J.H.S. 167 Robert F. Wagner

220 EAST 76 STREET
MANHATTAN NY 10021 Map
Phone: (212) 535-8610
Website: Click here
Admissions: neighhorhood school
selective
Noteworthy
Principal: Kaye Kerr
Neighborhood: Upper East Side
District: 2
Grade range: 06 thru 08
Parent coordinator: EILEEN DELEHANTY

What's special:

Fast-paced curriculum for motivated students. Large band program.

The downside:

School’s large size might be overwhelming to some.

The InsideStats

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Our review

M.S. 167, known as the Robert Wagner School, is a large, well-functioning upper East Side middle school with eager students, motivated teachers and an energetic administration. Wagner is best at keeping high-achieving students on an accelerated pace, but the school also does a commendable job teaching average students or those who need extra help. The school's large size lets it offer a wide array of classes, and its student population is one of the most ethnically diverse in Manhattan.

"We're really just a slice of New York City," said Jennifer Rehn, who has been Wagner's principal since 2004. "If you want your kids to have a real New York City experience, this is it." The modern, five-story school sits on a leafy stretch of 76th Street between Second and Third avenues within a chunk of the Upper East Side that ranges from ritzy to run-down. A number of children have parents who work for the United Nations, but nearly half the students qualify for free or reduced lunch.

Wagner's large size lets it offer a wide range of courses in both the "academic track" (as general education classes are called) and the "special progress" or accelerated courses. About three-quarters of Wagner's kids are considered special progress, and the school's rigorous curriculum allows elite students to take some Regents exams in eighth grade. Rehn said the school excels at "meeting kids at their levels and helping them meet their greatest potential." Special progress classes tend to be more crowded (averaging 33 students) than other classes (averaging 27 students).

The school has an active parents association (950 families are on the e-mail list), a variety of sports and after-school activities (ranging from dance classes to a biology club that specializes in dissection), and the largest band and orchestra program in Manhattan (more than 400 children participate). Classrooms are bright and colorful, and hallways are decorated with examples of student work. The campus has a large outdoor recreation yard where kids take physical education or hang out after lunch.

Rehn said teachers are working to infuse reading and writing into all classes, including gym and art. The 6th-grade curriculum is heavy on humanities (12 periods a week). Most of the faculty have at least five years of teaching experience, and turnover is low. Teachers post daily homework assignments on the school's web site, and parents can log on to check their children's grades.

Size has advantages, but some kids might be overwhelmed amid such a large student population. To help prevent kids getting lost in the crowd, Wagner has three assistant principals, one for each grade, and the APs travel with the students as they move from sixth through eighth grades. "They stick with them for three years," Rehn said. The school also has a strong no-harassment campaign, and students sign anti-bullying contracts that specifically define prohibited anti-social behaviors. Classrooms and hallways seemed orderly, and students we spoke to said the school was a generally friendly place with attentive, caring teachers.

Admissions: A zoned neighborhood school, Wagner accepts students from within its District 2 zone who rate the school as their first choice. "We really want kids at Wagner who want to be here," Rehn said. Students from outside the zone are also admitted, but not from outside District 2. Tours are offered in the fall. Children applying for the "special progress" program must have reading and math scores at levels 3 or 4 on the 4th-grade standardized tests, and they must rank Wagner as a top choice. "If you don't think carefully about how you rank us, there might not be a seat in the SP program," Rehn said.

Special education: Wagner has self-contained classes for kids with special needs. It also has two integrated co-teaching (ICT) classes per grade that feature two teachers, one of whom is certified to teach special education. (Skip Card, December 2011.)

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