I.S. 172 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Educational Complex
IS 172 closed in June 2009. The complex now houses four small schools:
At Renaissance Leadership Academy, the rules-based, rigid atmosphere where teachers yelled and students marched has been replaced by a kinder, gentler sensibility, with adults who are attuned to students' social and emotional needs. Gone are the camouflage uniforms; in are single-gender classes where students are encouraged to express themselves.
The Urban Assembly School for Performing Arts aims to combine performing arts with a strict academic environment. However, the school struggles with facilities that are not designed for the arts, and with getting students ready for college. More than half of students and 80 percent of teachers reported that discipline is unfair.
Urban Assembly Institute for New Technologies focuses on reading, writing, math and other core subjects in the hopes of boosting very low test scores. Teachers are urged to spend less time standing in front of the class talking and more time helping students as they interact in small groups. Though a new principal and staff in 2012 are trying to turn the school around, its troubled reputation lingers: only 15 students entered the 9th grade in 2012.
The Academy of Social Action is designed to offer a demanding college-prep curriculum but has struggled to maintain an orderly atmosphere where children can learn. Students complain of fights and bullying. On the positive side, the school plans to start a Career and Technical Education program that would offer a certificate in digital media, and staff members make themselves available to help students.
The four small schools share an auditorium, basement lunchroom, gyms and a small outdoor recess area (carved out of what used to be a faculty parking lot), but students at the different schools rarely mingle during school hours.
IS 172 had long suffered from very low test scores. In 2004, fewer than 10 percent of the eighth graders met standards in English and fewer than 5 percent met them in math. The campus sits in the shadows of three 20-story public housing towers known as Manhattanville Houses, and surveys show students often don’t feel safe in the neighborhood around the campus—even though a police precinct is two blocks away. Students and visitors must pass through metal detectors at the main entrance, and a handful of uniformed guards patrol the halls. (Aryn Bloodworth, November 2012)