Jonas Bronck Academy
Bronx NY 10458
A focus on research and writing; graduates attend good high schools
Math instruction is a work in progress; no outdoor space
Founded in 1997 as an alternative to traditional junior high schools, Jonas Bronck Academy has become one of the most sought-after schools in the Bronx. A caring atmosphere, teachers who work together as a team and an imaginative curriculum combine to offer excellent preparation for high school—both public and private.
Students do far more research and writing than at a typical middle school. Beginning in 6th grade, children learn skills such as how to cite sources and how to weigh the reliability of materials they find online. By 8th grade, they write 5-page research papers, thoughtful essays on books such as To Kill a Mockingbird, and their own poetry. In science, they construct research projects on topics of their own choosing. One student examined whether a student’s height affects how fast he or she can throw a baseball—and used a radar gun to measure the speed of the ball. Another measured bacteria growth in toothpaste and mouthwash.
Children read classic texts, such as Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” but they also debate contemporary issues such as “Is illegal immigration a problem?” In one class we visited, 6th graders were writing essays about ancient Greece: Was Sparta’s educational system, based on “fitness, obedience and courage,” better than Athens’, with its emphasis on “reading, writing, and learning to be a citizen?”
The school offers dance, art and Italian. A full-time guidance counselor and social worker offer an unusual level of social and emotional support. The student body is mostly black and Latino, and children come from Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Guatemala, and various countries in Africa.
The school’s average test scores don’t reflect the high quality of instruction we saw on our visit. Teachers say they emphasize speaking, listening and writing—skills that are not measured well by multiple choice exams. “We don’t do test prep,” says Principal Brenda Gonzalez. “We teach them to do research papers, write essays, and do interdisciplinary projects.” Gonzalez, principal since 2012, has masters’ degrees both from Harvard School of Education and Bank Street College.
A few downsides: math instruction is not as strong as humanities and science. “A lot of work needs to be done in math,” Gonzalez acknowledges. The school, housed on two floors of an office building across the street from Fordham University, has no gym, auditorium or outdoor space. It does have a nice cafeteria and a “multipurpose room” that doubles as a dance studio. Children go to a nearby elementary school to use the gym.
The school invites representatives from various high schools to come to two “high school fairs” at Jonas Bronck and encourages kids to visit as many high schools as possible. “My kids visit tons of high schools, public, private and charter,” says Gonzalez. Children take part in academic enrichment programs such as Breakthrough New York, Prep for Prep and Summer on the Hill at the Horace Mann School. Many graduates attend Bronx Center for Science and Math; some are admitted to private schools such as Fieldston and Fordham Prep as well as the city’s specialized public high schools. Jonas Bronck offers test prep for the Specialized High School Admissions Test to any student who wants it.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school offers team teaching classes with two teachers, one of whom is certified in special education.
ADMISSIONS: There are typically 1,600 applicants for 90 seats. Children who live in districts 9 and 10 and who attend an information session are eligible. The school also considers a child’s attendance record. “If you are never absent or late, you have a really good chance of getting in here,” says Gonzalez. (Clara Hemphill, May 2017)