A new charter school is opening in September 2009, and Sunset Park kids are eligible (and encouraged) to apply. The Brooklyn Prospect Charter School is headed by educators (although it's also heavy on the corporate and technology experts), and the academic planning team is chock full of Ivy League and accomplished educators. The members aren't grounded in mainstream urban education, but a lack of entrenched cynicism (who me?) is probably healthier than too much reality. Besides, they're starting out with just 88 sixth-graders, and the class size is promised to be just 22. With numbers like that, most classroom management and discipline will take care of itself. With numbers like that, keeping track of absences and blips in work will be manageable. With numbers like that, English Language Learners and children who have deficiencies in reading/math skills will benefit tremendously. With numbers like that, I think Sunset Park should get involved and flood the lottery! As it says on their website: "Through the state lottery system, Brooklyn Prospect hopes to serve a student population that mirrors the racial and socio-economic demographics of the surrounding community."
Those who have very young children may not realize that Sunset Park is in the same Community School District as Park Slope, Cobble Hill, and Red Hook. Seems odd, I know. It has its advantages if you are informed and active. It's not as though the southern part of CSD 15 often gets notices about school events or recruitment from its northern neighbors. And for many parents in the area, the language barrier serves as enough reason to stick to the neighborhood where there is a concentration of parents who have similar translation/service needs.
However, the main middle school in our area, Charles O. Dewey (I.S. 136), does not have promising test results in either English Language Arts or Math. Despite recent improvement, both subjects are still pretty dismal. The same building, at 40th Street and 4th Avenue, houses Sunset Park Prep (M.S. 821). Approximately the same number of students (in the middle 400 range) attend each middle school, but the test scores are radically different. So Sunset Park does have a close-by choice of middle schools. However, the building holds about 900 tweens and teens (yes, students can be up to 15 years old in middle school).
That said, the opportunity to attend a small middle school (really, the most frightening educational choice for parents in NYC) with high standards is something to be happy about. Hopefully there will be plenty of outreach to all the corners of CSD 15. So far, I can vouch for the press release being sent to the Sunset Park Parents group, but then many of that group are transfers from other Brooklyn neighborhoods, including Park Slope. I'm sure Ms. Marzulli also sent it out to the principals of the Sunset Park elementary schools.