010-11, CSD16 had a 44% high school graduation rate. College readiness rates varied between 0% and 5%.
A comparatively small district—less than 10,000 students attend 26 schools—it serves a community dominated by poverty: 80% of students are eligible for free and reduced lunch, many of whom live in the 11 area public housing developments.
Yet, CSD16 has uncommon strengths. The historically rich neighborhood is home to dozens of dynamic nonprofit institutions and a civically engaged working and middle class. It is these strengths, married with the determination that poverty not be the sole determinant in the success of a child’s education, which led the Brooklyn Community Foundation and the Black Male Donor Collaborative to enlist the Bedford-Stuyvesant-based Brooklyn Movement Center in researching and designing a turnaround plan for CSD16.
Raising the Stakes is the product of Brooklyn Movement Center’s data collection work with CSD16’s traditional public school principals, teachers, parents, students, and after-school and out-of-school providers, throughout Spring and Summer 2012.
Key Findings and Recommendations
- In surveys, CSD16 principals reported that they are in competition with other school principals for scarce resources and high-achieving students. Due to the Department of Education’s restructuring of the school system, there is a focus on individual schools rather than networks of local schools. While the exterior community thrives in civic associations, cultural institutions, and popular outdoor events, among schools there is little in the way of a shared collaborative spirit.
With this in mind, Raising the Stakes recommends a philanthropic investment in a multi-year demonstration project in CSD16, with a cohort of nine schools (three primary schools, three middle schools, and three high schools), focused on supporting collaboration and a viable K-12 pipeline. The network would also include incentives for principal collaboration, and an advisory group of educators and community stakeholders.
- The second primary recommendation is based upon the severe lack of comprehensive, quality after-school options in CSD16. The report recommends that foundations partner to identify a high quality group of after-school and out-of-school-time providers who will work closely together to offer a range of affordable programs, with an emphasis on tutoring and mental health services.
- Researchers have signaled to an alarming decrease in the number of programs available to children as they grow older in Central Brooklyn, and ASOST providers reported that programming in CSD16 is generally more effective for younger children. The report recommends creating an easily-accessed database of ASOST providers with qualitative assessments for parents and educators, as well as providing fundraising assistance to CSD16 principals to raise support for additional programming.
- Lastly, the report found that parents in the districts indicated an interest in advocacy training, as well as desiring stronger relationships with PTA leaders. ASOST providers asserted that parents do not have a role in the development and implementation of their programs, nor do families have a system for learning about and choosing programs. The report recommends engaging a local organizing body to train parents in ways that will help them become more engaged in schools and ASOST programs.
“For too long, CSD16’s schools and families have been unsupported, lacking the resources of comparable districts while struggling with widespread economic challenges,” says Brooklyn Community Foundation President Marilyn Gelber. “Year after year, the statistics have shown that the current education model does not work for this otherwise resilient, highly engaged community. CSD16 needs to build its own community, and become stronger through new relationships and more empowered stakeholders. While foundations alone cannot change the entire course of success, we can make smart, focused investments where we know they will have the greatest impact.”
Nicole Sharpe, director of the Black Male Donor Collaborative (BMDC), adds, "The CSD16 initiative provides an excellent model on how to improve educational outcomes for Black boys in particular and urban districts as a whole. To collaborate with and engage parents and education leaders to take ownership of improving academic outcomes thus far is exciting. It provides the BMDC with significant lessons and best practices to continue our work to improve educational inputs and outcomes throughout NYC’s most disadvantaged communities. It is our hope to mobilize the corporate and philanthropic sectors to become active participants in this initiative; use this practice to empower communities, close the academic achievement gap and chart a collective path to academic transformation."
“While it has become commonplace to view public urban schools and the neighborhoods around them as centers of dysfunction, Central Brooklyn, in partnership with forward thinking community and philanthropic leaders, is poised to reinvent itself and disprove this chronic failure narrative. The lives of our children depend on it,” states Brooklyn Movement Center Executive Director Mark Winston Griffith.
Brooklyn Community Foundation and the Black Male Donor Collaborative will hold a briefing and discussion of these findings and recommendations for members of PhilanthropyNY on Thursday, January 17 at the Foundation Center. Details at http://www.philanthropynewyork.org/s_nyrag/doc_event.asp?CID=117&DID=59981
The complete report and appendix are available for download at http://www.brooklyncommunityfoundation.org/programs-impact/special-initiatives/school-district-16-project.
About Brooklyn Community Foundation
Brooklyn Community Foundation is dedicated to improving lives and strengthening communities through local giving, grantmaking, and community service. Established in 2009 as the first and only charitable foundation for New York City’s largest borough, with the support of generous donors Brooklyn Community Foundation provides critical grants to hundreds of Brooklyn nonprofits working in the areas of education and youth achievement, arts and culture, community development, human services, and the environment.
About The Black Male Donor Collaborative
The Black Male Donor Collaborative (BMDC) seeks to improve the academic achievement of Black Males through strategic philanthropy aimed at transforming the academic trajectory and educational resources for Black Boys initially in New York City, then nationally. The purpose of the Collaborative is to reduce the academic achievement gap and demonstrably raise the academic performance, graduation rates, and college and employment readiness of Black males. The Black Male Donor Collaborative is a core component of the Pipeline Crisis/Winning Strategies Initiative – an effort initiated by Sullivan and Cromwell, LLP and Goldman Sachs to reverse the rising rates of school dropouts, joblessness and incarceration among young black men, and to increase their representation in the pipeline to higher education and professional endeavors.
About the Brooklyn Movement Center
The Brooklyn Movement Center (BMC) is a direct-action, member¬ship-led, community organizing group. The BMC builds the capacity of predominately of-color, work¬ing-class people living in Bedford- Stuyvesant and Crown Heights to identify community and policy issues of critical importance to them, es¬tablish a base of support with their neighbors and fellow stakeholders, and build effective social change campaigns around those issues. The BMC provides connective tissue between progressive policy ideas and direct neighborhood-based action as a way to infuse civic life in Central Brooklyn with regenerative powers.