Community Roots Charter School is a rigorous learning community where education is embedded in meaningful real-world contexts and children are deliberately taught to see the connections between school and the world. Community Roots students will meet or exceed the Common Core standards and be prepared to excel in the 21st century by becoming independent thinkers and working productively within a diverse group of learners. At Community Roots, students learn to combine curiosity with appropriate application, which leads to deep understanding and the confidence to become who they want to be.
Approaching Our Work with Love
Along with our CRCS core values, we see social justice as a cornerstone of our educational community, where honoring one another becomes a key element of academic success. Most importantly, we believe that all of this work is only possible and meaningful if it is approached with love:
The moment we choose to love we begin to move against domination, against oppression. The moment we choose to love we begin to move towards freedom, to act in ways that liberate ourselves and others. That action is the testimony of love as the practice of freedom. – Bell Hooks, Outlaw Culture
Community Roots Six Core Values are:
- Work hard
- Work together
- Honor yourself and others
- Try new things
- Help each other
- Be reflective
The core values provide the foundation of our culture and provide a common language for students and staff to discuss CRCS behavior expectations. Families are provided with a Family Handbook that details the core values and expectations associated with them. Teachers use the core values to model responsible community membership through their relationships with colleagues, students and community members.
All CRCS teachers reference the CRCS core values in every day instruction. With CRCS’ focus on project-based work and group work, students receive frequent opportunities to practice the core values in action. In addition, every fall the CRCS elementary school conducts a structured schoolwide series of units about each core value. Each core value is highlighted in a two-week unit that includes activities, read-alouds, and discussions. Each unit includes an opportunity for buddy classes to learn together (kindergarten is paired with 3rd grade, 1st with 4th, and 2nd with 5th). Our Core Values are also integrated into the work of our Vertical Teams.
CRCS Anti-bias Approach
CRCS applies an anti-bias approach throughout our program to create and sustain an environment where a diverse student population can thrive. The anti-bias approach prioritizes issues of identity, discrimination, and social justice in our curriculum and our professional development. CRCS strives to be a space where all staff, students, and families feel supported, empowered and fully engaged.
“Anti-bias education incorporates the philosophy of multicultural education while expanding to include other forms of bias, stereotypes and misinformation. Anti-bias education not only addresses race and ethnicity but also includes gender, language, religion, sexual orientation, physical and mental abilities and economic class. Anti-bias education takes an active, problem solving approach that is integrated into all aspects of an existing curriculum and a school’s environment. An anti-bias curriculum promotes an understanding of social problems and provides students with strategies for improving social conditions.” [The Anti-Defamation League]
By prioritizing issues of identity, discrimination and social justice in our curriculum and our professional development, the school strives to be a brave-space (a space that supports people to take risks) for differences of all kinds, where all staff, students, and families feel supported, empowered and fully engaged.
Through our commitment to an anti-bias curriculum, we strive to create a learning environment where:
- History is seen as being made up of multiple perspectives
- Students build connections between the historical content of the curriculum and their everyday lives
- Topics are openly addressed around (but not limited to) race, gender, sexuality, class, and physical and mental ability
- Students are supported in exploring their multi-dimensional and developing identities
- There is a shared language around inclusion and diversity
- Teachers and families have a clear understanding of social justice concepts that will be introduced and studied in each grade
- Different perspectives are shared and welcome
Our Anti-Bias Collective (ABC) provides a structure for addressing the aforementioned issues. Additionally, our Coordinator of Equity Practices and Anti-Bias Education expands our capacity to implement our anti-bias approach. As part of CRCS leadership team, our Coordinator assesses and addresses differences in student performance across various sub groups, participates in audits of CRCS equity response, and helps maintain a link between equity work and inclusive best practices by providing professional development for CRCS staff.
CRCS is established as a leader in the field of anti-bias and social justice education. Members of the CRCS team, through Roots ConnectED, have delivered professional development training on our approach to anti-bias education and social justice for charter and district schools throughout New York State, and for schools in California and Louisiana. In addition, we have presented trainings for representatives from the New York City Department of Education.
Equity and CRCS’ Restorative Approach to Discipline
CRCS follows a restorative approach to discipline. This approach emphasizes building positive relationships among members of the community. These relationships are then used as the foundation of communication when conflict arises or harm has been done in the community. Restorative Practices provide structured opportunities for community members to communicate their feelings, while hearing from others who have been impacted by their actions. The result is a more thoughtful approach to unwanted behaviors within the school community while minimizing disciplinary actions that pull students out of the school day. We regularly evaluate culture and discipline procedures using discipline data, classroom observation, and feedback from students and teachers.
CRCS is a safe environment where students can grow academically, socially, and emotionally. We work to maintain an inclusive learning environment that supports students’ social and emotional growth through several strategies: a focus on our core values, an anti-bias approach, and middle school crew. In addition, our Integrated Studies and Humanities units are designed to provide students with the skills and perspectives necessary to become fully engaged members of their communities.
CRCS Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion
Since its founding in 2006, Community Roots Charter School (CRCS) has been committed to creating a learning environment which is diverse and inclusive. By offering students the opportunity to learn and grow side by side with peers from varied backgrounds and abilities, we believe that graduates will leave our school with a sense of community which transcends the traditional borders of race, culture and socioeconomic status, as well as an ability to challenge the misconceptions around gender and sexuality. Using research and an understanding of our own community, we have developed a comprehensive approach to teaching students how people’s experiences and interactions are shaped by their identity. Through a rich social studies focus and a social-emotional curriculum, we aim to equip all of our students with the skills and perspectives necessary to become fully engaged members of their communities.
Community Roots is located in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. As a means of safeguarding the socio-economic diversity of the school in a neighborhood with constantly shifting demographics and intense demand for quality elementary education, the school’s admissions lottery was weighted to ensure that 40% of incoming Kindergartners are from the Ingersoll Houses, Walt Whitman Houses, and Farragut Houses, public housing directly surrounding the school building.