J.H.S. 118 William W. Niles
BRONX NY 10457 Map
J.H.S. 118 William W. Niles
MS 118, the William Niles School is a large, neighborhood school that's home to the PACE and Spectrum Academies, two selective admission programs that attract high-achieving students from across Districts 9 and 10. Two additional academies, Excellence and Niles Prep, are open to all students zoned for the building. Students throughout the school benefit from lots of technology, arts and extra-curricular activities supported, in part, by teachers who aggressively raise funds through Donors Choose.
Every academy has a unique vibe, their own staff of teachers for academic subjects, dedicated space in the building as well as their own director, an assistant principal who oversees the day-to-day operations. While PACE and Spectrum both admit high achievers and offer accelerated-pace instruction including Regents algebra and earth science, the two district-wide academies are very different in tone. Housed on the third floor, PACE has a more traditional feel. In most classes we observed, students sat in rows and teachers delivered lessons from the front of the room. We did, however, see some group work, including a fun science lesson where 6th graders examined pond water under microscopes. "Don't forget to have fun," was the teacher's final instruction before the children got to work.
Spectrum's program has a more progressive feel. The fourth floor, where Spectrum is housed, is the most nicely decorated space in the building with lots of art work and student writing lining the hallways. In classes, students sit in groups and work together on projects, like a mock trial we observed as part of an 8th grade unit on forensic anthropology.
Niles Prep and Excellence admit students of all academic abilities. Housed on the second floor, Niles Prep offers single gender instruction in math, science, English and social studies. When we visited the school was experimenting with looping in select classes, where one teacher works with the same group of students for all three years.
Excellence is housed in an annex building on the school property. Classrooms are a bit cramped, but overall the space is very clean and cheery with crisp lighting, shiny, blue floors and white walls and its own cafeteria. All Excellence classes are co-ed.
Despite the differences among academies, there are elements common to all programs. The curriculum in core subjects is standardized throughout the school, with the exception of 8th grade math and science. For instance, the day we visited, English classes throughout the building were in the midst of a unit on non-fiction with all classes covering the same topics. In Niles Prep and Excellence classes, the lessons honed in on the fundamentals, like vocabulary review and how to extract and organize information from non-fiction texts. In PACE and Spectrum, students were reading more challenging books and articles; their assignments delved deeper into topics, such as writing compare-and-contrast essays, staging class debates or pondering open-ended questions like how did the Neolithic Revolution change humanity?
All MS 118 students wear the same uniform, a royal blue polo shirt and any type of bottoms except jeans. Also, arts classes, which all students take four times a week, are not segregated by academy. Each class in visual arts, instrumental music, choral music, musical theatre, dance, and ceramics is taught to a mixed group of students from all academies. Every student is assigned a lap top for use during the school day, and every class has a SmartBoard. The school does not offer any foreign language instruction.
Students who struggle with social and emotional problems get help from the Unity Center, a student support program staffed by a social worker, psychologist and a team of interns from the Columbia University School of Social Work. The school also collects food and clothing to distribute to MS 118 families in need.
Some students reported bullying, fights and feeling unsafe outside the school building on the 2011 Learning Environment Survey.
After school: In addition to academic support there's a nice range of activities including sports, arts, a nationally-ranked chess team, robotics, debate, math team, architecture and community service. Instructors from PACE and Spectrum teach after-school classes in algebra for select 8th graders from Niles Prep and Excellence.
High schools admissions: PACE and Spectrum have a strong record of sending graduates to the city's top schools including specialized high schools and selective schools like Bard and NEST+m. Many students also get scholarships to Catholic high schools as well as boarding and local private schools.
Special education: SETTS and ESL support are available to students in all academies. There are self-contained, ICT (Integrated Collaborative Teaching) and bilingual ICT classes in the Niles Prep and Excellence Academies.
Admissions: Open to District 9 and 10 students and residents, there are no longer separate admissions for PACE and Spectrum. Instead, students apply to the MS 118 Honors Academy: PACE/Spectrum. School staff will assign admitted students to PACE or Spectrum based on a range of criteria including grades, attendance, teacher recommendations and scores on state exams. All applicants take an entrance exam and are interviewed by faculty.
Niles Prep and Excellence are open to all students zoned for MS 118. (Laura Zingmond, December, 2011.)