Reinventing the Wheel

One charter school offers a unique experience for students

By Lauren Della Bella

We at 9 Billion Schools believe that, when it comes to education, society needs to reinvent the wheel – to rethink the way we learn.

That’s a tall order, but in the heart of downtown Brooklyn, a husband-wife duo is taking it spoke by spoke.

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Erin Mote and Dr. Eric Tucker are the co-founders of Brooklyn Lab, a public charter school that’s delivering personalized education to middle- and high school-aged students.

Mote and Tucker’s philosophy combines rigorous academics with an emphasis on extracurricular activities and daily tutoring for their students – or, as they’re called at Brooklyn Lab, scholars.

That approach to personalized learning has resulted in a unique demographic for Brooklyn Lab. Not only are many of its students from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds, but about 40 percent of the students at the two Lab middle schools are what Mote and Tucker call “complex learners”, including English-language learners and those who have learning disabilities or behavioral issues that may result in underperforming at school.

That’s a struggle Tucker, in particular, knows well. A less-than-engaging experience in elementary school limited his success early on – until he was diagnosed with several learning disabilities as a freshman in college. Tucker went on to earn a doctorate from Oxford, serve as director of the Federal Reserve Bank in New York and, eventually, conceive with Mote the idea of a new kind of school, one that would use techniques like one-on-one tutoring and technology-driven lessons to level the playing field and lessen stigma for students like him.

Brooklyn Lab fits that bill, and all of its students regularly outpace the standards in grade-level growth. For Mote and Tucker, though, that’s just the beginning – they stress life-long learning (sound familiar?) as one of the school’s missions, encouraging their pupils to aim for selective four-year universities and offering college counseling beginning in ninth grade at the Brooklyn Lab High School opening this fall. They’re also proponents of a mastery-based curriculum that shuns traditional pass-fail grading in favor of multiple forms of assessment.

Mote and Tucker are also pushing for learning that’s life-wide and life-deep. They’ve partnered with local tech companies to offer internships and project-based learning opportunities to foster leadership and self-advocacy skills. And a longer school day (8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. each day) builds in two hours for extracurricular activities like robotics, coding, debate, creative writing and the visual arts.

This is all in line with what 9 Billion Schools strives toward – a world where every learner, of every ability, age and background, can gain an education that’s unique to them. That’s why I love what Mote and Tucker are doing. And if any of us at 9 Billion Schools have anything to do with it, Brooklyn Lab won’t be alone in fostering a new era of education.

What do you think of Brooklyn Lab’s take on education? Join the conversation in the comments or by tweeting me @ldellabella or emailing