Lyons Community School

Phone: (718) 782-0918
Website: Click here
Admissions: Citywide
Principal: Taeko Onishi
Neighborhood: Williamsburg/ Greenpoint
District: 14
Grade range: 06 thru 12
Parent coordinator: MINERVA CANTOR

What's special:

Nurturing environment; innovative field studies program.

The downside:

Struggling to boost academic achievement

Middle School Stats


High School Stats


Our review

Lyons Community School is a small school where teachers and administrators know every student. They seek to engage them by exposing them to experiences beyond the classroom walls. While the dedicated staff and administration have created a lively, nurturing school, their good work and progressive approach have not yet paid off in higher academic achievement. Middle school test scores, and the high school graduation rate, lag below city averages.

Taeko Onishi and Jody Madell, Lyon's co-founders, previously taught at various progressive schools. That influence is reflected at Lyons, with its informal atmosphere and emphasis on projects and class discussions. All 6th through 9th graders and many kids in higher grades take a course called Field Studies. In that class, trips and other experiences help students consider a topic in depth, such as native Americans or colonial America. Students studying world religions have visited both the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a Buddhist temple.

Lyons is designed for students looking for "something new. You have to believe you can learn from exploring," Madell says. Many students at Lyons have not been academically successful in the past and are from families unfamiliar with this style of education. "We used to hear, 'when are we going to do the real work?" Ondo says.

Onishi and Madell had hoped the fieldwork and projects would produce good results on Regents tests and other state measures. But when scores proved disappointing, Lyons altered its program to give students more core academics. Math is no longer included in the fieldwork units but taught separately, with 6th graders taking 10 hours of math a week. One grade 9-10 class is focused on kids who did not complete their 9th grade requirements.

Students told us teachers go the extra mile to guide them through classes. Staff members send text messages to absent students reminding them to come to school and sometimes even pick students up. "Where we've been most successful as a school is working with kids who need extra help," kids who might otherwise have dropped out, Onishi says.

An 11th grader told us that she thought she learned more at Lyons than she would have at "a boring school". "This school is a new experience. It's unusual," she said.

Classes we visited offered lots of discussion and give and take between students and teachers. Seniors studying immigration worked to create a first person narrative for a 20th century immigrant based on data and photographs. In an English honors class -- a new addition -- student read "The Grapes of Wrath." Several told us they found it difficult, largely because of the dialect.

There are no AP classes and only one year of Spanish offered as foreign language. Some students take classes at Long Island University.

There is a college counselor who makes sure that all students apply to CUNY. Many go to the two-year colleges and most need to take remedial courses.

Lyons shares the IS 49 junior high school building with the Green School, and Young Women's Leadership School of Brooklyn. (For 2013-14, the Department of Education plans to relocate Young Women's Leadership and move the Brooklyn Latin School to the building.) It does not have its own PSAL sports teams but students may play on some Benjamin Banneker Academy teams.

Special education: The school devotes a lot of time to students' social and emotional development. On the day we visited, much attention was focused on a boy who was adjusting to Lyons after years of being in a self contained special ed program. Lyons has team-teaching and resource teachers, but no self-contained classes.

Admissions: The middle school is open to District 14 students. Continuing 8th graders get priority for high school and about two-thirds of them opt to stay. For the remaining seats, admission is limited unscreened - open to all New York City residents with preference given to those who attend an information session. (Gail Robinson, October, 2012)

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