Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School

An Insideschools pick
511 WEST 182ND STREET
MANHATTAN NY 10033 Map
Phone: (212) 781-0524
Website: Click here
Admissions: District 6
Principal: BRETT KIMMEL
Neighborhood: Washington Heights
District:6
Grade range: 6-12
Parent Coordinator: MIGUEL PEREZ
Humanities & Interdisciplinary
Wheelchair Accessible

Buses: BX11, BX18, BX3, BX35, BX36, BX7, M101, M3, M4, M5, M98

What's special:

Dedicated faculty guide students from 6th grade to graduation.

The downside:

No outdoor space in a shared building.

InsideSchools Review

Our review:

Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School, better known as WHEELS (the acronym works if you abbreviate Heights as HE), is a well-run combination middle school and high school serving a Latino population in a neighborhood with few other good educational options. Sixth-graders from District 6 lucky enough to land in this close-knit community can expect to be greeted by a seasoned, dedicated faculty that will shepherd them over the next seven years toward a high school diploma and beyond.

“We tell our kids, ‘You are going to college!’ ” said principal Brett Kimmel, a former middle school assistant principal who founded WHEELS in 2006. It’s a familiar proclamation from principals, but WHEELS seems designed to fulfill its promise. Kimmel built a school that would nurture and guide students from 6th grade until graduation, so he wouldn’t be “saying goodbye to middle school kids after three years” and later hear tales of academic failure. He embraced the principles of Expeditionary Learning, adopting a hands-on curriculum with an emphasis on building student character and forming a long-term advisory bond with a teacher. NYC Outward Bound Schools is a lead partner with the school and supports the expeditionary learning concept, by offering camping trips and rock-climbing courses as well as ongoing teacher training and an instructional guide.

WHEELS saw its first long-term results in June 2012, when it graduated its first class. Of the kids who had arrived at WHEELS in 2006 as founding 7th-graders, 75 percent graduated, most of the rest are still working toward a diploma, and only two have dropped out—statistics far better than the city average, particularly among Latino youth. In what promises to become an annual December tradition, Kimmel led a parade of seniors three blocks to the post office so each could drop college applications in the mail. A police escort halted traffic, and the rest of the student body lined the route to loudly cheer the procession.

WHEELS occupies the entire fourth floor and part of the second floor in a modern four-story building it shares with IS 143 Eleanor Roosevelt. The Community Health Academy of the Heights has classrooms in a building across 182nd Street. The three schools share the main building’s cafeteria, auditorium, library and two gyms. The campus includes a health clinic and dental office, providing free services, but it lacks any significant outdoor space, so WHEELS has no recess period. Well-behaved WHEELS high school students are allowed to go off campus during lunch. The school offers a range of after-school sports, but students must often take subways or buses to athletic fields on Randalls Island or in the Bronx.

Kimmel boasts that his faculty “is second to none in New York City.” Teachers have on average about eight years of teaching experience, and half the faculty are alumni of the Teach for America program (as is Kimmel). WHEELS teachers get regular coaching from their peers plus other forms of professional development, and Kimmel says he has retained more than 90 percent of the staff he’s hired. (“We’ve never lost a teacher to another New York City Department of Education school,” he said.) Faculty meetings are arranged both by grade and subject matter, so teachers can craft curriculums that progress smoothly from 6th through 12th grade. Kimmel tries to hire teachers who are bilingual in English and Spanish. In classrooms we visited, teachers assertively maintained order, and students appeared respectful and obedient.

WHEEL offers a range of instrumental music courses (the school has three bands), plus a popular after-school drama club. But Kimmel admits he is still trying to “diversify” the limited curriculum in the small high school: WHEELS offers few Advanced Placement courses, and Spanish is the only foreign language taught. Kimmel said he is also working to make courses “more rigorous” so graduates will be properly prepared once they reach college. Instead of parent-teacher conferences, WHEELS has regular “student-led conferences” in which students display a portfolio of their work to family members and an advisor, and set goals for future performance.

Several proud seniors we spoke to praised their teachers’ dedication, and most said the school felt like a small, supportive family where they feel encouraged to succeed. Yesica, a 17-year-old senior active in sports and the drama club, said she spends so much time at WHEELS that “my mom asks me all the time, ‘How’s your first home?’ ” Rules of good conduct were strictly enforced (students who disrupt class quickly earn detention, and repeat offenders are suspended), and even informational talks in the auditorium are structured to prevent chitchat (students must leave an open seat between one another). Yet no one seemed to chafe at the rigid structure, which kept classrooms and halls orderly.

Special education: WHEELS offers integrated co-teaching (ICT) classes in which students with special needs are taught with other students in classrooms that have two teachers, one of whom is certified to teach special ed. The school also has special services, known as SETTS.

Admissions: About 85 new 6th-graders enter the middle school each year, virtually all of them from nearby District 6 elementary schools PS 189, PS 132, PS 115, PS 48 and PS 173. Students are unscreened. Kimmel recommends parents attend an open house or take a tour. Most 8th-graders stay at WHEELS for high school, and in recent years the school has received roughly 500 applications for 12 or 15 open seats. (“It’s harder to get into 9th grade here than it is to get into Harvard, percentage-wise,” Kimmel said.) (Skip Card, October, 2012)

 

Middle InsideStats

Click tabs above to see school stats

At a glance

Shared campus? Yes

This school shares the JHS 143 building

Number of Students 650

Average Daily Attendance 92%

Uniforms? Yes

Students at this school

Asian

  
0%

Black

  
2%

Hispanic

  
97%

White

  
0%

Free Lunch

  
100%

Special ed

  
20%

English Language Learners

  
16%

INCOMING STUDENTS' PROFICIENCY: 2.52 2.80 CITYWIDE AVERAGE


1 = Far below grade level 2 = Below grade level 3 = At grade level 4 = Above grade level

Safety & vibe

DO STUDENTS LIKE THE SCHOOL?

How many students say their teachers inspire them to learn?

75% 66% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many students say this school offers enough programs to keep them interested?

80% 75% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

ARE KIDS NICE?

How many students complain about bullying?

46% 71% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many students say students at their school respect one another?

78% 56% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many teachers say order and discipline are maintained in the school?

100% 77% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

DO TEACHERS LIKE THE SCHOOL?

How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?

100% 80% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many teachers would recommend this school to other parents?

100% 80% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

ARE CLASSES BIG?

Number of students in an average english class

35 26 CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many students are chronically absent?

24% 25% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Academics

Percent of students who scored 3 or 4 on the 2013 math exam

28% 27% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of students who scored 3 or 4 on the 2013 ela exam

12% 25% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of students who scored 3 or 4 on the 2013 science exam

52% 51% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

HS Prep

How many 8th graders pass high school regents exams?

Percent of 8th graders who take and pass the algebra regents:

46% 19% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of 8th graders who take and pass a science regents:

0% 13% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How do graduates do in 9th grade?

Percent who pass all their classes freshman year:

81% 84% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Special ed & ELL

How well does this school serve students with disabilities?

Percent of self-contained students who scored 3 or 4 on the 2013 math exam:

NA 2% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of self-contained students who scored 3 or 4 on the 2013 ELA exam:

NA 1% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of ICT students who scored 3 or 4 on the 2013 math exam:

9% 5% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of ICT students who scored 3 or 4 on the 2013 ELA exam:

6% 4% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of SETSS students who scored 3 or 4 on the 2013 math exam:

15% 7% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of SETSS students who scored 3 or 4 on the 2013 ELA exam:

8% 6% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How well does this school serve English language learners?

Percent of ell students who scored 3 or 4 on the 2013 ELA exam:

0% 1% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of former ell students who scored 3 or 4 on the 2013 ELA exam:

4% 11% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

HS InsideStats

Click tabs above to see school stats

At a glance

Shared campus? Yes

This school shares the IS 143 building

Number of Students 650

Average Daily Attendance 92%

Uniforms? Yes

Metal detectors? No

Students at this school

Asian

  
0%

Black

  
2%

Hispanic

  
97%

White

  
0%

Free Lunch

  
100%

Special ed

  
20%

English Language Learners

  
16%

INCOMING STUDENTS' PROFICIENCY: 2.90 2.80 CITYWIDE AVERAGE


1 = Far below grade level 2 = Below grade level 3 = At grade level 4 = Above grade level

Middle school students reading at grade level:

13% 25% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Middle school students doing math at grade level:

29% 27% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Safety & vibe

ARE CLASSES BIG?

Number of students in an average english class

23 24 CITYWIDE AVERAGE

DO STUDENTS LIKE THE TEACHERS?

How many students say their teachers inspire them to learn?

75% 64% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

DO TEACHERS LIKE THE PRINCIPAL?

How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?

100% 79% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

IS THIS SCHOOL SAFE?

How many students say they feel safe in hallways, bathrooms and locker rooms?

93% 83% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

 
 

How many teachers say order and discipline are maintained in the school?

100% 80% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

HOW IS
ATTENDANCE?

How Many Students are Chronically Absent?

24% 34% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Who graduates

Class of 2013

How many 2009 freshmen graduated within 4 years?

66% 66% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many 2007 freshmen graduated within 6 years?

NA 75% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Previous Years

How many 2008 freshmen graduated within 4 years?

74% 64% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many 2008 freshmen earned an advanced regents diploma within 4 years?

11% 11% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many 2006 freshmen graduated within 6 years?

NA 73% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many 2008 freshmen dropped out within 4 years?

4% 12% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

College prep

Does this school offer a college preparatory curriculum?

How many students took an AP or IB class and scored at least a "3" on the AP exam or a "4" on the IB exam?

28%

How Many Students took a College Course and Got a "C" or Higher?

8%

How many students passed a Regents exam for algebra 2, physics or chemistry?

15%

Are students ready for college?

How many 2009 freshmen graduated in four years with test scores high enough to enroll at CUNY without remedial help?

29% 27% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

SAT reading scores

400
414 CITYWIDE AVERAGE 496 NATIONWIDE AVERAGE

How many 0 freshmen graduated in four years and enrolled in college?

NA

SAT math scores

430
425 CITYWIDE AVERAGE 514 NATIONWIDE AVERAGE

Is the guidance counseling helpful?

How many students say that this school provides helpful counseling on college or job-seeking?

85% 75% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Special ed & ELL

How well does this school serve students with disabilities?

How many special ed students starting school in 2008 graduated within 4 years?

50% 44% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many special ed students starting school in 2006 graduated within 6 years?

NA 53% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many students with disabilities spend most of the day with non-disabled peers?

100% 79% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many teachers say students with disabilities are included in all activities?

77% 88% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How well does this school serve English language learners?

How many English language learners starting school in 2008 graduated within 4 years?

38% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many English language learners starting school in 2006 graduated within 6 years?

57% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Programs and Admissions

School admission priorities:

  1. Priority to continuing 8th graders
  2. Then to District 6 students or residents who attend an information session
  3. Then to New York City residents who attend an information session
  4. Then to District 6 students or residents
  5. Then to New York City residents

Source: High school directory

Washington Heights Expeditionary Learning School

Limited Unscreened

Students participate in interdisciplinary learning across all subject areas.

Academics

AP COURCES: English Language and Composition, Spanish Language, Spanish Literature, Statistics

Online: N/A

Language classes: Spanish

Source: High school directory

Sports/Clubs

EXTRACURRICULAR: Academic Tutoring, Aerobics, Band, Baseball, Basketball, College Trips, Community Service Projects, Drama, Homework Help, School Newspaper, Student Government and Planning Committee, Track, Yearbook; Club offerings will expand based on school growth and student interest.

BOYS PSAL SPORTS: Baseball, Basketball

GIRLS PSAL SPORTS: N/A

Other schools sports: Baseball, Basketball, Track. As our school expands, we will add additional Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) teams.

Source: High school directory

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