M.S. 256 Academic & Athletic Excellence

154 WEST 93 STREET
MANHATTAN NY 10025 Map
Phone: (212) 222-2857
Website: Click here
Admissions: open to District 3 applicants
Principal: Brian Zager
Neighborhood: Upper West Side
District: 3
Grade range: 6-8
Parent Coordinator: STARRLYNN FIKARIS
Unzoned
Dual Language

What's special:

French dual language program; caring principal

The downside:

Test scores and attendance have a ways to go

InsideSchools Review

Our review:

A French dual language program, and a kindhearted leader with fresh ideas, has brought more students, increased diversity, and a fresh start to MS 256. Despite its tiny size, it had long been considered the unruliest sibling in a building shared with the hugely popular Manhattan School for Children and the Community Action School. Now, the atmosphere is safe and calm. The principal is committed and students are eager for new academic challenges.

MS 256 is one of very few middle schools in the city offering a French dual language program and it enrolls students who are already fluent in the language. There is one dual language class per grade, with a mix of children from West Africa, Canada, Belgium, France and elsewhere. Lessons are taught in French in language arts and social studies; children study math in both languages starting in 8th grade. 

Parents from nearby PS 84 lobbied for the program and MS 256 draws mainly from that school and the French American Charter School for its dual language classes.

Principal Brian Zager worked as assistant principal of the now-closed CASTLE middle school on the Lower East Side. A history and sports buff, he does not speak French himself but promised his first French language graduating class of 2017 that he would learn enough to speak a few words at their graduation.

Students and families have responded favorably to Zager, who has fostered community with "spirit days" on themes like "wacky tacky," "business dress-up" and "twin day." He led teachers in revamping the curriculum, with the inclusion of a daily 30-minute independent reading time, during which teachers split classes into small groups by gender, based on research he read that showed children perform better in reading when they are grouped that way. 

English language arts teachers tackle meaty, relevant content in all classes, such as a discussion of gun violence we saw, that took place in a formal debate called a Socratic circle, and reading news articles on current events related to immigration. For high-achievers, there is a small and growing algebra class for students who meet certain criteria in math.

MS 256 is part of the Middle School Quality Initiative, a citywide effort to boost achievement in low-performing schools, with a focus on improving reading. Teachers plan together to reinforce vocabulary, reading, debate and writing skills across all subjects in a cohesive way.

Efforts have yet to pay off completely. On school surveys, more than half the students reported that teachers do not challenge them. And too many children are frequently absent. The school is tiny so even a few absences affect attendance, the principal said. He provides incentives and has a program in place to improve attendance. Student-led parent-teacher conferences resulted in "the best participation we've ever had," Zager said, and incidents of unruly behavior are at an all-time low.

With the dual language addition, the school is becoming increasingly diverse in every way—ethnically, economically and academically. It is "a model for the integration that the [Department of Education] is striving to achieve," a parent wrote on our website. Test scores are inching up but still have a ways to go. It's a school worth watching.

SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school has ICT (integrated co-teaching) classes, which mix children with disabilities and their general ed peers in one classroom, with two teachers.

ADMISSIONS: Children apply to MS 256 as part of the District 3 middle school choice process. One of three incoming 6th grade classes is reserved for French language speakers. Starting fall 2017, students will be screened based on an interview, attendance, a teacher reference and, to a lesser extent, grades. A few children have been admitted from out of district in recent years, mostly into the dual language program. (Lydie Raschka, December 2016)

InsideStats

Click tabs above to see school stats

At a glance

Shared campus? Yes

This school shares a building with MS 258 and PS 333

Number of Students 138

Average Daily Attendance 90%

Uniforms? NA

Students at this school

Asian

  
2%

Black

  
51%

Hispanic

  
38%

White

  
7%

Free Lunch

  
83%

Special ed

  
29%

English Language Learners

  
19%

INCOMING STUDENTS' PROFICIENCY: NA 2.59 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?

NA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

NA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE

ARE KIDS NICE?

How many students complain about bullying?

NA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

45% 49% 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?

NA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE

ARE CLASSES BIG?

Number of students in an average english class

NA 26 CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many students are chronically absent?

37% 23% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Academics

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

13% 29% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

18% hi 32% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

NA NA CITYWIDE AVERAGE

HS Prep

How many 8th graders pass high school regents exams?

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

0% 12% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

0% 17% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How do graduates do in 9th grade?

Percent who pass all their classes freshman year:

NA NA 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:

0% 3% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

0% 2% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

9% 9% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

4% 7% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

0% 13% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

20% 9% 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:

0% 2% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

43% 18% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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