Harlem Village Academy West Charter Middle School

244 WEST 144 STREET
MANHATTAN NY 10030 Map
Phone: (646) 812-9300
Website: Click here
Admissions: Lottery/District 5 priority
Principal: Jason Epting/Elliot Evans
Neighborhood: Harlem
District: 5
Grade range: 6-8
Unzoned
Charter School

What's special:

Focus on kids’ independence, rather than obedience

The downside:

Shifts around teaching approach are a work-in-progress

InsideSchools Review

Our review:

When it was founded in 2003, Harlem Village Academy was known for relentless discipline, silence in the halls, and a “no excuses” approach to education. That philosophy is changing: Teachers now encourage children to talk in class, work together in groups and take responsibility for their own education.

“We don’t want them to just be obedient, waiting for someone to tell them what to do,” said Jason Epting, principal of Harlem Village Academy’s middle school, the oldest of a network of five schools now called Harlem Village Academies.

“We were sending kids off to college, and they really didn’t have the independence to be successful,” said Matt Scott, chief operating officer for the network.

The Harlem Village Academies network has hired Shelley Harwayne, the founding principal of Manhattan New School and former superintendent of Manhattan’s top-performing District 2, to help staff adapt from a traditional approach to teaching—with desks in rows and the teacher doing most of the talking—to a more progressive approach, with desks in groups and teachers walking from child to child, offering individual help.

Instead of traditional parent-teacher conferences, each child now presents a portfolio of work to his or her parents, with the teacher looking on.

There’s a new philosophy around discipline as well. In the past, children might be sent home for minor infractions—such as not wearing a belt as the uniform required. Now, the school has adopted “restorative justice,” finding ways for children to make amends (and borrow a belt) without forcing them to miss class. “If you’re not in class, you’re not learning,” Epting said.

The new methods are a work in progress, and, on our visit, many teachers seemed to be more comfortable with traditional methods. “It’s been a really hard change,” one staffer said. 

The school day is long, from 7:35 am to 4:30 pm. As is the case at most charters, teachers are not unionized.

Many children enter 5th grade with very low levels of academic skills, particularly in reading, and teachers work hard to bring them up to grade level. For math, the school blends the challenging Singapore Math program with a Japanese approach that focuses on understanding concepts. Children have math for at least 100 minutes a day—significantly longer than at most middle schools.

As at most schools in the state, the Harlem Village Academy middle school’s test scores plummeted with the introduction of new tests aligned to the Common Core in 2013. Still, the test scores are better than average for District 5 middle schools.

Located on the top floor of PS 194, Harlem Village Academy has clean but worn classrooms and corridors. A boys’ bathroom was closed for repairs at the time of our visit.

Students who graduate from the middle school are automatically admitted to the Harlem Village Academy High School, which has a high graduation rate and a good record sending graduates to college.

The founder of Harlem Village Academies is Deborah Kenny, formerly a teacher and an executive at Time Warner. She has received national attention for her work with Harlem Village Academies and published a book based on her experience, Born to Rise. The network has received support from donors such as Bill Gates and actor Hugh Jackman.

SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school has six special education teachers and a number of ICT, or team-teaching, classes. Epting, a former special education teacher, is committed to keeping children with special needs, rather than counseling them to leave as some schools do. “Once they step into our school, they’re ours,” Epting said.

ADMISSIONS: The school offers a lottery in April, with preference to students who live in District 5. The high school only admits students from Harlem Village Academy and Leadership Academy Middle Schools. (Clara Hemphill, March 2015)

InsideStats

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At a glance

Shared campus? Yes

This school shares the building with PS 194

Number of Students 691

Average Daily Attendance 95%

Uniforms? NA

Students at this school

Asian

  
1%

Black

  
78%

Hispanic

  
18%

White

  
0%

Free Lunch

  
70%

Special ed

  
15%

English Language Learners

  
2%

INCOMING STUDENTS' PROFICIENCY: NA 2.60 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?

65% 64% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

70% 78% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

ARE KIDS NICE?

How many students complain about bullying?

81% 71% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

48% 57% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

86% 77% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

DO TEACHERS LIKE THE SCHOOL?

How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?

81% 80% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many teachers would recommend this school to other parents?

78% 79% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

ARE CLASSES BIG?

Number of students in an average english class

NA 26 CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many students are chronically absent?

NA 24% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Academics

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

24% 26% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

14% 22% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

NA 45% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

HS Prep

How many 8th graders pass high school regents exams?

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

NA 18% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

NA 14% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How do graduates do in 9th grade?

Percent who pass all their classes freshman year:

NA 87% 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 state math exam:

NA 2% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

NA 1% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

NA 7% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

NA 5% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

NA 9% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

NA 6% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How well does this school serve English language learners?

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

NA 2% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

NA 13% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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