This post originally appeared at SparkAction on May 11, 2016.
Many students switch to a new building for high school. In my case, I also had to switch to a totally new approach to learning.
My public high school, the Brooklyn School for Collaborative Studies (BCS), is a New York City Outward Bound expeditionary learning school. Outward Bound schools focus on teaching students how to think critically and creatively and to apply their learning to real world situations. That means that instead of multiple choice exams and standardized tests, BCS is a competency–based school that uses Performance-Based Assessment Tests (PBAT) to determine when a student has mastered a skill or subject. We call them “p-bats.” These PBATs approved by the Board of Education as an alternative to the Regents, the state test required for graduation.
PBATs are like thesis papers. Students do independent research and write a long, original paper that we then present and defend before a panel of teachers, students and others who are familiar with the subject area.
When I started as a freshmen at BCS, I was shocked to learn about this approach. It seemed like extra work to me—why couldn’t we just focus on the Regents? Was it even possible to write papers that long?
This was the mindset I had coming from middle school, and I was not a lazy student: I spent Saturdays in classes to prep for Regents. Many of my peers had the same initial reactionsto PBATs. Some, preferring a more traditional approach, decided to leave the school. I decided to stay at BCS; I was up to the challenge, and the teachers seemed supportive. (more…)