As many of you know, I've been working in New York City Public Schools for the last decade, and am currently serving as the Assistant Principal at PS/IS 137 - The Rachel Jean Mitchell School. Our school is a Pre-K through 8th grade public school servicing students in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn. While I love the students and school community that I work with, this particular neighborhood faces many challenges. Consider the following statistics:
- 37% of Brownsville residents live below the federal poverty level. It is the poorest neighborhood in Brooklyn.
- 82% of adults 25 years or older living in Brownsville do not have a college degree.
- The incarceration rate in Brownsville is the second-highest in the city, three and a half times the Brooklyn and citywide rates.
- Elementary school absenteeism, defined as students missing two or more school days a month, is at 40% in Brownsville. This is the highest rate in all of New York City.
Working in a community where these challenges exist have strengthened my belief that students (and people in general) work best when they have something to strive for. As a result, I have set up a positive incentive system where students earn "STRIVE Bucks" from their teachers, as well as for achieving various school-wide attendance and academic goals. In its second year last year, students from ages 4-16 loved earning STRIVE Bucks, and teachers appreciated a positive incentive which helped motivate their students. With help from money donated last year, the school saw great growth across multiple metrics. Math and ELA proficiency rates went up 3.6% and 9.7%, more than doubling the city rate of growth. Out-of-school suspensions dropped by 47% from the year before. Our student enrollment increased by 3%, and we sent our first 8th grader in recent history to a "Specialized High School". While these gains have begun to put us in front of some of the charter schools in the district, there is still a great amount of untapped potential in our school community.
Money raised will be used to fund the 2017-2018 STRIVE Buck store. Last year, we were able to raise over $6,000. This year, we are looking to raise an additional $5,000 so that students can continue to purchase longer lasting, more attractive items to further their commitment to striving for excellence. In addition, 20% of the funds raised will be used towards attendance incentives, where students with 93% attendance or higher will be entered in a drawing to receive prizes.
We are looking to meet our goal before November 11th, 2017, so that "the carrot" of better prizes can entice students to come to school, and make their time count in the classroom. To assist in the goal, I have tasked my school community on a fundraising campaign of their own. Students and parents are currently undertaking a sale of chocolate, magazine subscriptions, and holiday goods where they receive prizes for sales. The school keeps 40% of the revenue.
A donation would mean a lot to me, and more importantly the children I serve at PS/IS 137. I've been working in public education for the last decade, and have gotten to appreciate how working towards tangible goals goes farther than negativity and discipline. As a school leader, I'm proud that my teachers and students alike are buying into the vision that playing with positive currency enhances the traditional classroom based on rules, structure, and work for work's sake.
Thank you once again for taking the time to read about my school, and if you are able to donate, the students will surely appreciate your generosity!
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