Washington Heights Academy

Grades Pre-K, K-7
Staff Pick
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What’s Special

Cohesion and collaboration lead to a strong school culture

The Downside

Very limited openings for kindergarten, DOE Quality Review says more stimulation needed for top achievers

Our Review

Washington Heights Academy is a small, child-centered school dedicated to the notion that active parent involvement is a key to success. Founded by parents in 2004, it is open to children from across District 6. Demand for seats is high, especially for kindergarten. Sibling preference and a full-day pre-kindergarten program filled to the brim with 54 children means that competition for kindergarten seats is fierce.

Following a period of transition after it first opened, Washington Heights Academy has stabilized and thrived under the leadership of Principal Renzo Martinez, who joined the school in 2011. Lynne Herndon, a founding parent and the schools ELL coordinator, credits the schools success to one of its sustaining principles: A successful learning environment places relationships among teachers, students, families and other community members at its center. There is a long-standing dedicated staff with limited turnover. Assistant Principal Mercedes Diaz, has been at the school from the very beginning, as have a number of teachers.

The school is expanding to include a middle school, beginning with two 6th-grade classes in September 2014. Also that same fall, the pre-k program is set to undergo changes in tandem with the citywide expanded pre-k program. The school's 72 half-day seats will be converted to three full-day classes for a total of 54 seats.

The building is spacious and well-equipped for the changes. There are designated technology and science labs, a large library, an art and music room and a gym that can be converted to an auditorium. Classrooms are all bright and well-organized, and each has a SMART board and two computers. All classrooms, even in the upper grade, have a rug area for class meetings and a classroom library. Class size ranges from 25 to 30 students.

On the day of our visit, teachers, administrators and staff were friendly and upbeat with each other and with students. Students were engaged in productive and interactive learning in each classroom we visited; and we saw teachers across grade levels working together in common planning periods. Students receiving pull-out support services and ELL follow the same curricular track as their general education peers. The Department of Educations Quality Review, while praising the school overall, suggested that staff could find more ways to stimulate top achievers. Herndon said this is something the school tries to address.

All students receive visual arts, music, and physical education and movement classes during the school day. Younger students have access to a small playground and there is a play yard for older classes. When we visited, the weather-precluded students from outside recess, but children were happily engaged in well-run, adult-led physical activities in the gym.

Parent and family involvement remains active and strong and is central to the mission of Washington Heights Academy. Parent Teacher Association members on campus were eager to share with us the efforts they have undertaken to welcome all parents. This year children wrote letters to their parents explaining the importance of family participation in their school activities, an idea conceived by PTA Co-President Sorelys Irizarry. As WHA expands to include middle school, the school administration hopes to maintain its strong level of parent involvement throughout those formative years.

In addition to a focus on strong academics and social-emotional growth, the school cultivates community partnerships for added enrichment. The New York Cares School Success Initiative provides two full-time Americacorp liaisons who help develop in-school programming including Saturday Academy tutoring services and a recreation program including cooking, arts and sports. They also offer an adult ESL program, math games and robotics.

A partnership with the YMHA provides literacy volunteers that work with 1st and 2nd grade. Yeshiva University students provide science enrichment during the day in nine-week sessions. After school offerings also include a playwriting program, an adult and child cooking program, track and field through the NYRoadrunners club and a 60-kid community chorus through Young People's Chorus. Inwood Community Services runs an after school, summer and school break program with between 20 and 30 free spaces available per grade (about 130 total spaces) for students.

Special education: Twenty percent of the student population is classified as ELL students and five percent of students have an IEP. Speech, occupational therapy and physical therapy are available as pull-out services. The school has two SETSS teachers.

Admissions: District wide school of choice, priority to siblings and then to pre-k students. Pre-k expanded to three full-day classes for a total of 54 seats starting in fall 2014.(Sharon McCann-Doyle, February 2014)

About the students

Enrollment
563
Pre-K seats
53
Asian
2.3%
Black
1.6%
Hispanic
92.7%
White
2.3%
Other
1.1%
Free or reduced priced lunch
89%
Students with disabilities
13%
English language learners
17%

About the school

Shared campus?
No
This school is in its own building.
Uniforms required?
Yes
How crowded? (Full is 100%)
107%
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

Attendance

Average daily attendance
95%
94% Citywide Average
How many students are chronically absent?
10%
19% Citywide Average

Is this school safe?

How many teachers say order and discipline are maintained at this school?
100%
75% Citywide Average
How many students think bullying happens most or all of the time at this school?
17%
25% Citywide Average
How many students say they feel safe in the hallways, bathrooms and locker rooms?
97%
85% Citywide Average
How many teachers say their students are safe outside around this school?
94%
84% Citywide Average
How many students say most students treat each other with respect?
52%
46% Citywide Average

About the leadership

Years of principal experience at this school
5.0
6.4 Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?
88%
79% Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal has a clear vision for this school?
96%
86% Citywide Average
How many teachers trust the principal?
92%
79% Citywide Average

About the teachers

How many teachers have 3 or more years of experience teaching?
90%
78% Citywide Average
Teacher attendance
95%
96% Citywide Average
How many teachers say they would recommend this school to other families?
88%
79% Citywide Average
How many teachers think the staff collaborate to make this school run effectively?
96%
85% Citywide Average

Do parents like the school?

How many parents responded to the school survey?
78%
59% Citywide Average
How many parents say they are invited to visit classrooms?
83%
79% Citywide Average
How many parents say this school offers enough courses, activities and services to keep their children interested in school?
89%
84% Citywide Average
How many parents say their child's teacher helped their child adjust to Pre-K?
97%
97% Citywide Average
How many parents say this Pre-K program helped them consider which elementary schools would meet their childrens' needs?
85%
88% Citywide Average
How many Pre-K parents say their child's teacher gave helpful ideas for how to support their child's learning?
97%
95% Citywide Average
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

Test scores

How many students scored 3-4 on the state math exam?
44%
39% Citywide Average
How many students scored 3-4 on the state ELA exam?
41%
40% Citywide Average

Arts offerings

This school has 5 dedicated spaces for Dance, Music, Theater, Visual arts, and an Auditorium
This school has 3 licensed arts teachers in Music (part-time) and Theater

Engaging curriculum?

How many students say this school offers enough programs, classes and activities to keep them interested?
81%
72% Citywide Average
How many students say they are challenged in most or all of their classes?
55%
55% Citywide Average
How many students say the programs, classes and activities here encourage them to develop talent outside academics?
76%
70% Citywide Average

Are students prepared for high school?

Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

How does this school serve English Language Learners?

How many English language learners score 3-4 on the State ELA exam?
3%
7% Citywide Average
How many former English language learners score 3-4 on the State ELA exam?
31%
18% Citywide Average

How does this school serve students with disabilities?

This school offers self-contained classes
This school offers team teaching (ICT)
Average math score for self-contained students
2.08
2.2 Citywide Average
Average ELA score for self-contained students
2.05
2.2 Citywide Average
Average math score for SETSS students
2.31
2.3 Citywide Average
Average ELA score for SETSS students
2.05
2.3 Citywide Average
How many students say that students with disabilities are included in all activities?
76%
69% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school offers enough activities and services for their children's needs?
87%
84% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school works to achive the goals of their students' IEPs?
97%
89% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say they are satisfied with the IEP development process at this school?
91%
87% Citywide Average
For more information about our data sources, see About Our Data
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