Dr. Susan S. McKinney Secondary School of the Arts

Phone: (718) 834-6760
Website: Click here
Admissions: audition
specialized arts
Neighborhood: Fort Greene/ Clinton Hill
District: 13
Grade range: 06 thru 12

What's special:

Arts classes for every student

The downside:

Bullying in the middle school; low college readiness scores

The InsideStats



Our review

Tucked behind the Navy Yard in Fort Greene, Susan McKinney Secondary School of the Arts offers classes in drama, chorus, dance and visual arts to students in grades 6 to 12. The building is clean and quiet, with bright classrooms and student work on the walls. Students wear a yellow or white shirt and black, khaki or navy pants and high schoolers have lockers.

While the graduation rate is high, the academics still have a way to go: very few students leave prepared for college, according to the school’s Progress Report. Students in grades 10 to 12 have flexible schedules, with many seniors getting out of school early in the day, according to Principal Paula Holmes.

The day of our visit, many teachers were enthusiastic and kids were engaged, even though the coursework was not very demanding. For example, in a third-year Spanish class, students worked coloring country passports while the teacher spoke mainly in English.

Middle school students have four periods a week of art and high school students have five or more. The drama class we saw was strong, while some of the art classes were basic. In art, seniors colored “college boards” with magic markers.

Students who have an average of 80 or above may participate in afterschool activities like basketball, newspaper, marching band or an arts program. “Band is awesome. They get the kids excited. Kids will straighten up for you because they’re part of some club.” Jamie Desomeaux, a 9th grade math teacher.

Advanced students may take Advanced Placement English, Spanish or Art.

According to teachers, students sit in the cafeteria when a teacher is absent. “It’s hard,” said one math teacher. “They’re supervised but not doing work.”

In the 2010-11 NYC School Survey nearly half of teachers said that order and discipline were a problem and more than half of students said that students don’t respect teachers or their fellow students. “Disrespect of teachers is an everyday thing,” said one 6th grade student. “They act like teachers don’t exist and they curse,” added another.

Bullying is a problem among middle schoolers. On our visit a boy came into the principal’s office crying because another boy had stolen his glasses and a group of 6th grade girls told us that they were bullied to the point where they didn’t want to tell anyone because it would make it worse.

Around half of middle schoolers continue to high school at McKinney. The rest go to Oliver, Prep-for-Prep and some of the top students go to private schools.

Students take trips to Xavier College. All students apply to CUNY and most graduates go to CUNY or SUNY schools though some go to NYU, North Carolina or traditional black colleges like John Jay.

Special education: There are four special ed classes in the middle school and an inclusion model in high school. The school partners with a District 75 school to accommodate autistic 6th and 7th graders. “Children need to have exposure to diversity,” explained Holmes.

Admissions: Auditions in October for 6th and 9th graders. (Aryn Bloodworth, October 2011)

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