In 2003, the Bronx Charter School for Better Learning held its first classes with just 50 students in the basement of a church. Now, the kindergarten-through-5th grade school has nearly 400 students and much more space: an annex next to P.S. 111.
Principal Shubert Jacobs, who has worked at Bronx Better Learning since it was founded, is proud of the school’s humble beginnings.
“We were a small school, so we were able to build a relationship with parents,” Jacobs said. It was an easy task for Jacobs who, like most of the families at Bronx Better Learning, is from Jamaica.
Now, the school’s biggest challenge is training teachers to use their unique approach to education. Although the school covers everything that is required by the state when it comes to content, it does so with a technique called “Subordination of Teaching to Learning.”
Teachers act more like a guide, letting students master new skills with minimal interference. For example, students use bright colored Cuisenaire rods to help visualize basic math concepts, like addition and subtraction.
“We believe we shouldn’t tell children the answer. They should figure it out themselves. In doing so, they are responsible for their learning,” Jacobs said.
Flora Thomas, who has two children at Bronx Better Learning, supports the school’s strategy
“They allow them to be more independent and they respect them,” Thomas said.
Although Bronx Better Learning’s approach seeks to turn students into independent learners, teachers also know when to step in—both with students who are falling behind and those who are exceeding standards.
“If any child in a class is struggling or performing above grade level, there’s someone there to help them,” Jacobs said.
The school’s approach has paid dividends when it comes to test scores. This year, Bronx Better Learning outperformed other District 11 schools in the city’s English Language Arts and math exams.
According to Thomas, both of her children have scored above 75 percent on the English exam, which she attributes to the school’s intense focus on academics.
Even so, Jacobs believes the school can continue to improve. He is devoting more resources toward professional development, hiring outside consultants to provide instruction in language arts and math.
“The only way to increase student performance is to train teachers,” Jacobs said. “We’re having more of that this year.”
Parents are also very involved at Bronx Better Learning. A parent sits on the school’s board of trustees, and two years ago the school started a parent hall of fame. So far, 12 parents have been honored for their contributions.
Jacobs always updates parents on changes at school, according to Thomas. Parents also keep in touch with each other via email. “It’s a close-knit community that they have created. For parents, it’s very welcoming.”
Overall, the principal is very pleased with the school’s progress.
“Last year, we had our first graduates,” Jacobs said. “That was a rewarding experience, to be able to send them off.”
The Bronx Charter School for Better Learning
3740 Baychester Ave., Annex
Bronx, N.Y. 10466
Shubert Jacobs, Principal
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