M.S. 126 John Ericsson
BROOKLYN NY 11222 Map
M.S. 126 John Ericsson
MAY 2011 UPDATE: John Ericsson Middle School is one of twenty-two schools that will receive Small Improvement Grant funding of up to $2 million to implement the “Restart” intervention model. Each “Restart” school will be matched to a non-profit educational partner organization that will work closely with the principal and school community to implement a targeted improvement plan aimed at strengthening the curriculum, developing academic supports for students, and helping teachers improve practice. These schools will remain open and a new class of students will be admitted next year.
MARCH 2009 REVIEW: Like its Greenpoint neighborhood, MS 126 is in transition. As industrial supply yards, factories, tattoo parlors, and wooden frame row houses make way for high-rise condominium developments, the school is hoping to shed its reputation as a school of last resort. The administration wants to remake MS 126 into an academically challenging and well-run school that parents of motivated, focused students will consider as a first choice. School leaders have improved attendance, instruction, enrichment, and discipline, and are confident of future success.
Building and location: On the eastern edge of McCarron Park, MS 126 shares its building with Believe Northside Charter High School, which occupies the third and fourth floors, while the middle school is on the lower two floors. The gym, cafeteria and auditorium are shared. The building, constructed in 1973, is getting a facelift and new trees. McCarron Park is also undergoing extensive renovations to add playing fields, a swimming pool and a skating rink - all of which will be available for school use. Inside, Publicolor, a group that mobilizes students and volunteers, has completed painting projects that brighten the halls. The librarian has transformed her space into a fairy tale castle by recruiting volunteer artists through craigslist to paint murals on walls, doors and the ceiling
School environment and culture: Peggy McCarthy, who is the school's "neighborhood worker," has worked at MS 126 for 20 years. She has watched the school descend into chaos, with kids skateboarding in the halls. The school's "D" on the city's 2007-2008 Progress Report came as no surprise, she said, nor did the news that less than a third of its 8th-graders performed proficiently on the state ELA test. But under the tutelage of Principal Rosemary Ochoa and two new assistant principals, McCarthy says the school has "done a 180-degree turn" in the last several months and she now plans to send her own child here.
Ochoa said she is building a goal-oriented community where stakeholders feel they have a voice and a role in improving the school. Students are given individual goals and held accountable for their behavior. When students are tardy, parents are called. While in the heavily-supervised halls, students must be going someplace specific, never just hanging out. The school is strengthening relations with neighborhood civic groups as well as with The Greenpoint Gazette and the local 94th Police Precinct. "We want the community to know that we are here to stay," said Ochoa.
Teaching and curriculum: Given that it is in its fourth year as a School Under Registration Review (SURR) for poor test scores, MS 126 gears its core curriculum closely to state and city standards. For instance, ELA and math instruction are designed to improve test results and paced to coincide with testing dates. For higher achieving students, there is an accelerated curriculum for one section of 7th and 8th-graders aimed at preparing them to take Regents in science and math and get a leg up on high school. With the help of literacy, math and science coaches, the teachers use regular assessments to target their instruction and a variety of methods to make their lessons engaging. Technology, including laptops for all students, plays an important role. In a math classroom, 7th graders competed in a math game they enjoyed so much, the cheers could be heard on the street. In another, most students appeared focused as the teacher used a SmartBoard to solve problems. Still, as an assistant principal talked to 6th-graders in the auditorium about the consequences of poor school performance, students talked to one another rather than listening to the presentation.
To create smaller communities within the school, MS 126 is now divided into three academies.
Sixth graders begin as part of the Exploratory Academy, where elective classes introduce them to material that will be featured in both the Academy of Media and Journalism and the Academy of Business and Finance. Based on their interests, they choose one of the academies for 7th and 8th grade. Media and Journalism electives include classes that are responsible for compiling the yearbook and the school's website. In the Business and Finance Academy, a special education class was writing entrepreneurial marketing plans for products and services. In addition to academy electives, students take art, drama and gym. They can also choose to join a band which meets during the school day.
Family participation: The PTA is growing in strength. This year, it hosted a Thanksgiving gathering and a Valentine's Dance that drew more than 300 people. School Leadership Team meetings consistently draw six or seven parents, a big change from the past when only one parent attended. Ochoa says all school information is mailed home to improve communication.
Partnerships and programs: The school is stepping up involvement with civic groups and is laying ground work for the NY1 cable news network to work with the Academy of Media and Journalism. A mental health clinic run by Brooklyn Hospital provides a full range of services on-site. Free dental care is also available.
After school: Robotics, chess, flag football, basketball, tennis, music, dance team, art and drama are popular after-school activities. The Gold Olympics meets twice a week for test preparation and the school offers extra help on the required science and social studies exit projects. The drama club has an English as a Second Language (ESL) focus. Because of its SURR status, MS 126 must offer students after-school tutoring provided by an outside agency recruited because Ochoa felt its rigorous instruction is well-aligned with her curriculum.
Special education: There are five self-contained classes that have a teacher and para-professional. Collaborative Team Teaching (CTT) sections are gradually being added at each grade level.
English Language Learners: With 160 students who are newer immigrants, MS 126 has increased its efforts in teaching English as a second language. Sixth graders come out of their classrooms for ESL lessons, while 7th and 8th graders get help from the ESL teacher within the classroom. A special Saturday program enrolls children and parents and features classroom work and trips to local attractions.
High school admissions: Many students attend the Williamsburg Charter High School; a few students have been accepted to selective schools such as the LaGuardia High School of Performing Arts and Brooklyn Technical High School. In 2009, seven students will go to the Aviation Career and Technical Education High School. Other popular choices are: Brooklyn Preparatory High School, High School for Health Professions and Human Services, High School of Economics and Finance and the Grover Cleveland High School. (Sara Doar, March 2009)