A School Where Homework Is Optional

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School of Inquiry emphasizes the arts to gifted students

By Kara Bloomgarden-Smoke

The Brooklyn School of Inquiry held an open house in 2009 at the Brooklyn Historical Society because its own building was not ready yet.

“We moved into our building two days before school started,” said Principal Donna Taylor. “I brought a picture of the school building to show parents what it would look like.”

Since then, the Brooklyn School of Inquiry in Bensonhurst has had to cap the number of open houses because of a surplus of interested applicants. The school currently goes from kindergarten through 2nd grade but will eventually go through 8th grade. Two kindergarten classes will be added each year until the school reaches capacity.

As one of five citywide schools for children who qualify for the Gifted and Talented program, and the only one in Brooklyn, the Brooklyn School of Inquiry only accepts applic ations from students who score in the 97th percentile or higher in the Department of Education’s Gifted and Talented testing process. Even so, the interest from those qualified students exceeded expectations.

“I was surprised by the huge demand, and by how quickly we became a destination,” said Taylor.

Taylor left a 20-year career in book publishing to work in education. After teaching for several years, Taylor attended the Department of Education’s Leadership Academy, which trains principals.

At the Brooklyn School of Inquiry, emphasis is placed on incorporating art into the school day. In addition to visual arts classes, all students study violin by the Suzuki method. The school also has an optional homework policy. Students are given activities that can be done at home, but are not mandatory.

“We use the inquiry model so that students are interested in learning, rather than teacher-directed learning,” said Taylor. “There is no correlation between high academic achievement and homework.”

Interest in the school has helped make it a success, but Taylor cautions against judging the outcome too soon.

“It is such a happy occasion when the mission and vision of a school is so aligned with what parents want for their kids,” said Taylor. “Still, until we reach capacity, it remains to be seen how it all bears out.”

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