Creating Community School Wide with Read to Lead

Opened in September 2018, The Brooklyn Green School was the brainchild of District 16 Superintendent Rahesha Amon-Harrison, who was looking to open a progressive middle school in a traditional community. The school currently serves 46 sixth grade students, and plans to add a new grade each year, ultimately reaching full capacity as a middle school in 2020.

The Brooklyn Green School (BKG) strives to give their students a well-rounded, experiential learning environment where they are encouraged to investigate their community, city, and the world. The curriculum is intentionally designed to promote inquiry, and through their coursework and classes BKG students learn how “to embrace their civic responsibility, show empathy, practice eco-consciousness and engage in service learning projects.”

Tapped by Superintendent Amon-Harrison, Marcella Carr-Gay eagerly stepped in as interim principal for the first school year. With over 17 years of experience as an educator, teacher leader, instructional coach, and assistant principal, Principal Carr-Gay is deeply passionate about helping students discover their strength and potential, transforming them into global citizens with a personal commitment to learning. She also understands the needs of the community firsthand. Principal Carr-Gay grew up in Crown Heights and actually attended the school that used to reside in the same building.

When she was tasked with building the curriculum and structure for The Brooklyn Green School, Principal Carr-Gay immediately knew she wanted to include Read to Lead. She was familiar with Classroom, Inc. from her time at Thurgood Marshall Academy, where she watched her students achieve incredible success with Read to Lead. She remembers one student in particular who “came to us not speaking any English, and had an amazing experience with After the Storm.”

“The minute I knew The Brooklyn Green School was going to happen, I reached out to [the Classroom, Inc. instructional coach I had worked with before],” said Principal Carr-Gay. “I knew Crown Heights, I knew the literacy needs of the students, and I knew this partnership needed to happen.”

The Brooklyn Green school started using Read to Lead in two classes, where it’s embedded in the school day. Next year, every 6th and 7th grade student will use the platform on a regular basis. Principal Carr-Gay explains, “I wanted to ensure there was a Read to Lead period throughout the week where the students are actually focused on the episodes and project-based learning lesson plans. My students love it.”

Because they are a small school, the teachers at BKG play multiple roles. Sasha Roopchand is the health and physical education teacher, but she’s also responsible for teaching Read to Lead. On the first day of each week, Ms. Roopchand starts her students off with the corresponding lesson plan for each episode. Students then work together on a mini-lesson before moving into the game. Using Read to Lead, “students started off the year learning about their community,” explained Principal Carr-Gay. “Because we’re a green school, a big part of what we teach is related to community service and activism. Read to Lead helps our students see themselves in their community and in the world.”

As a Middle School Quality Initiative school, Principal Carr-Gay has taken care to build in additional supports for students who aren’t reading on grade level. Ms. Roopchand uses the data collected in the Read to Lead teacher dashboard and works closely with the English, Humanities, and Special Education teachers to help them understand the individual needs of students. “Because it’s differentiated, Read to Lead meets our students where they are. After using the platform for the whole school year, we’ve definitely seen growth. Our goal is to have every student leave 8th grade at or above literacy levels, and we’ve seen our students improve in the Degrees of Reading Power assessments.”  

In addition to improving their test scores, Read to Lead has given BKG students real world skills they need to be successful in life after school. “In Read to Lead, the students get to be the boss and make decisions that affect the entire community,” said Principal Carr-Gay. “The platform has exposed them to new career opportunities and has them thinking about what they want to do with their lives.”

Ultimately, Read to Lead has had an enormous impact on BKG students, due in large part to Principal Carr-Gay’s investment in making the platform a regular part of the curriculum. Through her previous experience with Classroom, Inc., she knew that the skills taught in the games were closely aligned with the mission of her new middle school.

“Many of our students come to school with different experiences, and many have concerns with their reading. Read to Lead enables our students to make their own decisions and think critically about life and their community while building their literacy and comprehension. It’s an important part of our curriculum, and a big part of the culture of our school.”