The Bronx Charter School for Excellence won the distinction of being one of three charter schools in the state to win a National Blue Ribbon Schools Award from the U.S. Department of Education.
BCSE won in the category, “Exemplary High Performing Schools” as opposed to “Exemplary Improving Schools,” though 40% of its students are “disadvantaged,” according to the DOE’s site. Nearly 80% of the students at the Parchester school are eligible for free or reduced lunch.
But on recent state test scores, more than half of all students in grades 3 through 8 scored a Level 3 or 4 on both math and English exams.
“Our literacy program is very strong,” said Charlene Reid, head of BCSE. “By the time they graduate or finish kindergarten, some of our students are reading on first- or second-grade reading levels.”
The school has won top marks (including an ‘A’ on its city report card) after experiencing a few tumultuous years of poor performance after its doors opened in 2004.
“We had cheers and tears, especially since about seven years ago the school was in jeopardy of being closed,” said Reid. “So to have this turnaround and be acknowledged as one of the nation’s best schools, it’s a great story.”
With about 3,000 kids on the waiting list to enter the school, community and education leaders have been clamoring to learn more about the school’s best practices.
BCSE was part of a new collaboration between district and charter schools that kicked off in the Bronx this summer, and allowed different teachers and educators to sit in on professional development workshops.
“I don’t think people understand how hard it is to run a school,” said Reid. “It helps that charter schools are autonomous and held to different standards and high accountability.”
Reid also expressed pride in being the first Bronx charter school to win such a prestigious honor.
“This is just the bigger picture, to transform the Bronx,” she said. “We’ve been telling our kids since they were 5 and 6 years old, ‘you are smart, you are great, you can do anything you want to do.’ And this is the result that you get.”
The U.S. DOE will recognize the 219 public and 50 private schools around the country at a ceremony on Nov. 12 in Washington, D.C.