by Jessica Campbell, at 1:26 pm
When Democracy Prep students stroll into school wearing t-shirts that read “I’m kind of a big deal” and “Don’t act like you’re not impressed,” they don’t get in trouble for not wearing their uniforms. Instead, they get applauded for winning the right to wear the celebratory shirts by hitting a major milestone on their journey towards reading 1.2 million words.
Requiring students to log the pages or books they read is common practice in city schools. But the expectation is a bit different at Democracy Prep.
Schools in the network regularly see students’ math scores shoot up. But reading scores proved harder to budge. The network’s founder and superintendent, Seth Andrew, chalked the phenomenon up to differences between the two subjects. In math, a student can be strong in geometry but weak in algebra, but literacy is built on more cumulative knowledge, he explained: In order to raise students’ reading scores, they mostly needed to read more.
In 2010, when Democracy Prep Harlem opened, literacy specialist Ajaka Roth and principal Emmanuel George thought about ways to make this happen. It wasn’t by requiring students to read more books, they decided.