The Next Einstein Project: How this low-income public high school graduates 100% of its Black students

Who will emerge as the next Albert Einsteins—uncommon genius to join the pantheon of humanity’s greatest theorists, scientists, mathematicians, artists, and philosophers? If we as a modern society get it right, people of talent equal to the extraordinary physicist won’t be living and dying in cotton fields and sweatshops.

Instead they would be sought out and identified in their youth, then given all support and opportunity to flourish—especially in the face of barriers unique to their backgrounds and stumbles common to all young people.

It’s with this hope in mind that we’ve titled this series “The Next Einstein Project,” with the goal to highlight innovations, ideas, programs, and even entire schools that successfully lift up disadvantaged students, particularly Black and Hispanic children.

First up: a profile of the Brooklyn College Academy, a public high school that graduates 100 percent of its Black students. What’s its secret? Here are a few excerpts, but check out The Hechinger Report for the full article:

School officials say their model is replicable – but only in schools where the adults are willing to pay relentless attention and to hold the students to consistently high expectations.

The secret to the school’s success is not simply which students they pick, administrators say (although they do get to choose – last year 2,800 students applied for 150 seats), but an unremitting and personalized focus on each individual.

That level of attention goes beyond individual administrators. Each student has a guidance counselor, assigned starting in ninth grade, who works with them for all four years and becomes their college counselor. Caseloads at the approximately 600-student school generally stay under 150 students, compared with the national average of 478.

He keeps core English and math classes small, but lets others get up to around 32 pupils. There are basketball teams (the girls won the citywide Division B title this year) but no athletic program beyond that, and no after-school clubs. Still, every child learns an instrument in ninth grade and can participate in the school’s World Ensemble, a nationally acclaimed orchestra that plays global music.

One of Mazzarella’s most significant changes was the addition of the early college program. Two years of global history are crammed into one, and most of the students pass all their Regents exams except trigonometry by the end of 10th grade. As juniors, they are freed up to take classes at Brooklyn College taught by college professors and adjuncts; on average, BCA students graduate with 25 college credits.

Rennis, 43, has grouped the students by grade and gender on a one-way text app on her phone. She sends out reminders and words of wisdom about three times a week and during school breaks: Make positive choices. Respect yourself. It’s cold, so wear a jacket.

The group developed a curriculum, which included grooming tips, such as how to get a nice haircut, what a proper suit looks like and how to tie a tie. Other topics centered on how to meet and treat girls, getting good grades and what it means to be a man in today’s society.

Reference: “At This Low-Income Brooklyn Public High School, 100 Percent of Black Students Graduate,” The Hechinger Report (2015).