MS 260 Clinton School for Writers and Artists

Phone: (212) 695-9114
Website: Click here
Admissions: District 2
Noteworthy Special Education
Principal: Jonathan Levin
Neighborhood: Chelsea/ Greenwich Village
District: 2
Grade range: 06 thru 08
Parent coordinator: JILL BENNETT

What's special:

Great drama program; energetic teachers; school expanding to include high school

The downside:

Six floor walkup with no elevator in current building

The InsideStats


Our review

The Clinton School for Writers & Artists is a nurturing place where students are encouraged to express themselves through the arts. It’s racially and economically diverse, and special needs children are integrated into regular classes. The popular middle school will expand to become a 6-12 school, starting with a 9th grade in 2015, when it moves to a new location.

Teachers challenge strong students while giving others the support they need to be successful. Advanced students may take algebra and Living Environment Regents exams in 8th grade and may study Mandarin Chinese. Students who need extra attention may work in a small group with a teacher for part of each class period. Children who struggle with reading get help from a teacher certified in Wilson reading program.

Bright children aren’t considered nerds and those with special needs are not segregated or stigmatized. On our visit, we saw a girl reading a thick book as she walked down the hall—and no one gave her a second look. Special needs students who were previously segregated in so-called self-contained classes are now integrated in team-taught classes. “Adults and kids look out for everybody in the building… you don't have a lot of labeling going on," said Jonathan Levin, who became principal in 2011.

The drama program is particularly well-known, and students put on a musical each year. (Long-time parent coordinator Cindy O’Neill and Levin broke into song when they told us about the musical). Art classes incorporate creative writing. In one class, students wrote limericks, then turned them into posters. In another, they designed covers for their favorite books. “If you ask 6th graders [at Clinton] what they want to be when they grow up, most say artist,” said art teacher Stacy Antonville.

On our visit, every student was engaged and alert and the quality of teaching was impressive. Class transitions were orderly. There were some imaginative projects. In a 7th grade math class, students pretended to be landscape designers and made a scale model of a garden and a budget for supplies and installation. In a social studies class, students made maps in preparation for a cultural tour of the neighborhood.

The school has more girls than boys. No uniform is required—that is unless you count the fashionable dyed hair and band T-shirts we saw many kids sporting.

In recent years, the school had a rapid turnover of principals. Teachers say Levin, former assistant principal at MS 131, is an effective manager with a clear vision, but some complain that he didn’t encourage communication his first year, according to the Learning Environment Survey. Levin says he’s working to build trust and improve communication. “We’ve had a rocky few years, but we’re on a good trajectory,” he said.

Clinton, formerly housed on the top floor of PS 11, moved into a former parochial school building in 2010. The building is beautiful, with lots of natural light and plenty of room for the small school. The maintenance staff keeps the building sparkling clean. Unfortunately, the school is located on six floors in a building that has no elevator.

Clinton will move again when a new construction at 10 East 15th Street near Union Square is finished and it expands to include high school grades. The 8-story building, scheduled to open in September 2015, has an 8500 square foot regulation size high school gym, a rooftop playground for the middle school and three elevators so it will become handicapped accessible. [See an architect's rendering of the building in the slideshow on this page.] Levin, who used to be a high school English teacher at the Leadership and Public Service High School, says the high school will have the same writing and arts focuse as the middle school.

The school offers a prep class for the Specialized High School Admissions Test, and top students are often admitted to the specialized schools, including LaGuardia. Levin says a large number of students go to Beacon High School.

Special education: The school no longer has “self-contained” classes. The students who once would have been assigned to those classes are now in co-taught (ICT or integrated co-teaching) class with two teachers, one of whom is special education certified. Clinton also has a teacher who is certified in English as a Second Language.

Admissions: Limited to District 2. Students must submit a writing sample or artwork. The school requires an interview and on-site writing excercise. (Anna Schneider, October 2012; updated August 2013 with information about the high school)

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