J.H.S. 127 The Castle Hill
BRONX NY 10462 Map
J.H.S. 127 The Castle Hill
MS 127 is a neighborhood middle school that receives most of its students from PS 106 across the street. The school has a record of low performance and sometimes rowdy behavior. On the day of our visit, the office was hectic as staffers tried to assist parents and students in a tiny space. It's not just the office that is congested, however. The school, too, is severely overcrowded. Despite this, we found a spirited staff that has a good understanding of adolescence -- a plus for a middle school.
Administrators told us that many children arrive at the school ill prepared for the academic work. Even many 7th graders aren't yet familiar with the times tables for instance. And the behavior of some children is disorderly, according to the parent coordinator, who lives in the community and has worked at MS 127 for 11 years.
Still, teachers try to impress upon the children the importance of a good education. We saw a 6th-grade math teacher who demonstrated to kids the low salary that a student with a GED, rather than a conventional diploma could expect to make yearly. "If you don't pull it together now, you will not be in a position to care for yourself in the future," she told the students.
We were impressed by a number of things at the school. One was the "Wall of Champions," which honors students who are good MS 127 citizens. Another was the instrumental music, chorus and art instruction -- big hits with high student interest. Oil pastels lend a touch of beauty to the hall, and an afterschool program that runs from September through December helps prep kids for specialized art schools.
There is also Peak, a program for promising students. Operating on an extended day twice weekly, the program has one class per grade and takes in about 30 kids for the 5th grade based on an interview. Although we were told the classes mix kids of different abilities, we found most students working on or above grade-level. The teachers are interviewed to work in Peak classes and seemed to be more enthusiastic than their peers in other classrooms. The kids seemed to have clear organizational skills. During our visit, 5th grade students were presenting well-done Titanic models they had constructed after they read a story and saw a movie about the ill-fated ship.
Transitions here are loud and some of the older kids are very big. One assistant principal commented that the little 5th graders will say to her, "The man pushed me," referring to an 8th grader who may have bumped them in the hall. One glaring problem: the day of our visit, the complex was unkempt with litter on the floor in classrooms. Students complained that the bathrooms aren't usable. Plans are under way to break up the school into smaller academies for the fall to help address these problems and boost academics. (Jacquie Wayans, February 2004)