James Madison High School
BROOKLYN NY 11229 Map
James Madison High School
The alma mater of senators, a Supreme Court justice, Nobel Prize winners and Chris Rock, James Madison is a popular high school with a wide array of classes, sports and activities. Sometimes viewed as the weakest of Brooklyn's 3Ms -- the other two are Midwood and Murrow -- Madison has received mediocre scores for student progress and performance on recent school progress reports. But by most accounts, it is a safe, successful school with a high graduation rate and many enthusiastic staff members and students.
Although enrollment has shrunk from a high of 4,200 in 2006, with more than 3,000 students Madison still ranks among the city's biggest schools. It has a 9-period day with students coming and going at different times but no double sessions.
Most seats go to students living in the surrounding residential Midwood neighborhood though the school has two small programs called houses open to children from elsewhere in Brooklyn: Information Technology and Law. Both programs get many more students than they can admit; in 2013, 2,670 students applied for 34 seats in Information Technology. Zoned students also can select these programs.
Madison has six other houses, all with a guidance counselor and core of teachers to address students' interests and abilities. The International House has programs for English language learners and includes the school's many foreign language offerings: Spanish, Russian, Chinese, French and Italian. The Academy of Citizenship and Community Service offers instructional support, including a double period of English, for incoming students with low tests scores. Children in the zoned program select their academy upon admission to Madison with guidance from staff who consider grades, interests and needs. Students take many - but not all -- of their classes with others in their house.
"If a kid is motivated and wants to do well, this is a great school, and we try to motivate all kids," a counselor told us. But, she added, "If you're unhappy, you have to speak up."
Students participating in an open house for prospective students seemed enthusiastic, particularly about the specialties of their respective houses. Those in Information Technology, which attracts a large number of girls with an interest in computers, were particularly eager to discuss their studies.
Madison offers about a dozen Advanced Placement classes and a range of instrumental and vocal music and visual arts classes.
Students told us the school is not excessively difficult. "You just have to keep on task and stay focused," one 9th grade boy said. "There's not a lot of homework." Two junior girls, both in the law program, said the work can be difficult, but one added, "Teachers help you so you don't fail out of it."
In 2013, Jodie Cohen, who had been assistant principal of administration, became principal, replacing Joseph Gogliormella, a former Madison teacher who had served as principal since 2003.
Attendance is fairly high for a large high school, and the suspension rate low. Despite a spate of tabloid stories several years ago about alleged sexual improprieties by teachers, the school scores above average for safety and respect on its annual survey.
Students must pass through a metal detector, meaning, one girl said, they have to learn to get along without their cellphones. Two students told us they thought the school was too strict, citing a policy where students who are late to class are sent to a special room for that period.
After school: The school fields about 30 interscholastic varsity and junior varsity teams for boys and girls. Students stage a number of performances, including SING, a musical competition, and can participate in a variety of clubs.
Special education: Madison has team teaching and self-contained classes. Students with IEPs are placed in the Instructional Support House.
College admissions: Madison's college office is staffed by a full-time counselor. Different colleges visit the school every Wednesday and graduates go to a wide range of colleges.
Admission: Zoned school. Two programs accept students from elsewhere in Brooklyn. Information Technology has about 34 openings for incoming 9th graders, and the Law Institute has about 100 places. Applicants must have grades of at least 90 percent in major academic subjects, good attendance and have gotten a 3 or 4 on their 7th grade standardized tests. (Gail Robinson, November 2013. Open house, web reports and interviews.)