This week marks the 10th anniversary of Classical Charter School’s original charter, which was unanimously approved by the Board of Regents on December 9th, 2005. South Bronx Classical Charter School I opened its doors to Kindergarten and First Grade scholars in August, 2006. It now serves over 400 scholars, Grades K-8. Classical is currently the top performing non-CMO Charter School in the city.
Classical Charter Schools is a small, but expanding outgrowth of South Bronx Classical Charter School I. The network of schools seeks to replicate and improve upon proven results. School II, led by Leena Gyftopoulos, opened in 2013 in Mott Haven. It currently serves 220 scholars in Grades K-3. Classical’s newest school, SBC III, opened at the beginning of this school year. Led by Rebecca Geary, it serves 150 Kindergarten and 1st Grade scholars. Classical’s impact and its results are growing stronger with the network.
Lester Long founded Classical Charter Schools with the mission of closing the achievement gap by preparing K-8th Grade scholars in the South Bronx to excel in college preparatory high schools. Long left his career in finance to help close the achievement gap in a new way: through a classical curriculum. This seemingly contradictory approach, to innovate urban schools by offering a classical curriculum, character education, and an unrelenting work ethic from everyone in the school building, works to change the outcomes for scholars and ultimately to help improve the community.
The school’s mission states that through a classical curriculum and highly structured setting, students become liberated scholars and citizens of impeccable character who achieve proficiency in and advanced mastery of New York State Performance Standards. Last year, these goals were largely met through the hard work of the administration, staff, teachers, and scholars. The school’s overall proficiency rate on state assessments for 2014-2015 was 74%, an improvement from last year. The school’s proficiency rate is about five times that of schools in District 12, the district in which the school is located, and twice the New York City and State proficiency rates. Classical ranks 7th among all NYC charter schools in difference in performance versus their community school district.
Classical analyzes data to quantify and improve the school’s results. Reading growth is a priority for Classical, as reading ability is a predictor of future academic success and even eventual earnings. 91% of Classical scholars are at or above grade level in reading. Among all NYC charter schools, Classical is ranked 8th in English Language Arts. 68% of scholars showed proficiency in or mastery of the ELA New York State Standards. Scholars also excelled in STEM fields. 79% of Classical scholars were proficient in or showed mastery of Math Standards on the New York State Assessment. The network is ranked 17th in Math among all NYC charter schools. 100% of scholars passed the New York State Science Test.
Classical Charter Schools earned the National Blue Ribbon Award in 2014, in large part due to these results. This award recognizes exemplary high performing schools across the country. The award was given to 337 schools nation-wide; Classical was one of five NYC schools and the only school in the Bronx to earn the award. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan specifically highlighted the award winners’ commitments to closing the achievement gap, an important part of the mission of Classical Charter Schools.
As Long thinks about the way the school has grown over the past ten years, he speaks still of systemic change. “I’m most proud of the fact that we’ve established an adult culture that can sustainably affect high scholar achievement over time in this community,” he said. Classical Charter Schools will continue to grow in the coming years. As the school community celebrates this milestone, the team members look to continue and expand their work to serve more children, better.