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Middle School Stats
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Small classes and high expectations are hallmarks of Bronx Latin. Even though most students enter 6th grade with poor academic skills, nearly three-quarters graduate on time. The school is a haven of inspiring teaching and rigorous academics in a historically poor, rough neighborhood, and shares the old IS 158 building with Bronx Career and College Prep and Dr. Richard Izquierdo Health and Science Charter School.
Former assistant principal Annette Fiorentino took the helm in 2012 and has worked to bolster academics. The school has added three new advanced placement courses to its offerings and forged a partnership with Lehman College, where students get priority summer and school-year placement in College Now courses. Bronx Latin was ranked number 27 on the New York Post's 2013 "Top 50 public schools in NYC." "We are a school on the move," says Fiorentino, who has also re-instituted the school’s namesake Latin program, offering courses to 6th- and 7th-graders. Students also read works of Classical literature in their English language arts classes.
In 8th grade and at the high school level, students take four years of Spanish, including AP Spanish during their final year. The high school also offers AP history and statistics, and has plans to offer AP English next school year.
Classroom instruction was found to be lively and engaging. In a 7th-grade science class, a teacher handed out tweezers, clothespins and spoons to function as the “beaks” of birds on an island, and cups represented the birds’ “stomachs.” The materials were distributed along with birdseed for an experiment in which students had to determine which “beak” would be the most successful and why.
When the teacher advised the students to be “nice birds,” one asked whether that didn’t go against the principle of “survival of the fittest.”
“Yes, but in my class the birds are nice,” the teacher replied amid laughter.
In a 9th-grade English class, a teacher sporting a Bronx Latin T-shirt with the words “Will Power” on the back led students in a lesson about thesis statements, explaining that students must prove their points by using quotes and evidence from various sources. “Which you guys are getting really good at,” the teacher said in an encouraging tone.
Science is bolstered by extracurricular projects. A trio of graduating seniors recently won third place at Lehman College’s second annual Bronx SciFest in February 2014 for a project they did under the mentorship of a Lehman chemistry professor. The project involved researching the effects of chemical pollutants upon the surface of different materials used in electronics.
The winning students said they had been accepted into a number of selective colleges, such as SUNY Albany and the University of California, Riverside.
College-advising here begins as early as middle school. Signs hang outside the doors to each classroom with the names of teachers’ college alma maters. “We push 100 percent of our students to get into college,” Fiorentino said. She has also invested a sizable portion of her school budget to provide free SAT prep to the high school’s juniors during a Saturday Academy.
The high school portion of Bronx Latin—which occupies portions of the third and fourth floor of the building – earned high marks in college and career readiness from the DOE. Although only 38 percent of the school’s seniors will be able to pass out of remedial coursework at the City University of New York (CUNY), this is an improvement over 17.5 percent in 2012-13.
The atmosphere is mostly one of harmony—quite literally when you consider the melodious, jazzy sounds of the student orchestra—but there’s also some sporadic student discord. Physical arguments broke out twice during our visit, although in each instance school staff and security swiftly squashed the spats. "The event in the hallway is not common at Bronx Latin," says Annette Fiorentino. "I am happy that my staff responded quickly and was able to prevent an altercation." She says the matter was resolved with a parent conference.
Like a lot of small schools, Bronx Latin doen't offer much in the way of electives, but Fiorentino points out that the school offers four years of music and language, and its courses are structured for students to get advanced regents diplomas. In the high school, students can participate in baseball, basketball, co-ed soccer, softball and girls' volleyball. The middle school offers basketball and co-ed flag football.
All students wear uniforms of black or white collared shirts and beige pants or skirts.
Admissions: District 12 choice for middle school. For high school, students who attend an open house receive preference. (Jamaal Abdul-Alim, March 2014)