Harlem Village Academy Charter School

Phone: (646) 812-9300
Website: Click here
Admissions: Lottery/District 5 priority
Principal: Jason Epting/Elliot Evans
Neighborhood: Harlem
District: 5
Grade range: 0K thru 12

What's special:

Strong charter school network with dedicated staff and extra support and resources for students.

The downside:

Strict policies and intense program, as well as three separate locations

K-8 Stats



Our review

Harlem Village Academy Charter School is an academically rigorous charter school that offers extra support for students in a nine hour school day, from 7:45 a.m. until 4:45 p.m. Originally founded as a middle school in 2005, the school is expanding to become a full K-12 school with three separate principals and locations in Harlem.

The high-profile founder of Harlem Village Academies is Deborah Kenny, formerly a teacher and an executive at Time Warner. She has received national attention for her success with Harlem Village Academies and published a book based on her experience titled “Born to Rise.” The New York Times praised her passion for learning; a passion that “she wants her students to have.” The school receives support from high-profile donors such as Bill Gates and Hugh Jackman. 

The middle school, located at 244 West 144th Street (646-812-9300), attracts students from the West Harlem community, with many entering the 5th grade at a 1st grade reading level. To catch the students up, the Village Academy gives students phonics-based reading instruction outside of the classroom, and has added a homework club and outside tutors. Jason Epting, formerly the director of student affairs, is principal of the middle school.

The middle school is orderly with students adhering to strict routines. Routines are shared between the classes, such as specific hand signals used in the classroom to denote clapping, support, and agreement. Students make calm transitions from class to class, walking in orderly, silent lines. The middle school is the only campus that requires silence in the halls. 

In class, we saw talented and dedicated teachers working hard to keep their students attentive. The two most intriguing subjects viewed during our visit were math and science; subjects where many students typically lose focus, but not here. Lessons also included tips on everything from how to keep focused in class to how to maintain proper posture. Hard work seems to pay off at HVA; In 2012 the 8th grade ranked first in math scores in Harlem, and second in reading (only surpassed by their sister charter, Harlem Leadership Academy). It is not all work without play at the school, though. Students have a chance to break away from their studies and enjoy events such as the 5th grade Luau or participate in electives.

The high school opened in 2007 with 30 9th graders. The students we met were serious about their work and self-disciplined enough to take advantage of their unique, small school's benefits, like daily tutoring, a school-wide focus on college-prep, and after-class activities planned in alignment with students' interests.

The rules HVA middle school students must follow - silent hallways, walking in straight lines, and coming to school with six sharpened pencils - have been relaxed in the high school. But the students seemed to have internalized many of the policies. The hallways were extremely quiet, and several students mentioned required tutoring as one of their favorite things about the school, rather than an annoying extra demand. Indeed, 90% of students at the HVA middle school opt to stay in the network for high school.

The high school is located at 35 West 124th Street (646-812-9200). Jason Griffith, the founding principal of Brooklyn Latin, one of the city’s specialized high schools, became principal of HVA High School in July 2013. He resigned in November 2013, for reasons described by the school as "personal", "related to his family and his health." 

The elementary school, opened in 2012, is located at 74 West 124th Street (646-812-9700), formerly Rice Catholic High School. At the elementary school, the focus is on character building and self-discipline under the guidance of the Love and Logic curriculum, a curriculum focused on promoting healthy teacher/student relationships in the classroom and school wide discipline. Principal Elliot Evans was previously a social studies teacher at the middle school.

All students wear the school uniform, although the design varies between the three levels.

Special Education: Each location has its own special education teachers, who work with students both in class and in separate sessions.

College: The class of 2012 had a 100% graduation rate, with students matriculating to a wide range of colleges, such as University of Buffalo, NYU, University of Michigan, Morehouse College, Stony Brook University and many of the CUNY and SUNY schools.

Admissions: The school offers a lottery in April. Admission is only open at the kindergarten and 5th grade, with preference given to District 5. The high school only admits students from Harlem Village Academy and Leadership Academy Middle Schools.

(Annaclaire Diianni-Miller, interviews & web reports, June 2013; visits to the school: Jacquie Wayans, 2005 and Lindsey Christ, 2008.)


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