Urban Assembly Gateway School for Technology

Phone: (212) 246-1041
Website: Click here
Admissions: Priority to Manhattan
Principal: April Mckoy
Neighborhood: Midtown
District: 2
Grade range: 09 thru 11
Parent coordinator: GREISYS FELIZ

What's special:

Special training in one of three technology fields; all day use of laptop computers

The downside:

No record of achievement yet; kids would benefit from touch-typing lessons

The InsideStats



Our review

At the Urban Assembly Gateway School for Technology students carry slim silver laptops from class-to-class with casual familiarity. They have unusual access to technology all day long, personalizing their "desktops" the way others might personalize a writer's notebook.

Students focus on one of three career fields: Digital Animation and Web Design, Computer and Information Technology, or Health Information Technology in addition to taking typical academic courses. As early as 9th grade, students can earn IC3 certification in basic computer and Internet use.

The school's theme has struck a chord –more than 800 8th-graders applied for 108 spots the opening year in 2011. Boys outnumber girls but girls take a leadership role in the school's Mouse Squad, the team that keeps computers in running order and does random online "history" checks to curb improper internet use. Girls also participate in an all-female advisory group.

Principal April McKoy, a former social studies teacher from Brooklyn College Academy, has an eye for good instructional practice and helps maintain a balance between screen-time and face-time. The school has adopted "unison reading," pioneered by Professor Cynthia McCallister of New York University, to boost reading skills. Students read passages out loud and stop to discuss when they have questions or observations. Group projects are the norm, even in classes where students learn Japanese, German, Spanish, Italian or French using self-paced Rosetta Stone software. In one such project, groups work together to create animations for a story told in the second language.

The relaxed and welcoming atmosphere centers on core values. Those who uphold these values – empathy, accountability, aspiration, collaboration, reflection and scholarship – are celebrated at quarterly assemblies. The school year kicks off with an overnight camping trip and staff members visit the home of every incoming 9th grader. Clubs include martial arts, skateboarding, drama, programming, and digital photography. The "gamer haven" club is especially popular.

McKoy is pleased that there is a mix of academic abilities among students. All students, but especially those who need it most, take advantage of an after-school tutoring program called Goal Oriented Learning Development (GOLD).

Teachers have devised boundaries for computer use. "It's flexible but strict, in a good way," said a 9th grader. Students who arrive late do not get their computer until after lunch.

Teachers insist on closed computers when it's time to listen. One-third of the students do not have computers at home, and they must learn to curb their impulses to get off-track or they lose privileges. Computers have been less beneficial for writing, according to McKoy, because students are quick to delete their first attempts. There hasn't been time to teach touch-typing so we saw a lot of hunt-and-peck, a possible time-waster. Some desks seemed short for tall students who slouched awkwardly at the keyboard.

Trips and internships are important features of the school which has partnerships with WNET Channel 13, The Hospital for Special Surgery - where a few students have secured summer internships in the motion analysis lab - and Iridescent Learning. In its first year – 2011-2012 - the school won a Service in School award for their volunteer work.

UAG is one of more than 20 schools created and run by the nonprofit Urban Assembly.

It shares the Graphics Educational Campus along with the High School of Graphic Communication Arts and the Business of Sports School. Sports are campus-wide.

College admissions: Students make at least two college trips per year. Each student creates a stylish ePortfolio, with snapshots, work samples, work experience, and college and career goals. In the "Road to College" blog students explore college life, tuition, degrees and more. The first class will graduate in 2015.

Special education: Students are integrated in classes with general education students and two teachers, one of whom is trained in special education.

Admissions: Priority to Manhattan students or residents who attend an information session or fair. (Lydie Raschka, June 2012)

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