Representing Our Community

Inwood Academy for Leadership has joined forces with our community of partners and families to provide a quality educational choice in Washington Heights and Inwood since we opened our doors seven years ago.

We are a community of first- and second-generation immigrants, mainly hailing from Latino countries, mostly from the Dominican Republic. It is vital for our students and families to connect with staff who look like them. Research has shown that students who share racial characteristics with their teachers tend to report higher levels of personal effort, student-teacher communication, post-secondary motivation, and academic engagement.

The diversity of our staff and resulting student-staff connections at Inwood Academy are a reflection of those findings. Our relationships with students create positive classroom environments that in turn help them throughout the learning process. In addition, a diverse population allows students to see adult relationships that model inclusion of this diversity.

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To recruit staff who represent our community of immigrants has meant we work with several local organizations to find qualified faculty who live within our community. In addition to hiring classroom teachers, we hire college students who are on a pathway to becoming teachers to work as Aspiring Teachers, Teaching Assistants and After School Tutors. We also provide aspiring educators hands-on work experience and help them pay for their college tuition through a reimbursement program. Now, with a degree in hand, many have become members of our staff and faculty. This is one of the ways we have modeled leadership for our students; they see how we are developing leaders from within Inwood Academy. We have also seen first-hand that if an educator believes in the potential of all their students and receives the right training and coaching from us, he or she can become a great teacher.

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Alina Ramirez, our Fiscal Manager, joined Inwood Academy as an afterschool tutor in 2010. Over the last seven years, we have watched Alina grow from a shy High School student to a confident City College of New York graduate contributing to our school community. Alina lives within walking distance of the school and has the ability to interact, influence and support our students and families on a daily basis.

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The many staff members who have connections in our community help us to serve our families in a personalized way and this, in turn, builds trust. While speaking Spanish is not a prerequisite for a job at Inwood Academy, it is a helpful skill that goes far when working with our families—many of whom speak little English.

Hard conversations are easier when trust is present. In a time when our nation is facing crises, being able to model unity within our school and community is a powerful message that creates stability.

As we look to graduate our first cohort of students in June 2018, we are hopeful that our high school graduates will return to serve the community as they have seen modeled at Inwood Academy!

 

Growth Takes Time

The first two years of Inwood Academy for Leadership, our students experienced tremendous academic growth despite serving a large number of children with disabilities and English Language Learners. In 2013, the Common Core rolled out in New York state. The shifts in math and English Language Arts instruction left us with a much harder, but important task.

The task is to ensure that students are not only able to read and write and do math on grade level, but to approach a tough problem from multiple angles and have multiple strategies to solve the problem. Teaching students who are learning English for the first time is challenging, but as soon as they enter Inwood Academy they begin making tremendous strides. This growth is evident in their classroom reading scores and on our internal NWEA MAP test scores.

State tests can be useful in comparing our students’ growth with peers in their school district, city, and state. Our students’ growth has been incremental in New York state test scores, until now. The state just released the results and our consistent work paid off; it’s evidenced by our 12% proficiency increase in English Language Arts (ELA) test scores! This is compared to statewide ELA growth of 1.9% and city-wide growth of 2.6%.

What made this growth possible? It was through the collaboration between the school’s leadership team and teachers, the hard work of our students, and new program elements.

Big changes that created big growth: 

  • Expansion on writing using ThinkCERCA personalized literacy software and ensuring that students use CER in writing responses (claim, evidence, reasoning)
  • Increased focus on Sustained Silent Reading that allowed students to read on their level for longer periods of time;
  • Additional hour a week of instruction (then the previous year)
  • Launch of school-wide and systematic vocabulary program

In addition to this growth in English Language Arts, we also saw these huge wins;

  • 12 of our 6th graders earned a 4 on their ELA exam which is 11% of the entire district; there were only 111 students who earned this highest score in our school district
  • 20 of our 8th-grade students took the High School Algebra Regents one year early and all passed with a 72 or higher
  • We beat our school district in 5, 6, and 8th-grade math and in 6, 7, and 8 grade ELA
  • We matched the city-wide Latino ELA and math scores and the city-wide African American math scores
  • Both our students with disabilities and ELLs grew overall in ELA and ELLs increased in math while students with disabilities maintained their proficiency in math
  • 11% of our 8th-grade students with disabilities were proficient in math which beat our school district and the city by 6%
  • 14% of our 6th grade ELLs were proficient in math which beat our school district and the city

We’re so excited to share these results with you! Our growth benefits our entire community. As we know, it’s not enough to just give our kids a great education. Let’s continue to work together to prepare all 900 of our students to become leaders in their community.

Lastly, a huge thank you to our incredible students and families. Thank you for your commitment and trust.

Charlottesville

It’s hard to turn on the television and watch events like the ones that recently took place in Charlottesville, Virginia. It’s even harder to explain to our children why the events are happening.

While we are outraged by the overt racism of the white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK, this is not the only reason to be upset. The leaders of the Civil Rights Movement lessened the overt racism in our society. Unfortunately, as we know, the covert (under the surface) racism continued – the racial slurs, hiring based on last name, mass incarceration, and the countless other struggles that people of color face every day. To be upset about the KKK and other hate groups is easy. To stand up to systemic racism is much harder and demands strong leadership.

Therefore, we need our young leaders to build on the work and stand on the shoulders of the great individuals before them. We need our leaders to rise up against violence and injustice and say “That’s not right and I’m here to do something about it!”

In 1947, at the age of 18, Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote an essay for his Morehouse College campus newspaper. In the article, “The Purpose of Education,” King stated:

“To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.”

As educators, we will do our part to support the development of the assets of our young leaders. Together we will partner with our parents and community to stand against racism and the continued struggles of inequality faced by the underserved.

 

Awards and Honors

Since our school opened its doors to our first class of fifth-grade students seven years ago, award ceremonies have placed an important role in how we recognize students’ hard work and achievements.

On June 7, our Academic Ceremony for grades nine to eleven recognized individual students’ achievements in academics, arts, athletics, community service, character, and leadership.

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Outstanding Woodworker Award Recipient

Students were selected from each grade to receive Character Trait awards for Integrity, Honesty, Responsibility, Caring, and Restraint and Perfect Attendance Certificates went to six scholars.

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Responsibility and Integrity Character Award Recipients

Our Honor Roll students were awarded certificates in different categories of academic achievement and one High Honor went to junior Sokeyra Francisco.

The evening ended with the induction of twenty-one juniors into the National Honor Society. NHS faculty advisors Dan Gaffney and Loweye Diedro led the selection process, which recognizes students who have demonstrated excellence in the areas of scholarship, service, leadership, and character. Membership into the society is one of the highest honors our faculty can bestow on a student.

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Inductees of the National Honor Society Recite the NHS Pledge

It’s wonderful to see how big an impact awards have on students. It gives them a sense of accomplishment and motivates them to continue to work hard.

View all photos from the event here:

2017 HS Awards and Honors

Garden Growers

One of my goals is to ensure the school engages all students and to help us achieve this we use personalized learning strategies and integrating technology into the classroom. The result, Inwood Academy is creating learners—children who are engaged and thriving in a learning environment. Another means to achieving my goal is to partner with community organizations that provide unique learning experiences for our students.

It is community partners like the New York Restoration Project (NYRP) who are providing a vital role in helping us to educate the students at Inwood Academy. They invited us to participate in their Gardens Grower Program.

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Last week, the Education Team at the NYRP joined our fifth grade students. They learned about the benefits of growing their own food, soil, and harvesting. Math and science, along with the art of seeding, were used throughout the class.

Our students will meet with the NYRP team a few times a month in our backyard, Swindler Cove in Sherman Creek Park. There, they will transplant the crops they started last week, explore the five distinct habitats represented in the park, and at the end May harvest their onions and eggplant.

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To view more photographs, see NYRP Garden Growers photo album on our school’s Flickr page.

To stay tuned on our Garden Growers, join us on Inwood Academy’s Facebook page.

To learn about how Harvard, Microsoft, and Columbia University recently supported our students, read our Harvard University’s CS50 and The Joy and Wonder of being a Medical Student blog posts.

Staff Blog Series: 10 Questions in 5 Minutes with Stacy Woodard

10 Questions in 5 Minutes is our new blog series in which staff members are interviewed. The first post in the series is with our new High School Principal in Residence Stacy Woodard. You can read more about her on our Leadership page.

1. What’s your favorite book?

My favorite book is by T.D. Jakes called Reposition Yourself, Living Life Without Limits.

2. Who is your favorite musician?

My favorite musician, if this counts, is Mary J Blige, she may be a bit out of the times for our students but they should know or definitely their parents know who she is.

3. What is your strongest character trait?

I think that my strongest character trait is patience. I have a high tolerance for a lot of things, I typically remain calm and people often tell me that I exhibit a lot patience.

4. Which character trait are working to improve?

I would like to improve on being more decisive. I am a Libra so with most things I am always trying to find balance and weigh both sides of a certain situation before I make a decision. Because of this, I tend to be indecisive sometimes and struggle to make quick decisions. In other words, I think too long. In addition to that I am always thinking about how I can satisfy all parties involved in the decisions I make especially when there are differing opinions…in my mind, how can I give each person what they want? The truth of the matter is, you can’t please everybody and I am learning that.

5. What does leadership mean to you?

It means to help yourself and others to do the right things. Leadership means that you set direction, build an inspiring vision and create something new. Leadership is about mapping out where you need to go to “win” as a team; and it is dynamic, exciting and inspiring. I’m going to sum that up by saying leadership is being an example of the big picture that you want to see. I think that in everything you do you have to be consistent because people are looking for the consistency more than anything. So, leadership in that sense, again, is just going back to what is it you want to see and then building people to take on some of those same characteristics of what your style of leadership is.

Everything that I do I really try to make sure that my message is always one that is easy to accept, and that it’s not hard for someone to notice or they don’t have to look for a trait, that it’s very transparent.

6. What’s the one thing you wish you didn’t worry about during middle or high school?

I worried too much about being the perfect student and wish I hadn’t stressed as much about it as I did. When it came to my studies I was a perfectionist and I worried about my grades. The crazy thing is I always did great but if got a 99% on an assignment or test I needed to know why it wasn’t a 100%. I would really worry about not getting straight A’s in all my classes. I’ll never forget my French class, I received a C on a progress report and worried over it for three weeks.

7. Who has been your greatest inspiration and why?

My greatest inspiration is my mom. She wasn’t afforded the opportunities that I was and I think because she was very aware of that she made it a point to let her children know from where she came, and what she did wrong and why it was important to not do those same things.

8. Why did you become an educator?

As far back as I can remember, teaching was all I ever wanted to do. I was the kid who played school with dolls and teddy bears. I would set them up in a line, like they were my students. I had a great experience in school, too, and wonderful teachers who took me out of my comfort zone, saw something in me and nurtured it, and in a way I wanted to repay them by doing the same thing for my own students.

9. What’s does an ideal classroom look like to you?

The ideal classroom is one where the teacher is not front and center. The conversations are among students…they are discussing and debating their own work as well as productively struggling through their work because in their mind they can’t stop until they get it right. I think of the term organized chaos, where there are multiple things going on all at once—everyone is not going to be on the same page because we’re all different.

10. What’s the most useful tip or advice you recently received?

A really great friend of mine recently reminded me of a Martin Luther King, Jr. quote, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” This came about while we were watching a football game. One of my favorite teams hasn’t been doing that well, the Seattle Sea Hawks. They were defending NFL champions and this season they have not started out doing well. In a moment of haste I was saying I’m not going to support them anymore and my good friend made me reflect on this Martin Luther King, Jr. quote.

Welcome Families

Welcome new families and welcome back returning families. School officially began this week for all students.

The start of a new school year is such an exciting time to meet new people, reconnect with friends, and reflect on your goals for the coming year. One goal that I am most happy to share with you is our push to have more parent communication between parents, staff, and teachers. It feels like we are going back to our roots of how we started in 2010 as a homegrown charter school. I want the parent buy in that we had and continue to have to be reinvigorated this year.

This year, teachers will reach out to parents more and break down any walls that exist between parents and teachers, which shouldn’t exist but we know sometimes does. Some of the barriers that arise between parents and teachers are previous bad experiences either with the teacher or a parent, language barriers, or age difference when a teacher is very young and they feel insecure speaking to parents.

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Christina and daughter Anne

When I started teaching, I was timid and nervous when talking to parents. Since that first year, parent-teacher relationships have been important to me, even the hard conversations.

I’m even more sensitive now that I have a daughter entering her first year of school.

We’re going to break down the parent/teacher barriers by providing professional development for staff as well asproviding multiple opportunities for teachers and parents to come together and communicate.

We will have more parent events this year. More fun parent events: a mother daughter spa afternoon, Halloween night, potluck dinners, community service and a variety of other events that will happen each month. In the past, parents sometimes felt that they were not able to go on trips as chaperones and we want to dispel that myth. There will be caps to the number of parent cha perones but we want parents to go on field trips with kids, especially in the middle school but we encourage it in all grades.

I’m encouraged about our Parent Council and welcome Ms. Lourdes Fernandez and Ms. Jhoselyn Almonte as respective heads of our new High School and Middle School Parent Councils. Ms. Nancy Betances, who many of you know and love, is taking on the new role as our Middle School Parent Coordinator.

“I am very happy that we have this Parent Council forum for us” says Ms. Fernandez. We will be meeting every other month and we want you there. The parents who are part of the Parent Council know we can’t do this alone. We need as much help as we can get. We welcome you.” Please join parent Ms. Fernandez and Ms. Almonte, along with Ms. Betances at their parent meetings. For dates, see Parent Council.

I feel that the parent involvement will push us to be better as a school and when kids see their parents involved in the school it provides additional accountability for them. This also means that there’s going to be stronger safety net for the kids.

Christina Reyes
Executive Director

A Few Introductions

I hope you enjoyed your summer and had an opportunity to spend extra time with your family and friends.

This is the first of many times I hope to connect with you throughout the course of the year on this blog. Today, I want to introduce two new staff members and announce new roles for two people who have been with Inwood Academy since the beginning.

We have our wonderful new High School Principal in Residence, Ms. Stacy Woodard. She comes to us as a former academic consultant and teacher. Ms. Jenny Pichardo is our first COO/CFO and is in charge of everything that’s not academic—the buildings, budget, school food, transportation, and so much more. Mr. Christian Guerrero, who is one of the founding leaders and helped me to write the charter application, is now in charge of college and career readiness at the High School. He will be working with the students to make sure they have a pathway to a successful college experience or career experience.

As many of you already know, Ms. Valerie Hoekstra is our new Middle School Principal. She helped me write the original charter school application in 2009 and led the Special Education Team for five years and served on the Instructional Leadership Team before taking on her new role in June.

Please help me welcome Ms. Woodard and Ms. Pichardo to the Inwood Academy family and congratulate Mr. Guerrero and Ms. Hoekstra on their new roles.

Christina Reyes
Executive Director