Commentary on a continuous improvement case study at WHEELS was featured in The 74. This piece was authored by Aurora Kushner, Director of Continuous Improvement at NYC Outward Bound Schools.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is NYC Outward Bound Schools’ mission?
To use Outward Bound’s educational approach to effect positive and lasting change in the lives of New York City’s young people and their public schools.
How is NYC Outward Bound Schools funded?
Activities are funded through a diverse mix of public and private dollars. Please check our Financials page for details.
How many participants experience NYC Outward Bound Schools programs each year?
Annually we serve more than 10,000 young people and about 1,000 educators from over 70 NYC public schools and youth-serving organizations.
What is Outward Bound?
Founded in 1941, Outward Bound is a non-profit educational organization that changes lives, builds teams and transforms schools though challenge and discovery. Outward Bound’s founder, Kurt Hahn, was a renowned educator who emphasized experience-based learning approaches that incorporate adventure, service, and opportunities for intellectual development, character growth, and the exercise of leadership. Learn more about Outward Bound and Kurt Hahn [link to OBUSA site].
How does NYC Outward Bound Schools fit into the overall Outward Bound organization?
NYC Outward Bound Schools is an autonomous 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization which operates pursuant to a charter from Outward Bound USA. Founded in 1987, NYC Outward Bound Schools is dedicated to bringing the lessons and activities of Outward Bound to NYC’s young people and their public schools.
What is EL Education?
EL Education, formerly known as Expeditionary Learning, was created in 1991 through the collaboration of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and Outward Bound. EL Education is a leading K-12 nonprofit that is helping build great public schools in diverse communities in 35 states, serving over 200,000 students through its school network and literacy partnerships. It provides highly respected professional development and open educational resources, including its curriculum, books, and videos. In New York City, the EL Education whole school model is delivered by NYC Outward Bound Schools.
What is EL credentialing?
In 2013, EL Education introduced a credentialing process as a vehicle for assessing whether schools are implementing the EL model at a high level of quality. The credentialing process is aligned with the three dimensions of student achievement that all EL schools (including those in our network) strive for: mastery of knowledge and skills; development of character; and the production of high quality work. To receive credentialing status, schools must present a portfolio of evidence that demonstrates their exemplary practices in all three of these dimensions. Nationwide, there are 33 EL-credentialed schools. Four of our network schools, MELS, Leaders, MAELS, and Channel View are already credentialed, and our goal is for all of our schools to either attain credentialed status or be well on the pathway to being credentialed by June 2020.
Our Network Schools
What does it mean for NYC Outward Bound Schools to partner with the NYC Department of Education in running our schools?
While the NYC Department of Education is legally responsible for our network schools, they are jointly run with us and we hold ourselves accountable for their performance. NYC Outward Bound Schools is involved in setting and shaping overall school strategy and direction, and in all significant school decisions, including the hiring and firing of the principal. We bring our distinctive educational approach—which joins together demanding and engaging learning, community, and character—to each of our schools through an extensive package of services and supports. Read more about the specific supports we provide our schools here.
What kinds of schools do you operate? Are they charter schools?
All but one of our network schools are district public schools. Our only charter school is Launch in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. And all but one of our schools are “unscreened,” which means that there are no testing requirements and any student may apply to enroll. Our network also includes one transfer high school, James Baldwin. Transfer schools are small, academically rigorous, full-time high schools designed to re-engage students who are not succeeding in other schools or have dropped out.
What grades do you serve?
Our network includes three middle schools which serve grades 6 – 8 (Launch, MS 839, and MAELS), five high schools which serve grades 9 – 12 (The James Baldwin School, Leaders, Kurt Hahn, Community School for Social Justice, and Gaynor McCown), four schools that serve grades 6 – 12 (Brooklyn Collaborative, Channel View, West End Secondary, and MELS), and one school that serves PreK – 12 (WHEELS).
What is Restorative Justice?
Many of our schools use restorative justice, a set of practices, including peer-mediation, that emphasize resolving and preventing conflicts and potential conflicts, instead of employing punitive action by school administrators. This approach to discipline is focused on changing behavior and repairing harm, and allows students to reflect on and learn from their mistakes, and resolve conflicts as a community. There are five schools in NYC that the Department of Education has designated as Restorative Justice Mentor Schools, and two of our Network Schools—Leaders and James Baldwin—are among them.
What are PBATs?
Several of our schools are members of the NY Performance Standards Consortium, a small coalition of high schools in New York State that have a performance assessment system. In lieu of Regents exams (except for English Regents, which is still requisite), these schools require performance-based assessment tasks, or PBATs. A PBAT consists of an extensive, original paper written by the student and includes a presentation and defense of the paper in front of a panel. In order to graduate, students must complete four PBATs: an analytic literature essay, a social studies research paper, a student-designed science experiment, and higher-level mathematics problems that have real-world applications. They include both written and oral components.
How can my child get involved with NYC Outward Bound Schools?
Only students enrolled in one of the schools or organizations that we work with has access to our services; we do not work with individual students. If you are interested in an Outward Bound course for your child, please visit Outward Bound.
How do I enroll my child in an NYC Outward Bound School?
Each of our schools is a NYC public school, so enrollment is managed by the schools themselves. You can find out how to enroll by visiting each school’s individual website and contacting them directly.
How can my school become involved with NYC Outward Bound Schools?
Schools can work with us in two main ways: through our Select Strategiesprogramming to improve a specific aspect of their practice and/or school culture by adopting high-impact strategies used in our Network Schools; or through our Adventure & Team Building programs, which use adventure activities to promote community, character, and achievement. If you are an educator and would like your school to become involved with us, please contact us.
Why is it called Select Strategies?
We have identified—or selected—highly effective, replicable, and successful practices and strategies in our Network Schools and packaged them to be utilized by schools outside of our network. In this way, schools who do not employ our whole-school approach can successfully implement these strategies to benefit their students.
My school already has an advisory program. Should I still consider Select Strategies: Crew?
Our staff support school leadership by helping them envision a Crew program that meets their students’ needs, and then develop a professional development plan to support Crew Advisors in achieving that vision. Our support for Crew Advisors includes modeling best practices, coaching focused on the implementation of these practices, and providing resources to assist in planning Crew curricula and lessons.
Does Select Strategies: Crew come with a curriculum?
No. Rather than take a one-size-fits-all approach, we support and guide schools in planning their own Crew curricula, providing models and resources along the way.
Does Select Strategies include Adventure &Team Building activities?
It depends. We recommend schools participating in Select Strategies: Crew include at least a Community Day in their package in order to give Crews a unique experience to bond over and to give Crew Advisors the opportunity to see best Crew practices modeled by our staff.
Adventure & Team Building
Are you a Department of Education vendor?
Yes. Our vendor number is NEW203000. We accept DOE Purchase Orders for payment of services.
How far in advance do I have to book the program?
During our peak Fall and Spring seasons we suggest booking your program at least three months in advance. During non-peak seasons we can usually schedule programs with shorter notice. Many of our repeat clients book more than six months in advance.
Do you customize? How?
Yes. After assessing your group’s needs and outlining activities, locations, and staff qualified to meet them, we assign a Course Director who will work with you to design and deliver your program and ensure that all outcomes and program details are thoughtfully developed and properly executed. Course Directors prepare our instructors to facilitate your course in a way that achieves the specific outcomes of your group.
What forms must participants fill out prior to their program?
Most of our programs require a simple Medical Questionnaire and a Liability Release to enroll, both of which require parent signatures for children under 18 (but do not require a doctor’s visit). We require clients to submit all completed forms two to three weeks prior to the program date, to allow time for full screening by our staff medical screener and any follow up with family or health care providers, should that be necessary.
What are the qualifications for an NYC Outward Bound Schools instructor?
NYC Outward Bound Schools’ instructors are experienced and qualified outdoor professionals committed to their students’ well-being. They hold current certifications in either Wilderness First Response or Wilderness Advanced First Aid and meet all Outward Bound, local, state and national requirements for their positions. Our instructors are trained to identify, assess, and approach risk as a learning tool to be managed but not eliminated, with the goal of providing students with the opportunity to gain insights and perspectives into their own and their crew’s capabilities.
How can my school host its own College March?
We have a suite of resources available for schools who would like to host their own College March. If you still have questions about producing a College March at your school, please contact Chief Advancement Officer Paola Vita at [email protected].
Most schools require applications to be submitted online. What are students actually mailing?
Students and schools may choose to mail any number of application materials, including SAT/ACT scores, application fee waivers, thank you letters to admissions officers, and/or recommendation letters. We’ve even had seniors who used their College March as an opportunity to send letters to their younger siblings about the importance of the college application process they were undergoing.
Still have questions? Please email us at [email protected].