John Adams High School

QUEENS NY 11417 Map
Phone: (718) 322-0500
Website: Click here
Admissions: Ed opt, zoned
Neighborhood: Ozone Park
District: 27
Grade range: 09 thru 12
Parent coordinator: Kerrie Desposito

What's special:

Programs for struggling students; large athletic program.

The downside:

Low attendance and college readiness rates.

The InsideStats


Our review

John Adams is a large, comprehensive high school that serves many students who need extra academic and social support. The challenges have only increased as the city has closed large neighboring schools. Many local kids choose to go to more popular schools, such as Benjamin Cardozo. But even though the graduation rate isn't great, it has improved markedly since 2008. The staff has been working hard to help struggling students, and there are strong programs where students can access what they need to succeed and move onto college.

In 2011, the Department of Education designated Adams a "restart school" and assigned the private organization New Visions to manage it. Although funding remains uncertain, the partnership has brought new resources to Adams, including additional social workers and a program to help English language learners acclimate to the city.

(Adams was set to receive $1.8 million under a federal program to help schools improve, but a fight between Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the United Federation of Teacher put that funding in jeopardy in early 2012. The school could face considerable changes, although it will remain intact and open -- at least for the time being.)

The school's program to boost achievement takes place on several fronts. It concentrates on 9th grade -- dubbed "Jump Start Academy" -- since principal Grace Zwillenberg said, many students fall behind that year and never catch up. To zero in on academics, 9th graders have a combined two-period English and social students class and a double period in math.

For the higher grades, Adams assigns all students to groups -- called Small Learning Centers -- with an assistant principal, teacher leaders and guidance counselors. The teams get to know the students and take a close look at their work to see what sort of help the teenagers need.

A Senior Academy targets at-risk students and provides them with regular meetings with the assistant principal and additional help. Another Adams program features extra instruction for seniors who passed the English and math Regents with low scores and seeks to boost their scores on CUNY assessment tests so they can avoid having to do remedial work in college.

Adams offers selective programs concentrating on special areas, such as environmental science, but it must accept anyone in its zoned area, including so-called "over the counter students" in the middle of the year and overage students -- Zwillenberg cited one 17-year old who had just completed 8th grade. "We're not a Stuyvesant. We're not a school that chooses our kids," she said.

Some students concede they did not want to attend Adams but once there found things to engage them, such as sports, which, one boy said, helped him adjust to being in such a large school.

Students participated enthusiastically in some classes, notably a business course and a leadership session, while the teenagers appeared less involved in more conventional math and English classes.

Adams seeks to make a virtue of its size and diversity. With a number of electives and 29 sports teams, it "affords a lot of our students opportunities to do lots of things," one teacher said. These include programs for students in business, health, law, environmental sciences and mass media and communication arts. Adams students starred in a United Nations Association video on their role at the Model UN, and its students represented New York City in a recent national math competition.

There are nine Advanced Placement courses and five foreign language offerings, including Bengali and language arts for native Spanish speakers

Adams tries to ready its students for college, including the nitty gritty of the application process. In one class, a teacher walked students through a financial aid form. Previous sessions, students said, had covered selecting colleges and preparing for the SATs. Every year, the school sends a group of student leaders to visit colleges and then report back to their peers on what they saw.

The school offers a number of special education options, including team teaching and self-contained classes. It offers bilingual classes in Bengali and Spanish, as well.

College admissions: Zwillenberg estimates that 50 to 60 percent of graduates go on to college. Many opt to stay in Queens -- attending LaGuardia Community College, Queens College or St. Johns.

Admissions: District 26 students have priority for the environmental, health careers, law, media and business institutes. Those programs use the educational option method, designed to include students with a range of performance levels. The rest of the school is zoned. (Gail Robinson, January 2012)

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