Newark's BRICK Peshine and BRICK Avon schools soar to the top of the district

BRICK Peshine and Avon, which Lee describes as “hybrid” schools—both are partnerships between Lee and Newark Public Schools—were founded by Lee and serve close to 1500 kids in the South Ward. Credits: BRICK

Newark, NJ – BRICK Academy announced Tuesday that students attending BRICK Peshine and BRICK Avon schools achieved record-setting scores in math and English/Language Arts in 2016-2017 Student Growth Percentiles (SGP), beating out most of Newark's 60 district and charter schools.

Conducted by the New Jersey Department of Education each year, the SGP measures growth for individual public school students and determines how each school has improved in state test performance from one year to the next.

New Jersey measures growth for an individual student by comparing the change in his or her achievement on the state standardized assessment to the scores of students in the state who had similar historical test results the previous year. This comparative change is reported on a 1 to 99 scale. 

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BRICK Peshine’s score of 63 in ELA ranked the school in second place out of all Newark district and charter schools in grades K-8, while BRICK Avon’s ELA score of 54 ranked the school in the top 20 out of all district and charter schools. 

In 2015-2016, BRICK Peshine ranked 19th and BRICK Avon ranked 54th.

BRICK Peshine’s score of 61.5 in math ranked the school at number six out of all district and charter schools, while BRICK Avon’s score of 51 placed it in the top 20. 

In 2015-2016, BRICK Peshine ranked 19th and BRICK Avon ranked 53rd.

“Historically, the South Ward public schools underperformed their charter and public peers,” BRICK Founder and CEO Dominique Lee said. “Now you have a South Ward school being ranked at the top. It’s a huge, huge lift for the community. It shows that our kids can perform as long as you surround the school with their needs."

BRICK Peshine and Avon schools were founded in 2011 and 2012 and are part of BRICK Academy, an umbrella organization made up of the two schools, Achieve Charter School and the South Ward Children's Alliance.  

BRICK Peshine and Avon schools serve close to 1,500 kids in the South Ward.

BRICK Academy was designed in collaboration with the Newark School District and the City of Newark to serve the most vulnerable population, where the majority of children are growing up in extreme generational poverty.

More than 50 percent of BRICK students live in households that earn less than $11,500 per year and more than 95 percent of the student body qualify for free or reduced lunch.

In addition, BRICK students have been exposed to adverse experiences such as violence, sexual abuse, poverty and homelessness at higher rates than the general population.

To address these issues, BRICK established a national model to address and counter the effects these experiences have on cognitive and social development.

“Living in the cycle of adversity causes over-exposure to toxic stress and hinders brain development, leaving children in constant flight, fight or fright mode," Lee said. "For generations, Newarkers have been witness to a significant achievement gap and school-to-prison pipeline. Seven years ago, BRICK Schools were specifically designed to ensure every at-risk child would be provided with hope and opportunity."

Lee believes that investing in children at each stage of their lives will lead to college, career and a successful future and notes that the infusion of community school supports and a focus on instructional quality has culminated in a state SGP report that shows a significant learning shift for BRICK students. 

The school has formed strategic partnerships with a variety of entities and agencies including Newark Public Schools; the Newark Trust for Education; the South Ward Children AllianceRobert Wood Johnson FoundationGreater Newark Health Care CoalitionRutgers University Behavioral Care (UBHC); and the Children's Hospital of New Jersey at Newark Beth Israel, which all provide a specialized and integrated intervention system that allows staff to proactively identify the needs of every student and match them with tailored supports and resources. 

The South Ward Children’s Alliance (SWCA) provides services for children and families from birth through college and career and was founded by Lee in order to establish a two-generation model--a cradle-to-career educational pipeline that gives young people and their parents access to a quality of life that ensures academic and lifelong success.

The SWCA strategically partners with social service agencies to help provide access to housing, health services and financial assistance and to help stabilize its most vulnerable families.

“We’re designated as a community school and it’s really about providing community support,” Lee said. “We are providing support to families so they can support learning at home. On the instructional front, we were able to put laser-light focus on instruction.”

Best practices gleaned from schools like Uncommon Schools North Star Academy and Relay Graduate School of Education, increased daily teacher preparation and planning times and investment in the emotional development of students have all helped in moving the school forward.

“What is most important for every parent in Newark is that our paradigm-changing education model that specifically addresses the special needs of our city is working," Lee said. “It’s not an and/or—you can only work on external issues or education. You kind of have to make it a two-generation strategy. This work cannot be done alone.”

“Every student in Newark deserves a high-quality education,” Newark Trust for Education Executive Director Ronald Chaluisan said. “Circumstances of birth should not preclude one from accessing rigorous learning opportunities. While there is still more work to be done, our student assessment scores show that the intentional and strategic work of our district has made strides and is delivering needed improvement in student achievement for the families of Newark.”

 Chaluisan noted community collaboration as the schools’ anchor, as well as the creation of the right learning environment and attention to classroom instruction as contributing to the schools' success.

“The BRICK team ​is​ ​a​ ​great example of the innovative spirit​ ​needed for continuous​ school improvement,” he said. “Their steadfast resolve that the students of the South Ward are not only capable but can thrive is testament to the results seen in their test scores.”

BRICK Academy also provides a wide variety of support, trainings, and coaching to parents and caregivers. The schools regularly host parent education workshops, connect with community leaders and hold door-to-door outreach campaigns.

Lee said he felt a sense of pride and relief when the SGP results were revealed.

“It was excitement and it was also a relief,” he said. “Some people expressed doubt but this proves the two-generation model works. It’s the continued evolution of innovation but we’re not done yet. Everyone can learn from each other on this. We are so proud of the hard work of our teachers, parents and community.”

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