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Education Breaks Free in Brooklyn

At Freebrook Academy, the rules for learning have changed

From the hardwood floors to the twinkling chandeliers, the gargantuan two-story building on the corner of Stuyvesant Avenue and Decatur Street reeks of history.

Although currently under construction, the space is considered the future home of Freebrook Academy, whose name derives from freedom and Brooklyn but also a brook of freedom. It’s a private school set to open this upcoming fall.

“Bed-Stuy is a great neighborhood and deserves to have a quality private school,” said Monique Scott, 29, founder and director of Freebrook Academy.  “It needs to be something open to the community.”

Once known as a senior center, the space now serves the neighborhood as a school during the day (8 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.) and as a community center after hours. The program consists of lower school (Kindergarten – 6th grade), upper school (7th – 12th grade), and all school (all students work as a class), with 45 enrollments.

Her own daughter who turns four this Friday enrolled in the Academy where classrooms are no larger than 15 and break down to seven to eight kids per class as they mature.

With smaller class sizes, all students receive individualized attention. Teachers conduct bi-weekly assessment meetings to chart progress and assign homework tailored to the child’s interests to help the student improve in the classroom.

“It can be anything from writing a comic book, because that works on literacy,” said Scott.

The private school costs $8,000 to attend but offers Democratic Progressive education – similar to a Montessori education in that it supports individual attention and growth of students in mixed-age classrooms.

The benefits of a mixed-age classroom are that students become a support system and mentor for one another.

“It allows them to humble themselves because a younger student might know more than they do,” said Scott with a chuckle. The most significant difference however is that in a Democratic Progressive school, there are also student and teacher directives.

“Students co-teach electives and are encouraged to suggest changes to better curriculum,” said Scott.

There is a curriculum, but there are no grades and standardized testing.

“It allows children to have intrinsic motivation rather than extrinsic,” said Scott. “It allows students to go further than people’s expectations.”

Based on a community, cultural, and social justice foundation, students apply learned knowledge to the neighborhood. “It’s important to examine buildings, architecture, nature in our backyard.”

In lower school, students are taught by teachers with either a bachelor’s or master’s degree in their field. Upper school requires teachers to possess either a master’s or Ph.D.

“Teachers don’t have to be certified at Freebrook,” said Scott. “We want teachers who know how to teach progressively or who really know their content, not to teach what they were taught to teach.”

Melissa Danielle May 04, 2011 at 03:48 PM
So glad to read Monique's perseverance has paid off! Congratulations!
Alexandria May 04, 2011 at 05:54 PM
As a soon to be mother in a couple of weeks, seeing a light of hope in a tunnel of darkness places a smile on my face, knowing that my daughter will have an opportunity to attend a school like freebrook. Monique congratulations on the success of freebrook.
Net Lag Oner May 04, 2011 at 05:57 PM
This is exciting. How will they tackle college preparedness without a grading system? Will scholarships be available? Thanks!
Dbe May 04, 2011 at 06:28 PM
Monique thank you for bringing you vision into fruition! I currently travel all the way to the other side of Brooklyn for my children's school, there was nothing in Bed-Stuy that offered such an organic approach. I love the letter of supporter on your webpage, from Calhoun very impressive. Thank you also for looking at the space as a community place, Excellence school which is not too far from me have never to my knowledge opened their doors to the community and they have so much to offer. You however are planning for this to be a place where everyone can come and interact after school hours and I hope the community rallies round you. peace!
Monique Scott May 05, 2011 at 05:36 PM
Thanks for the support. College preparation is taken seriously. As students get older they engage in a thoughtful college prep program, which includes SAT support and much more. To truly be prepared for college, students should be self-motivated, goal oriented, critical thinkers, and efficient researchers, among other things. This school is committed to fostering such among all students. Freebrook, like other schools that do not focus on grades, will encourage students to do high level work and what some call "college-like" work (a thesis, community presentation, portfolio defense). In addition, colleges receive detailed accounts of student progress via narratives, which are much more informative than a grade.
Monique Scott May 05, 2011 at 05:49 PM
We welcome financial assistance inquiries from interested parents.
J. Hobson May 05, 2011 at 10:25 PM
Excellence Charter School does open there door to the community. Every Friday afternoon they host a community day where the students assemble and demonstrate what they learned during the week through song, dance, poetry, etc.
Dbe May 06, 2011 at 03:12 PM
I'm talking about the outside community using any of their facilities??
J. Hobson May 06, 2011 at 04:10 PM
I agree they rarely let any outside community groups use their facilities.

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