Only four charter schools in the nation have received the designation as “Centers of Excellence” by the National Center for Special Education in Charter Schools (NCSECS) and the most recent charter public school to receive a Leviticus loan is one of them. Friends of Brooklyn Laboratory Charter School (BLCS) earned the recognition from NCSECS, yet the school makes it clear it’s not exclusively a “special education” school, but one designed to create individualized learning experiences for all its students, including those with particular learning challenges.
BLCS’ expansion plan envisions full enrollment at 1,774 students by the 2021-22 school year. Financing of $2.3 million provided from Leviticus, plus additional financing from partners Nonprofit Finance Fund, Capital Impact Partners, and Charter School Growth Fund, will support outfitting the newly leased space as a school facility and create a third campus for BLCS. Four of the five floors will have new classrooms, and there will be a cafeteria, a performing arts space, and new offices, with the last floor dedicated to presentation and meeting space.
In recognizing BLCS, the national NCSECS chose to highlight how the school has created programs that are inclusive of students with disabilities and “achieves higher-than-average” academic outcomes. Based on 2016 data, students with disabilities (SWD) represented 28% of BLCS’ entire school population compared to only 14% in the surrounding neighborhood Community School District 13 and 19% in New York City-wide traditional public schools.
Equally significant was the strong advances in academic performance of BLCS students with disabilities from 2015 and 2016. For English Language Arts (ELA), BLCS increased SWD performance from 5 to 16%, compared to 8% to 12% for the neighborhood school district. In mathematics, student performance increased from 6% to 17%, compared to 10% to 13% in the neighborhood district. BLCS has continued strong academic performance trends into 2017, with seventh and eighth grade levels significantly outperforming District 13 students on state exams in both math and ELA.