MS 447, The Math & Science Exploratory School
Brooklyn NY 11217
Strong science program, diverse student body, noteworthy special education
Spanish instruction doesn't start until the 7th grade
MS 447, The Math & Science Exploratory School, is a successful and sought-after school that attracts students from diverse backgrounds. The school takes pride in its inclusive culture, welcoming many students with special needs and accommodating a range of abilities from academic stars to kids who struggle.
The science program is especially strong, thanks in part to a collaboration with the Urban Advantage Program, which promotes real world research and investigations through partnerships with cultural institutions. Students in all grades engage in imaginative projects and take frequent class trips to places like the New York Aquarium, Brooklyn Botanic Garden and the DNA Learning Center at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.
The vibe throughout the school is cheery and relaxed and teachers and staff put a lot of effort into maintaining a nurturing environment. To help students reenergize for their afternoon classes, the school offers lunchtime arts and sports activities. Students scheduled for a late lunch period can bring a snack to school and eat it at the start of their fourth period class.
Teachers also lead small group advisories that help them keep tabs on students social and academic concerns. Student government and peer mediation give students a voice in the school, said Principal Dawn Valle who left MS 447 in June 2014 after moving to Long Island. Her replacement is Arin Rusch, a former teacher and assistant principal at the school.
All students participate in the school's exploration program, which involves 12 week-long studies on topics like forensics, the Renaissance, plant ecology, and environmental sustainability. There is a dedicated staff of exploration teachers who work with classes on their designated exploration day, whether its leading a field trip or overseeing exploration-themed projects and research across all subjects that day. For their final exploration unit before graduation, 8th-graders study issues that impact their community and perform service projects. For instance, students learning about early childhood literacy read to kindergartners at a local school; students interested in animal rights may volunteer in an animal shelter.
In math students are grouped by ability starting in 7th grade. Those placed in the honors class study algebra in the 8th grade and take the Regents exam. In science, the honors track starts in 8th grade. All 8th-graders study life sciences. In fall 2014, honors classes will begin following the high school living environment curriculum, culminating in students taking the Regents exam. All other subjects serve children with mixed abilities; teachers may offer stronger students more difficult assignments or more challenging books to read. Spanish is the only foreign language taught, and instruction does not start until 7th grade.
There is extensive arts instruction. Student can take dance, instrumental music, visual arts, drama and Web design. There is a full orchestra and a recording studio where children may compose their own music using computer programs such as GarageBand. After school, students can take advantage of academic help and a broad range of activities in sports, arts and music.
To accommodate full-day exploration studies and still be able to offer students technology, art and advisory every semester, the school operates on a six-day or "A" to "F" cycle. For instance, if kids have an "A" schedule of classes on Monday, they will not have an "A" day again until the following Tuesday.
MS 447 shares space with the Brooklyn High School for the Arts inside the sprawling former Sarah J. Hale High School building, constructed in 1929. The floors are shiny, the hallways are well-lit and nicely decorated, but the lay-out is awkward. The 6th-grade classrooms are housed in a connected annex that is a long trek from the classrooms in the main building. The two schools share use of the auditorium and cafeteria. MS 447 has its own gym, entrance to the building and lunch periods. Outdoor recess is in a concrete yard between the main building and the annex.
In recent years, roughly one-third of 8th-graders have been admitted to specialized schools, including Brooklyn Tech, Stuyvesant and LaGuardia. Other popular high school choices are Midwood, Millennium Brooklyn, Edward R. Murrow, Telecommunications, Bard High School Early College and Beacon High School.
Special Education: The school has an ASD NEST program that serves a small group of children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). All students with special needs, including those with ASD, are fully integrated into classes that follow the ICT model. ASD NEST students also take a special class several times a week that focuses on social development training.
Admissions: Admission is limited to District 15. Teachers interview applicants, who are also given a math or science problem to test their analytical abilities (rather than their knowledge). (Laura Zingmond, May 2014; updated with new principal info, October 2014)