Manhattan Village Academy

Phone: (212) 242-8752
Website: Click here
Admissions: Screened: interview/writing sample
Wheelchair accessible
Neighborhood: Gramercy Park
District: 2
Grade range: 09 thru 12
Parent coordinator: IRCANIA VEGA

What's special:

Strong college-prep curriculum and imaginative teaching

The downside:

Not all students can keep up with the workload

The InsideStats


Our review

Manhattan Village Academy offers a demanding college prep curriculum, imaginative projects and plenty of practice writing. It’s an unusual blend of teaching philosophies: Like a traditional school, the kids wear uniforms, call teachers “Mr.” and “Ms.,” and study hard for Regents exams. Like a progressive school, they have plenty of hands-on work. They may explore themes such as “globalization” and “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict” or work in a group on a physics experiment measuring and graphing the speed at which they walk.

Principal Hector Geager says he wants to make sure students get the breadth that traditional schools offer and the depth that progressive schools offer. His students take nine Regents exams—four more than the state requires. In addition, they must complete five “portfolios,” which may consist of long term papers, projects and oral presentations Twelfth graders are expected to write term papers of 10 to 15 pages on topics like global trade agreements and Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Everyone takes four years of science, including physics. Ninth and 11th graders take two hours of math a day, so by the end of four years everyone has had the equivalent of six years of high school math.

The workload is heavy, and not all students can manage it. Geager says eight to 10 students typically transfer to less demanding high schools after 9th grade. (The school accepts a similar number of incoming 10th graders) But for those who can do the work, the rewards are great. The principal says graduates have been admitted to top private colleges—including Harvard, Yale, Brown, Columbia and Cornell.

The tone of the school is serious but not oppressive. There are no bells, and class changes are orderly. Students wear uniforms—gray pleated skirts or trousers and blue sweaters. Eleventh and 12th graders may leave the building for lunch, although many choose to eat in the pleasant cafeteria.

Kids say they typically do three hours of homework a night, but teachers are available to help during the day and after school. “They give you one-on-one attention,” one girl said. “It’s hard, but it’s worth it. Math teacher Lori Bodner sometimes keeps her pre-calculus and calculus students after school if they don’t do their homework, she said.

It’s a small school, with only 100 students in each grade, and the principal knows every student by name. Manhattan Village seems to have a knack for taking kids who were only average or even below average students in middle school and helping them succeed in high school. “If the kids have good attendance, we can work around the academics,” Geager said. Most students come from East Harlem, Washington Heights and the Bronx. (Although Manhattan Village Academy is physically located in District 2, it does not give preference to District 2 students.)

There is no gymnasium. Students may receive physical education classes in the activity room, which doubles as a music room.

The school has a part-time college counselor. More than 80% of graduates enrolled in college the fall after graduation, according to the school’s 2011 Progress Report. Geager said three to five graduates receive Posse foundation scholarships each year, awards given to high-achieving children with leadership potential.

Special education: The school offers special education teacher support services (SETSS) and Collaborative Team Teaching.

Admissions: Open to students citywide who score at least Level 2 on standardized tests, who have good attendance, and who have grades of at least 80 in academic subjects. Students must also write an essay. The school has regular open houses on Saturday morning and Friday evenings but be warned: it can be devilishly difficult to make an appointment for an open house. (Clara Hemphill October, 2011)

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