Choir Academy of Harlem

2005 MADISON AVENUE
MANHATTAN NY 10035 Map
Phone: (212) 289-6227
Website: Click here
Admissions: No new admits
Principal: Dr. Melissa Vaughan
Neighborhood: East Harlem
District:5
Grade range: 8-12
Parent Coordinator: LORRAINE WHITE
Screened

What's special:

School emphasizes choir, dance and instrumental music

The downside:

Closing because of poor performance

InsideSchools Review

Our review:

JUNE 2013 UPDATE: The Choir Academy of Harlem is being phased out and replaced after years of poor performance. No new students were admitted in September 2013, and the phase-out will be completed in June 2016. The DOE has proposed to open and co-locate a new district high school in the building.

APRIL 2011 REVIEW: Slated for shutdown in early 2010 owing to poor academic performance, the Choir Academy of Harlem got a second lease on life after legal delays postponed closure long enough to let educators raise the school’s progress report grade from a D to a B. Today, the leaders of this combination middle and high school are working to regain the academy’s once-enviable reputation as a place where scholarship and music coexist.

 The task is a challenging one. When we visited in 2011, the academy seemed functional yet lacked the megawatt energy needed to sustain a comeback. Classes were irregular, with students excited and engaged in one classroom yet listless in another. Students sometimes ignored the school dress code, and tardy teens loitering in the hallways paid minimal heed to authority figures. More ominous were recent enrollment figures: Whereas the academy had accepted up to 90 freshmen in past years, in 2010 the freshman class totaled 35 kids—a sign many parents and teens aren’t convinced the school has a solid future.

 Choir Academy of Harlem was started in 1993 by Walter Turnbull, founder and director of the famed Boys Choir of Harlem. Turnbull envisioned the school as a home for both academics and vocal training, and for a time the Academy basked in praise. Then, in 2001, a 14-year-old student accused a longtime choir counselor of sexual abuse, and an investigation by the city found that Turnbull and others had failed to report the allegations. The DOE evicted the choir from the building in 2006, part of a downward spiral hastened by Turnbull’s death in 2007 and a revolving door of five principals in six years.

 The turnover “started to affect the foundation of the school,” explained Dr. Ellen Parris, who became principal in January 2008, when the school administration and DOE were viewed as the enemy. “It was a pretty challenging task,” Parris said. “When I came in, the students and parents were in charge of the school, not the administration.”

 Since Parris’s arrival, the Choir Academy has added dance and instrumental music to a curriculum that once featured vocal training exclusively. Most classrooms now have interactive SMARTboards, some courses offer an honors track, and extra tutoring is available after school and on weekends. In 11th grade, students get a full year of SAT tutoring, which led to a 108-point jump in average test scores in 2010. Ileana, a senior, said the preparation helped when she took her SAT test. “I felt prepared. I felt I didn’t need to be nervous,” she said.

 In the middle school, teachers rotate in and out of classrooms while students stay put. “Middle-schoolers are a little bit playful,” Parris explained. “But when you have 200 being playful at the same time, it’s a little bit much.”

 Choir Academy shares a bland East Harlem building with Promise Academy II, a charter school serving K-6. (Parris often speaks of facing “political” pressures and challenges, a reference to charter schools’ growing stature in Harlem and Promise Academy’s plans for expansion.) Classrooms face inward and lack windows, which muffles noise from the nearby MTA elevated train line but also blocks natural light.

 The building’s large auditorium offers an excellent performance space, but practice rooms for choir and instrumental training looked functional yet plain. Still, the Choir Academy’s singers have performed at the United Nations and other notable venues, and students even provided backup vocals to Paul McCartney during a December 2010 show at Harlem’s famed Apollo Theater.

 “We’re not perfect. Nobody is,” said Ileana, the senior. “But at the end of the day, we’re still a good school. Everybody sticks together.”

 Special education: Students in 6th through 9th grades who need special attention are taught in self-contained classes that typically have 12 students per class.

 Admissions: The Choir Academy is selective and citywide, although priority is given to students in District 5. Students must audition, submit an essay and participate in an interview. Grades are considered, but “we are not looking to get just the top-of-the-line students,” Parris said. The school typically accepts 80 to 85 percent of applicants each year, she said. (Skip Card, April 2011)

Middle InsideStats

Click tabs above to see school stats

At a glance

Shared campus? Yes

Arthur Schomburg Educational Campus

Number of Students 179

Average Daily Attendance 83%

Uniforms? NA

Students at this school

Asian

  
1%

Black

  
74%

Hispanic

  
25%

White

  
1%

Free Lunch

  
92%

Special ed

  
26%

English Language Learners

  
3%

INCOMING STUDENTS' PROFICIENCY: 2.54 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?

49% 66% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

55% 75% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

ARE KIDS NICE?

How many students complain about bullying?

80% 71% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

36% 56% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

12% 77% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

DO TEACHERS LIKE THE SCHOOL?

How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?

50% 80% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many teachers would recommend this school to other parents?

23% 80% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

ARE CLASSES BIG?

Number of students in an average english class

15 26 CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many students are chronically absent?

39% 25% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Academics

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

1% 27% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

3% 25% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

24% 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:

13% 19% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

6% 13% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How do graduates do in 9th grade?

Percent who pass all their classes freshman year:

73% 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:

0% 2% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

0% 1% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

NA 5% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

NA 4% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

0% 7% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

0% 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:

NA 11% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

HS InsideStats

Click tabs above to see school stats

At a glance

Shared campus? Yes

Arthur Schomburg Educational Campus

Number of Students 179

Average Daily Attendance 83%

Uniforms? Yes

Metal detectors? No

Students at this school

Asian

  
1%

Black

  
74%

Hispanic

  
25%

White

  
1%

Free Lunch

  
92%

Special ed

  
26%

English Language Learners

  
3%

INCOMING STUDENTS' PROFICIENCY: 2.50 2.80 CITYWIDE AVERAGE


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

Safety & vibe

ARE CLASSES BIG?

Number of students in an average english class

27 24 CITYWIDE AVERAGE

DO STUDENTS LIKE THE TEACHERS?

How many students say their teachers inspire them to learn?

49% 64% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

DO TEACHERS LIKE THE PRINCIPAL?

How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?

50% 79% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

IS THIS SCHOOL SAFE?

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

56% 83% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

 
 

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

12% 80% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

HOW IS
ATTENDANCE?

How Many Students are Chronically Absent?

39% 34% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Who graduates

Class of 2013

How many 2009 freshmen graduated within 4 years?

23% 66% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many 2007 freshmen graduated within 6 years?

78% 75% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Previous Years

How many 2008 freshmen graduated within 4 years?

61% 64% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

0% 11% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many 2006 freshmen graduated within 6 years?

74% 73% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many 2008 freshmen dropped out within 4 years?

0% 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?

0%

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

0%

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

0%

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?

0% 27% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

SAT reading scores

NA
414 CITYWIDE AVERAGE 496 NATIONWIDE AVERAGE

How many 2009 freshmen graduated in four years and enrolled in college?

44%

SAT math scores

NA
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?

51% 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?

NA 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?

47% 79% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

66% 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

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