As we reflect on the New York State Test results, we’re seeing glowing highlights across our network. This week, we’re kicking off our “Behind the Numbers” series and shining a spotlight on just a few of these bright spots. First up: we’re heading to Bushwick, Brooklyn
In math, eighth-graders scored 92% proficient, performing in the top .1% of all New York middle schools. AF Bushwick Middle, where 87% of students receive free or reduced-price lunch, outperformed schools in New York’s most affluent districts, registering the third-highest proficiency rate in the state.
But there’s more to it than just numbers. To bring you the stories of the teachers and students working hard to achieve these results, we sat down with Joseph Rabison, an associate dean and eighth grade math teacher.
Where were you when you learned about your state test results? Who was the first person you called or texted?
“You guys got a 92%!” my fellow dean Nisha exclaimed during our quick check-in after school in her office. My heart sunk for a second, and I was hit with a wave of mixed emotions. I felt a deep sense of pride for what our kids had accomplished, and I was through the roof that we were the first grade and subject at AF to top 90% proficiency. Wow.
But, I still couldn’t help thinking to myself, “Yeah… but our goal was 95%.” I know that was probably a ridiculous feeling to have, but that was the goal we set with our kids and that was the goal we stared at all year long. I truly believed our kids could have met it. I knew I couldn’t draw any conclusions until we received comparison data from the other charters in NYC and from our benchmark districts. So, I waited.
Fast forward to when I received an email from our regional superintendent Chi with the subject line “Congrats!” I opened the email, and in true Chi fashion, he provided some analysis. He had sorted ALL 1,960 middle schools in the entire state of New York by mean scaled score, and AF Bushwick 8th graders were #3. I was stunned. I had never experienced a stronger feeling of pride and accomplishment than I did that night, and it was all for our kids. They blew expectations out of the water and showed everyone what is truly possible.
I instantly texted our principal Riley with some absurd words of excitement and then asked if I could post the results on my teacher Instagram account. I had to tell the kids. He replied, “Definitely.” After posting on Instagram, my sister called me within minutes to share the excitement, and then I called my parents to let them know. Everyone was elated.
Can you share a story that speaks to the level of commitment a specific student had in preparing for the test?
The first scholar that pops into my head is Xavier. I taught him for three years in a row. Our first year together, he scored a 2 on the math exam. The next year, he earned a 3. I was really, really proud of him. This was a big moment for Xavier. In 8th grade, he worked harder than I ever saw him work before. He really made strides, and I could see his mindset shifting, and I could see the positive change unfold before my eyes. In his 8th grade year at our school, Xavier earned a 4 in math and a 4 in ELA. Double 4s. Over my three years teaching him, Xavier taught me a lot about growth mindset and what is possible. He helped solidify for me the idea that we should never, ever give up on any kid no matter what. They can do it. I’m grateful for the impact that Xavier has had on me, and I’m excited to see how he does in the next chapter of his life at AF University Prep High.
What about a teacher who just stuck it out and demonstrated ambitious persistence?
I couldn’t be more proud of, and grateful for, Justin Grodman and Alyssa Glanzer—the other two members of Team 8 math at AF Bushwick. The amount of sacrifice both of them put in to help our kids to achieve these results is mind blowing. Justin planned effective interventions based on what scholars needed, and he also planned the Problem of the Day for the entire 8th grade cohort, which allowed all of our kids to develop strong habits for approaching multi-step problems that were even more rigorous than what’s on the math state exam.
Alyssa was a TIR last year, and made huge progress in her own development to better serve our kids. She worked after school to help our kids with their homework and answer any questions they had from class. She worked in small groups with our most struggling scholars and went above and beyond to plan alternative lessons based on their needs. On top of that, she vetted all of our homework assignments to ensure that we were sending kids home with well-aligned homework problems for practice.
Both Justin and Alyssa went all-in during our prep. They were always ready to rock and do whatever it took to get the best results possible. Again, I’m so grateful for these two because our kids couldn’t have done it without them.
If you were going to pick a song that symbolizes how you feel about your team, what would it be?
“HUMBLE.” by Kendrick Lamar (please excuse any expletives). I, as well as our team, am just insanely humbled by our kids and what they’ve accomplished. We, as teachers, are always striving to get better for the sole purpose of being the best teachers possible for our kids. It’s been a journey for me looping with this group of students and teaching them in 7th and 8th grade math. While we had excellent results this year, I’m really excited and motivated to keep pushing myself, learning new ways of approaching math instruction, and learning from past missteps to provide the best education possible for our future kids. The work is never done, and we’re all eager to keep going hard at it to help make real change in our country.
Thanks for sharing your story, Joseph!
Readers, keep checking back as we continue our profiles.