Lower Manhattan Community Middle School
Manhattan NY 10004
A small, nurturing school with strong teaching
No outside recreational space
Teenagers who attend Lower Manhattan Community Middle School (LMC) are part of a nurturing, economically diverse and well-run school that takes the word "community" seriously. Children place post-it notes of encouragement on one another's lockers, 6th-graders take an overnight trip to a lake and group projects are the norm in every classroom. The school has stunning views from its exciting location across from the Wall Street bull.
Students were engaged in every classroom we visited. There are up to 32 children per class, but teachers have a good rapport with their students and are adept at personalizing instruction. During a 6th grade lesson on prime factorization, a teacher worked with students at a projector while others worked on their own at tables. Seventh grade students tackled a math problem in groups, each using a different colored marker so the teacher could see, at a glance, the degree of participation.
LMC is unusually committed to children with special needs. "We think a lot about how we're going to meet the needs of all kids, high and low," said principal Kelly McGuire. When children have disabilities, their test scores don't move as much, he said, but instruction is often stronger because teachers must figure out how to reach a larger range of learners. Diversity, whether academic, ethnic or economic, is important at LMC, stressed McGuire. "It's a key component to what we think is important in middle school." Enrichment offerings include an advanced algebra class, a math team, debate club, a writing group, and an advanced book group with about 60 participants that takes place after school.
Routines were well established during our early November visit; homework was stamped upon completion, dismissal procedures were spelled out on the walls. "Very predictable structures are important for all kids but especially for needy populations," said McGuire. Yet it wasn't rigid; a child with a "demerit" for acting out in class took a walk with a basketball coach, who was brought on staff because of his positive connections with students.
Teachers want to hear what students think. Seventh grade humanities students discussed biased and unbiased language in photo captions. "Share out," said the teacher, prompting students to turn and talk to one another. During a discussion of the Stone Age in a 6th grade humanities class, teachers reinforced how to listen by reminding students to face the child talking.
Attendance is unusually strong for a middle school. In addition to the focus on maintaining strong teacher-student relationships, the arts are a big draw for getting to school every day. "Our days, weeks and even months are really exciting," said McGuire. Students are in an arts class at least once a day. In 6th grade, they all try out digital arts, dance, visual arts and music before settling on one track in subsequent grades.
The school does not have its own outdoor field but Manhattan Youth, who oversees the after school program, reserves space in Battery Park for sports practice.
The high school guidance counselor meets with families to assist with high school admissions. The school offers preparation for the specialized high school exam and arts portfolio preparation. About a dozen children were admitted into arts schools such as LaGuardia, Professional Performing Arts and Talented Unlimited in 2016.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: Two out of four classrooms on each grade are ICT, or co-taught, in classrooms that mix in a portion of kids with special needs. The school prefers having more than 25 percent children with disabilities because it is easier to plan for instruction when there is a critical mass of students with special needs and special education teachers, according to McGuire.
ADMISSIONS: Lottery. No students outside of district 2 have been admitted in recent years. (Lydie Raschka, October 2016)