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State Renews Charter for SoHo School With Praise for Serving Homeless Youth

 Broome Street Academy's Champions program has school staff developing
Broome Street Academy's Champions program has school staff developing "authentic relationships" with students.
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Facebook/Broome Street Academy

SOHO — Broome Street Academy had its charter renewed by the state for five more years, with a glowing review of its first five years taking in underserved kids since it opened in 2011.

The school opened its doors to its first class of 110 ninth graders in the fall of 2011. This year, it has 330 students, and 82 percent of those first ninth graders are enrolled in two-year or four-year college programs after graduating at the end of the 2014-2015 school year, the document approving the charter renewal noted.

Five years is the maximum renewal possible, and the Board of Trustees at the State University of New York (SUNY), which authorizes all charter schools, praised the school's successes since it approved BSA's original charter in 2010.

"Broome Street serves a high number of particularly vulnerable students without lowering expectations for academic achievement," the SUNY Charter Schools Institute (CSI), which advises the Board of Trustees, wrote in its review of the school.

The charter school at 121 Sixth Ave. is a favorite of Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña, who frequently cites it as a model for other charters she'd like to see around the city.

The school allocates 50 percent of its lottery seats to students who are homeless, in foster care or otherwise involved in the child welfare system, and is partnered and co-located with The Door, a drop-in center that provides support and care to homeless and underserved youth.

The Charter Schools Institute credits the school's ability to have a strong academics program to its "foundation of relational trust and comprehensive social-emotional supports," particularly BSA's Champion program, the brainchild of the Head of School, Barbara McKeon.

Each student is paired with a member of the school's faculty or administration, who acts as the student's advocate and provides close, personal support and encouragement to the student.

READ MORE: Broome Street Academy Charter School Responds to Bullying With 'Champions'

CSI also noted McKeon's use of research to improve the school's programming and provide effective, targeted services to students who need them.

"Broome Street uses data to monitor its programs continually and to make change when necessary," the report said. "High quality instruction is evident throughout the school as teachers implement a rigorous curriculum that prepares students for post-secondary success."

Looking forward, the school aims to reach out to prospective students whose first language isn't English, who have disabilities and who are on the city's free- or reduced-price lunch program.

Its strategy is to target middle schools with dual language and English as a second language (ESL) programs, as well as schools where 50 percent or more of the student body failed the state's eighth grade English language arts test that also have a high percentage of students with disabilities or on free- or reduced-price lunch.

The school will also host at least two open houses each year specifically for families for whom English is not their first language, and advertise in outlets like El Diario. The online application will be available in six languages including Spanish, Arabic and Mandarin.

The school will also continue to allocate 50 percent of its lottery to students who are homeless, in foster care or otherwise in need of child welfare services, and increase its outreach efforts to that population by developing relationships with and visiting foster care and social service agencies all over the city.

The aim is to increase the student body to 360 students by the end of this five-year charter, as well as grow the teaching and support staff.