PS 126 Jacob August Riis/Manhattan Academy of Technology

Phone: (212) 962-2188
Website: Click here
Admissions: neighborhood school/selective program
Neighborhood: Lower East Side/ Chinatown
District: 2
Grade range: PK thru 08
Parent coordinator: REBECCA JOHNSON

What's special:

Strong academics and a wide array of sports

The downside:

PTA isn't as rich as some other District 2 schools

The Inside Stats


Our review

A sweet, engaging place, PS 126/Manhattan Academy of Technology (MAT) is a combined elementary and middle school with strong academics and an impressive array of sports. Jacqui Getz, who became principal in 2011, has worked to strengthen the social studies curriculum and to better integrate special needs children in regular classes.

The elementary school serves neighborhood children from Chinatown and the Lower East Side, representing a range of races, ethnicities and income levels—including children from nearby housing projects and those from a homeless shelter that's just on the other side of the school's playground. It does a good job teaching English to kids who speak Spanish or Chinese at home. Kids were happy and well-behaved in every class we visited.

The middle school, called MAT, is open to children from across District 2 and middle class parents from neighborhoods like Tribeca clamor for admission. Teachers do a good job giving extra help to the children who need it while offering a challenge to the top students, even though students aren’t grouped by ability. For example, a strong reader may be assigned a complex book about World War II while a struggling reader may be assigned an easy one--but all can take part in the same class discussion. Eighth graders may take the algebra and Earth Science Regents exams. Most classes have two teachers. Teachers may work with a small group of students, or even one-on-one.

In a middle school history class, teachers brought the Bill of Rights to life by using newspaper articles about the gun control debate to discuss the Second Amendment; and articles about police “stop and frisk” tactics to discuss the Fourth Amendment. Students wrote letters to their elected officials to encourage them to take a stand on these issues.

The school has two art teachers and two music teachers that serve all grades. The physical education teacher, John DeMatteo, has assembled 51 teams in 27 sports—exotic sports like surfing and more traditional ones like soccer and basketball. The fitness room has exercise bikes attached to video games—making exercise fun even for kids who might  otherwise prefer to be couch potatoes.

Getz has tried to make PS 126 a place where teachers can perfect their craft. Teachers have time to meet and plan their lessons together. They may also visit other schools to learn about new teaching techniques. Nearly all teachers responding to the Learning Environment Survey said the school values professional development.

The building, constructed in the 1970s, has wide, shiny corridors, clean white walls and doors trimmed in yellow, red, blue, lavender, green and purple. Large windows let in plenty of sunlight, and there are views of the Brooklyn Bridge just a few blocks away. A climbing wall (with fake rocks) on the back of the stage in the auditorium gives kids a place to stretch their legs. One possible downside: The PTA isn’t as rich as at most District 2 schools, and cannot raise as much money for extras.

A large proportion of graduates attend specialized high schools, including LaGuardia, and District 2 schools, such as Eleanor Roosevelt and Millennium. Beacon High School is also popular.

Special education: The school has long served children with a range of special education needs. The school has dismantled the so-called “self-contained” special education class and integrated those students into classes with two teachers, one of whom is certified in special education.

Admissions: Zoned elementary school. Fifth graders from PS 126 get first priority to the middle school, but students from anywhere in District 2 may apply. (Clara Hemphill, October, 2012)

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