Zach Segall is the dean of special services at AF Crown Heights Elementary, and in 2017-18 school year, will be the founding principal of AF Aspire Middle, New York’s first Greenfield school.
On August 17th, Achievement First Aspire Middle School will open its doors in East New York, Brooklyn to over 100 curious, passionate and ambitious fifth grade scholars. Like every Achievement First school, Aspire Middle will join a network committed to advancing our mission through our belief that all students, regardless of race or socioeconomic status, can succeed if they have access to a great education. On top of that, AF Aspire Middle will also join the growing cohort of Achievement First Greenfield schools – schools designed using a new model to accelerate academics, cultivate student investment and life habits and skills, and have scholars find excellence in enrichment while also building an awesomely powerful community. As the founding principal of the school, I find myself filled with both excitement and a tremendous amount of gratitude.
I’m excited that by June of 2021, these same scholars will leave our school prepared to take and pass 6-10 A.P. courses by high school graduation, ranking with top students around the world on PISA, and ready to perform at high levels in the country’s top universities. They will experience the joy of pursing their passions. Our scholars will hone habits that promote productive and joyful lives: personal growth, drive, empathy, gratitude, teamwork and curiosity. And they will continue to be supported by an awesomely powerful community—of scholars, staff and families—jointly committed to inspiring one another to push on in the pursuit of their dreams.
How do we plan to achieve these ambitious, critical outcomes? AF Aspire scholars will have greater access to technology and small-group learning, as our scholars experience a blend of both self-directed and direct instruction—all aimed at utilizing a new curriculum intended to deliberately cultivate world and word knowledge and maximize the amount of feedback our scholars receive during the school day. Our scholars will also participate in two, daily enrichment courses—ranging from dance to martial arts or STEM inventions to music. The goal is that scholars will find their passion in at least one of these courses and explore the discipline to the level of deep mastery. AF Aspire Middle scholars will also participate in expeditions: two-week long experiential learning opportunities that drive toward a meaningful product and end in a showcase of what they learned. Scholars will gather daily in small groups lead by a “coach,” where they will reflect on their progress and set short-term goals. And, these components are just some of the ways in which the Greenfield model will help drive toward these outcomes.
AF Aspire Middle will not be alone in our pursuit of these goals. We have the invaluable opportunity to learn from the work of Elm City College Preparatory in New Haven, CT, where the staff and scholars pioneered the Greenfield school model. We also have the opportunity to learn alongside Achievement First Providence Mayoral Academy Middle – a new middle school also adopting our Greenfield model in Providence, RI. Founding a new school, and using a new and highly-innovative school model, would not be possible if it wasn’t for the support of the Achievement First network of schools. I’ve learned that we’re a network so committed to our mission and beliefs that we’re willing to innovate on top of an existing and successful school design to further achieve educational equity—both in Brooklyn, Connecticut and Rhode Island as well as across our country.
August 17th will be an exciting day. It will mark the first day of fifth grade for our scholars, the first day of school for AF Aspire Middle, my first day as a principal and a culmination of our belief that continued innovation will help Achievement First continue to provide the best education for our scholars – an education that will close the opportunity gap and advance the cause of educational equity.
If you are also committed to innovative approaches to achieve educational equity, I would love for you to join us as a founding member of the Achievement First Aspire Middle School team. Please send your resume directly to Jamiegoldstein@achievementfirst.org with the subject “Greenfield Position.” Please note: we’re only able to respond to candidates that we think would be a good fit to advance in the application process.