Frederick Douglass Academy V Middle School
Bronx NY 10457
Some truly excellent, engaging teaching.
Few after school activities; some lackluster teaching.
Frederick Douglass Academy V (FDA V) is a bright, energetic middle school based on the model of the original Frederick Douglass Academy in Harlem. FDA V's founding principal Deborah Cimini and the assistant principal taught at the original FDA under the leadership of its longtime principal, Dr. Gregory Hodge. While the original FDA model was designed to serve strong students, FDA V serves a range of abilities and children are admitted at random.
Students at FDA V wear a uniform of blue pants and white shirts. On the day of our visit, one seventh grade class was celebrating a "dress down" day, a reward for collecting the most pennies in a penny drive. Students are rewarded for perfect attendance, and classes are rewarded for good behavior. Students have made trips to Boston, Washington, DC, and even Mexico and Italy. Eighth graders visit local colleges, like New York University and Fordham University, where they sit in on college classes. The guidance counselor also offers the eighth graders a high school preparation course, which coaches them through applications. Students research the high schools they are interested in, and present their findings to their classmates. They then design posters of the high schools, which are posted in the hallway-we saw posters for Bard, Stuyvesant, Pace, Truman and University Heights.
Academics at FDA V appear to be mixed. We observed some truly excellent teaching, with teachers who held the attention of their eager students, as well as a few instances where teachers did not seem to have control over their rowdy classes or where the students didn't seem to have anything to do. Cimini says each class has its own character, and that she had a particularly rowdy group of eighth graders at the time of our visit. Parents and students still signan agreement to abide by firm school rules, though it is no longer aprerequisite for acceptance to the school.
However, the school clearly values high academic achievement. Students are offered Latin and Spanish courses. Samples of student work such as science reports and memoir-style essays, most of it quite good, cover every available bulletin board in the halls. Students flitted in and out of the cozy library throughout the day, and are expected to read a number of books each semester. A teacher we spoke with said that students receive lots of one-on-one help, and in fact we passed a classroom where a teacher was demonstrating a math problem to a single student during a break. The school shares a building with CS 57.
Students we spoke to say that they like the school, and that they find lots of help from the teachers. One sixth grade girl said that she has gotten much better at math since starting at FDA V. A seventh grader warned that the school does not offer many after school activities.
Special Ed: FDA V offers both Collaborative Team Teaching and self-contained classrooms.
Admissions: Admissions is unscreened. Students who apply are randomly selected through the district. (Tom Jacobs, December 2010)