Millennium Art Academy
BRONX NY 10473 Map
Millennium Art Academy
The vision: Art is an essential part of every student's education.
The reality: A hidden gem, Millennium Art Academy offers first-rate teaching, inspired leadership and a chance for high school students to learn by doing--whether they're acting out a play by Shakespeare or working on an oral history project with the elderly. Every class we visited had something interesting going on. Both kids and grown-ups seem happy and engaged. You don't need to audition to get into this school, and everyone gets good instruction in art.
Maxine Nodel, an experienced and thoughtful principal who cares passionately about her students, has led the school, housed in the Adlai Stevenson Educational Complex, since its founding in 2003. She encourages her teachers to integrate the arts into English and history classes. In one class, kids acted out scenes from Shakespeare's Julius Cesar. In another, they analyzed a painting of a knight slaying a dragon to better understand a poem. A history teacher showed examples of propaganda--a heroic portrait of Lenin--and asked the students to compare it to a campaign poster for President Obama. [Herman Guy replaced Maxine Nodel as principal after our visit.]
Many students enter 9th grade with poor reading skills, but teachers don't dumb down the curriculum. Instead, teachers use works of art to illustrate complicated ideas and ask students to read aloud key passages so everyone can understand.
Nodel is particularly proud of a program that introduces teenagers to elderly people in nursing homes. The students interview the seniors about their lives--and learn history in the process.
The school had very high rates of attendance and graduation in its early years, but both have declined in recent years. Nodel says budget cuts and increased class sizes have taken their toll. While the school appeared orderly the day of our visit and the suspension rate is low, students say there are sometimes fights in the building. Students must pass through metal detectors and the building entrance. Another downside: there aren't a lot of advanced classes, and kids don't have lockers. Still, Millennium Art Academy is the strongest school in the Stevenson campus and one of the most interesting in the Bronx.
Special education: About 20 percent of students receive special education services. The school offers collaborative team teaching as well as self-contained classes.
Admissions: educational option formula designed to ensure a mix of local, average and high achieving students. There are far more applicants than seats. (Clara Hemphill, Janauary 2012)