Blythebourne School is a public school in Brooklyn, New York, that defies national averages for inner city schools and appeals to parents and students alike. The school is unique in its make-up, in terms of socio-economic factors and racial factors. The school is made up of a largely Asian and Pacific Islander community with more than 75 percent of students identifying with that racial classification. Another 10 percent each are Hispanic or Caucasian.
There is less than 1 percent of the schools population that identifies itself as African-American. In addition, almost 90 percent of the children who attend the school receive free or reduced lunches, an indication that they are living at or near the poverty line. Further complicating things for the teachers and staff of Blythebourne is that more than 40 percent of their students have difficulty with the English language, indicating that many are not native English speakers.
This school also has less than 3 percent of its population in individualized education plans, the programs formerly known as special education, to assist people with learning difficulties or special needs, including speech or hearing difficulties, etc. Testimonials about the school from students and teachers alike praise the school as a wonderful place to be with teachers that care. In addition, teachers at the school are more well-educated that their compatriots across the state. At the average New York school, 20 percent of the teachers hold only a bachelor’s degree.
At Blythebourne, only 13 percent hold just a bachelor’s degree; 87 percent have a master’s degree. Most of the children at Blythebourne are of Chinese descent, first-generation immigrants, who speak English as a second language and yet they routinely meet and exceed state averages in test results. The school has become a charter school emphasizing programs for “Everyday Math” to make students more able to use math in practical terms. The school embraces the multi-cultural heritage and promotes it with typical grade school activities combined with Chinese language and history.
As part of federal funding requirements through the No Child Left Behind Law, every public school has its yearly progress toward state-wide goals measured. The state sets a required percentage of students in all major groups and in all sub-groups that must exceed the base requirements of state achievement tests. If a school meets those requirements in all its groups combined, it is said to be making adequate yearly progress. School report cards indicate show whether the school is making their AYP (adequate yearly progress) in each of its sub-groups as well.
In the case of Blythebourne, the sub-groups are based on gender, race, and socio-edonomic status. According to the school’s web page, Blythebourne is making AYP in all its sub-groups, an impressive task since most schools are not able to keep consistent results across the curriculum. The amazing thing about the Blythebourne School is that the results are averaging higher than statewide results even with children who may not have spoken a word of English before beginning school. Three-quarters of these same kids, by the time they reach third grade, are exceeding standards for English proficiency.
Statewide, only 67 percent of third graders can exceed the standards. Equally impressive is that through all three grades tested, 95 percent of the students at Blythebourne school exceed the standards for math proficiency. That math proficiency is universal across the sub-groups and consistent, with almost no statistical difference between the three grades. In the spring of 2007, fourth grade students at the Blythebourne school were not as proficient as the class the previous year had been and fell short of the statewide standards, but only by a few percentage points.
Perhaps of note is that the test results in English Language Arts fell dramatically in all three grade levels from 2006 to 2007. Proficiency fell from 90 percent to 76 percent in the third grade; 75 to 64 percent in fourth grade and 78 to 63 percent in the fifth grade. Statewide in fourth and fifth grade, proficiency was 68 percent. The reasons for the dramatic drop in results is unclear, but should be further explored. Parents who are contemplating enrolling their children in P. S. 105, otherwise known as Blythebourne, might want to further investigate these anomalies.
According to other statistics, the other thing that may concern parents is the potential for overcrowding at the school. Current class loads indicate an average of 15 students per teacher, but because this is a public school and subject to whims of the school board and the ever-fluctuating population. However, there are equally valid reasons to seek out a school like Blythebourne. For example, the school has adapted to the cultural heritage of the majority of its students into its curriculum, allowing Chinese students to learn their new language without abandoning the heritage.
Observers also say the school and its teachers work hard to actively involve students in the learning process, letting them actually observe ice melting as a way to understand “Cold” and often sacrificing administrative space to give as much room as possible to their students. The district has crushed more than 1,600 students into a building that was stressed with 1,200. Additional public schools have been opened nearby, but the constant immigration into the area leads the school to enroll students year-round. Another note in favor of the Blythebourne school is that students there actually attend school.
As any teacher can attest, students can’t learn if they aren’t there. With a 95 percent attendance rate, students and parents in the Blythebourne school obviously make education enough of a priority that they get to class. By getting their children to school on a regular basis, parents with the school’s service area are showing their commitment to education. If that commitment follows through in terms of parental involvement in the school and follow through in their child’s education, then schools around the country would do well to learn from the Blythebourne example.
Numerous schools cite lack of parental involvement and attendance issues as among the biggest problems they face. Based on the ranking system provided at one website, Blythebourne is in the top 20 percent of schools in New York. In that ranking, where 1 is the lowest and 100 is the best, Blythebourne ranked 81. For a public school with almost half of its students made up of recent immigrants, the ranking is phenomenal and any parent should be happy to have their child attend P. S. 105, Blythebourne School.