Students in a horticulture class at Veritas Academy in Queens were scooping soil into plastic soda bottles with sawed-off bottoms, creating mini-ecosystems with layers for plants, compost, and a small fish.
The idea to pursue this multi-week project wasn’t solely dictated by Vittoria Venuti, the teacher shuttling around the classroom that recent morning. This science elective had grown out of overwhelming student interest, and students themselves had a direct say in choosing to experiment with creating small-scale ecosystems.
Veritas is one of several schools across the city that have embraced a “Schoolwide Enrichment Model.” The approach emphasizes that students of various ability levels should receive high-level, hands-on, project-based instruction — not just those labeled “gifted and talented.” Educators develop projects based on their students’ interests.
The school’s model is at the heart of a broader debate in New York City education about whether students at different academic levels should be served in the same classrooms.
When it comes to tackling high school segregation, some activists and experts are pushing the city to scale back or overhaul “screened” admissions that choose students based on grades, test scores, and attendance. These schools also tend to be starkly segregated by race, class, and previous academic performance. Such changes remain controversial. Many families and advocates argue that maintaining programs that track students by ability are essential to ensure that academically advanced students are adequately challenged.
Officials at Veritas see their program as a proof point that selective admissions aren’t necessary to offer academically rigorous classes. The school offers priority to students in Queens, but does not admit students based on their academic records. The school’s student body is 61% Hispanic, 13% Asian, 13% black, and 9% white. Nearly 69% of families come from low-income families, roughly in line with the district average.
Read the full article about Veritas Academy’s schoolwide enrichment model by Alex Zimmerman at Chalkbeat New York.
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