July 14, 2023
Dear Families and Staff,
During the quiet months of summer, we make it a priority to reflect on the past year right before the rush of back-to-school begins. Now we wanted to share some lessons learned, celebrate accomplishments, and pay tribute to our 2023 graduates.
Let’s start with academics. We spend many hours reviewing our academic outcomes as a data-driven school. Our data informs our practice, identifies our weaknesses, and allows us to knowledgeably celebrate our successes. For these reasons, we can truly say we practice both the art and science of teaching. Without data, we would not understand our own goals, or we would assume we were just lucky when we met them!
This year more than 60% of our students earned the AP Scholar designation (scoring a 3 or higher on at least 3 AP Exams). This is consistent year over year and showcases the strength of our program. But it isn’t due to the fact that fewer students are opting to take APs. Not at all. In fact, we ordered 315 AP exams this year, the most ever in our school’s history.
Also in high school, we celebrated our National Merit Scholar winner Maren W. ’23, and we also now have exciting national merit scholarship news with our rising seniors. We have the longest list of commended scholars and finalists in our school’s history. A third of our rising seniors were recognized because they scored in the top 1% on the PSAT in NY state. This is significant even by BASIS standards!
It’s not only in high school that we’re seeing success. We had plenty of year-over-year increases in the Comprehensive Testing Program (CTP) assessment which measures primary and middle school students’ growth in verbal reasoning, reading comprehension, quantitative reasoning, and mathematics. Our 8th graders had a 7% increase over last year’s averages, while 4th and 5th respectively had 6% and 3% increases over last year’s averages.
But what about our current seniors? Our 5th graduating class? We’re incredibly proud of them! 40% of students were offered spots at colleges in the top 25 ranked national and international institutions. We had students accepted to:
- Amherst College, Carnegie Mellon University, Columbia University, Cornell University, Imperial College London, New York University, Northwestern University, University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, University of Toronto, University of Virginia, Williams College.
- Four out of 22 of our students applying to colleges this year received offers of admission from Cornell University.
Our 2022-2023 school year was one of a return to traditions and events we desperately missed – from the Spring Musical to Debate competitions and Senior trips. We embraced seeing each other in person at Coffee with Administration meetings and added Open Gyms and fun activities. Kids enjoyed field trips once again and we were happy to have a year that brought them together more.
Throughout the 2022-2023 school year one thing remained the same— student accomplishments across all grades continued to reaffirm the vision behind all that we have built here in Brooklyn. Our educators took pride in providing structure and stability to support content mastery.
Our students continued to excel at their studies and outside the classroom, our students’ accomplishments made us incredibly proud. An overview of 2022–2023 student accolades follows, broken out by discipline.
- Scholastic Arts and Writing Competition – Our students were recognized yet again with many honors this year. One national Silver Medal in drawing and illustration (see image on right). Five regional Gold Keys, 5 Silver Keys, and 8 honorable mentions in photography, digital art, painting, drawing illustration.
- Our Upper School Choir was invited to perform at Radio City Music Hall before the Christmas Spectacular once again!
- High School Band was asked to play at the New York City Marathon to cheer on the runners and engage the spectators.
- Our Spring Musical The Addams Family was a rave hit. Upper School drama performances in elective classes were a wonderful celebration of creativity all year long.
- Our entire Fine Arts team put on wonderful festivals before Winter Break and at the end of the school year.
Photo: The 2023 Spring Musical The Addams Family. Image taken by Danny Dolan ’22 @dannydolan_
- Our Debate Club sent our teams to city championships and to state championships. One of our students, Isaac W. ’24, even won the top “team” award at a competition over Spring Break!
- The Grizzly Co-Editor-in-Chief Laila G. ’24 won the prestigious Al Neuharth Student Journalism Award and is representing New York State in their student journalism conference in D.C. in June. Photo: A winning team at the Primary School Chess National Championships. We are still making room for that big trophy in our trophy case!
- Our Bears won 5th place team in the very competitive K-6 U1400 division at the Primary Chess National Championships – despite being down one player! Aiden C. ’30 also placed 6th individually at nationals. There were many, many other chess accolades throughout the year.
- Sameer M. ’28 was a semi-finalist at the National History Bee and the U.S. Academic Bee as well as a quarter-finalist at the International Geography Bee
- Samantha G. ’24 was published in the University of Pennsylvania’s peer-reviewed journal Perspectives on Urban Education for her reflections on life and school in New York City during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Hunter R. Rawlings III Cornell Presidential Research Scholar: Noah L. ’23 was awarded the prestigious Presidential Research Scholarship to Cornell University, where he will be attending this fall. Only 230 students are inducted each year. This was based on his academics and past research project for Trinity Church Wall Street.
- Rising senior Alex R. ’24 won the 2023 Strogatz Prize – MOMATH National Mathematics Communication Competition – for his submission visualizing the topic of gradients and vector fields from his Multivariable Calculus. He drew a gradient/vector field of his face with the angle/direction changing according to position in 3-day space. You can see his facial expressions and colors used depending on movement along the axes.
- Our MATHCOUNTS team came in second in Brooklyn and went on to compete at the New York State Championships.
- The largest group of students ever sat for the MATH KANGAROO assessment for younger grades across both our campuses.
Photo: Ms. Reyes and Mr. Kaponyas pose with their students who participated in Math Kangaroo this year.
- A rising senior Charlie P. ’24 was named the 2023 Borlaug Scholar in the World Food Prize New York Youth Institute on his paper and presentation about obesity in Nauru.
- Our school won second and third place in New York States TEAMS competition. Thank you to Physics teacher Josh Winter for continuing to grow the team.
- Our Co-ed JHS basketball team won the CONSAT league championship after an undefeated season under Coach York!!! Go Bears!!!
- Our CSAA Boys Varsity Soccer team made the league playoffs and Coach McCollum was very proud of their determination and drive during the year.
- CSAA Girls Volleyball made the playoffs after a tremendous fall season with Coach Nalipinski. They continued Volleyball Club this spring and are looking ahead to next year!
- CSAA Co-ed JHS Flag Football team had a strong first year and made the playoffs with Coaches Wekilsky and Ryan. Team spirit could not be stronger, and we want to thank families for showing up consistently to cheer on our Bears.
- CSAA Co-ed JHS Outdoor Soccer: Our Bears had a great season, won both semi-final games, and made it to the league finals. While they did not win, they showed great determination and teamwork. Athletic Director McCollum and Coach Kevin were very proud of our Bearsll
- USATF Junior Olympians
- Tasi-Ann C. ’25 earned the title of NY Junior Olympian for both Long Jump and Triple Jump. She also placed third in the Long Jump event!
- Isaiah C.’28 was named a NY Junior Olympian in 200m and 400m races. He competed against students one to two years older than him and achieved the top position!
Photos (Clockwise from Upper Left Corner): 2022 Girls Varsity Volleyball Team, 2022 Varsity Boys Soccer Team, 2023 CONSAT Coed JHS Basketball Champions, and 2023 CSAA Coed JHS Outdoor Soccer Team.
- This year our high school team arranged a Second Annual Day of Service in the fall to bring our community together and make a difference locally.
- Our National Honor and National Junior Honor Society students dedicated more than 2,000 hours to service projects this year!
- Students worked to redistribute more than 8,000 lunches to RHAP throughout the school year to the Red Hook Art Project. High School students regularly volunteered for Homework Help and even the gala. Families supported RHAP by attending the annual gala as well!
- Back-to-School Textbook Exchange – Families donated nearly 200 textbooks and others bought used textbooks to benefit the Red Hook Art Project.
- Our first School Supply Drive in partnership with School Tool Box provided 80 school supply boxes to students through Red Hook Initiative.
- 500 coats, hats, scarves, gloves, and blankets as well as 200 care packages were assembled to support Red Hook’s Redemption Church community.
- Toy Drive – Families donated more than 175 toys requested by parents who visit Good Shepherd counseling and wanted presents to give their children during the holidays. Our Lower School families donated nearly 50 games and toys to the Myrtle Avenue BKLYN Association.
- Our community donated more than 310 food items to Community Help in Park Slope and created more than 300 Thanksgiving cards for Heights and Hills to deliver with their Thanksgiving meals to seniors.
These awards and examples of community involvement are an amazing testament to the school and the power of the curriculum and teachers. Most importantly, they are an incredible representation of our creative, diverse, driven scholars. It is important to us that as a school we prioritize opportunity, allowing students to showcase their skills, define their interests, and pursue their passions.
Without community, academic successes are temporary and limited. We have made significant growth as a community this year, and it will further our students’ academic success and our school’s reputation. We see this anecdotally in the conversations we have together and the cultivation of mutual respect and trust. Not every conversation is one where we agree – nor should it be – but we continue to make our students’ growth and well-being the priority. But beyond the anecdotes, we also see our community’s growth in our achievements outside the classroom.
We all recognize that opportunity in class and to a large extent out of class comes down to the talent of our teachers. We also recognize that the curriculum that attracts families and students to BASIS Independent Brooklyn comes to life in a teacher’s hands. We have worked hard to recruit teachers who bring something extra to the school and we continue to attract talented teachers.
Teachers love this school because they are allowed to teach the subjects they know best the way they know best. They’re allowed to share their passion for their subjects with their students and this builds engagement. We worked hard this year on retaining teachers and the retaining of teachers worked us hard as well. But we’ve learned a lot about bringing new teachers into the fold and creating more consistent expectations and disciplinary approaches to supplement autonomy in the classroom. We will continue to support teachers in their transition to our school and growth with us and we have many veteran teachers that have stepped up to become involved in supporting their peers.
As we close our thoughts on the year, we want to salute our Class of 2023 for shaping our school. We are grateful to them and want them to know they always have a place here. Our team is already planning homecoming events around the Winter Break and Senior Projects when students return from their universities. What we want to ask from our alumni and parents is help to provide professional advice and even connect our students after they graduate to internships and opportunities. This coming year we will be formalizing and expanding our mentorship program, and we need the help of our community to open doors for our wonderful students.
Overall, we want our students to look back, feel a great sense of pride in their school, and share in the school’s success that they helped create. We have much to celebrate, and we’re in an exciting position moving into the year ahead marking our 10th school year educating students in Brooklyn. We want our students, teachers, staff, and families to feel a part of all our community has built together and the great opportunities ahead.
Photo: Co-valedictorian Katey B. ’23 addressing her peers at graduation. Image here and at the top of the blog post taken by Danny Dolan ’22 @dannydolan_