At Brooklyn Lab High School, getting kids into college will just be the beginning.
The real goal for each and every student is graduating from college, or perhaps even enrolling in graduate school -- and then thriving in their future careers.
“In high school, we should be practicing the things that matter most for adult life and for future success,” said Eric Tucker, one of the school’s founders.
Preparing students to thrive in college and beyond is at the heart of Brooklyn Lab’s mission. The mission starts at the schools’ two middle schools in downtown Brooklyn, and will continue on at the high school set to open in the fall of 2017. The schools are built on the idea that the jobs students will one day hold likely don’t exist yet, but mastering skills such as problem solving and conflict resolution will ensure students are ready to tackle those challenges, regardless of their career path
About 40 percent of Brooklyn Lab’s middle-school students have complex needs. By combining traditional classroom instruction with tutoring and personalized, technology-delivered work -- an experience not typically available to students -- teachers are able to adapt each student’s learning experience to reflect their interests and needs.
It’s a model the school’s founders say could benefit students with complex needs across the country; their own students consistently exceed expected grade-level growth.
“Students who are tremendously intelligent, creative and high-capacity are going unchallenged and unserved by the way that we do schools today,” Tucker said.
In 2016, Brooklyn Lab High School was one of 10 schools to receive $10 million grants from XQ: The Super School Project, which called on educators, students, parents and community leaders to rethink high school in America. The project, sponsored by XQ Institute and backed by Laurene Powell Jobs’ philanthropic organization Emerson Collective, originally had five grants to bestow, but the number of winners was doubled after nearly 700 applications were submitted.
The premise for the XQ challenge was simple: The world has changed by leaps and bounds in the last 100 years, but high school in America looks exactly the same. And that means some students are missing out on valuable opportunities to think critically and collaborate to solve complex problems, said XQ Senior School Strategist Monica Martinez, who works with school development.
“XQ stems from the reality that the future health of our communities and economy will rest on how we decide to educate our kids,” Martinez said. “Yet, as a country we are fundamentally failing to prepare our kids for a future that looks nothing like today. Everything has changed in American society except how we educate our kids.”
The idea for Brooklyn Lab Middle School was born during a walk through downtown Brooklyn. Tucker and his wife and co-founder, Erin Mote, started talking about founding a middle school that served students who don’t thrive in a traditional classroom environment.
For Tucker, it was a deeply personal mission that made him think back to his own early struggles in school.
“My experience in the classroom was that it was lifeless and dull,” Tucker said. He said his passion for learning became numb after a while, resulting in poor reading and writing skills for much of his elementary career.
“What would it mean to build a school that unlocked the potential of students like me?” Tucker said.
They went door-to-door, reaching out to families who might not hear about the school otherwise. They told them that their charter school would be different from other schools.