M.S. 35 Stephen Decatur
Brooklyn NY 11233
Warm staff and administration have turned school around
Test scores, while steadily climbing, are still below average
MS 35 has made remarkable progress in recent years: test scores, attendance and teacher and student morale have all improved. Suspensions have decreased dramatically.
Students are well-behaved and sharply dressed in their required uniforms--blue button-down shirts with ties and khaki pants (girls may wear khaki skirts). The shirt features the school slogan: Miracle on McDonough, a nickname representing the schools transformation. On our visit, we found it hard to believe that the state once listed MS 35 as persistently dangerous.
Students are encouraged to think about college. They go on field trips to Harvard, Yale as well as New York University and The New School. Eighth graders also take a trip to Williamsburg, Virginia.
The staff at MS 35 is warm and welcoming. The principal, Jacklyn Charles-Marcus, attributes their success to her brand of tough love: she knows all the students by name and checks attendance every day. Violence is not tolerated and results in automatic suspension. Her management style seems to be working. When we asked students and teachers to tell us their favorite thing about MS 35, many, like 7th-grader Alex, responded: the principal.
The building is shared with the Brooklyn Brownstone Elementary School and P141, a district 75 school. MS 35 students have their own entrance and the first and second floor of the building.
While the schools test scores are still below city averages, they have increased significantly and Charles-Marcus believes they will keep improving. Students who need extra help now get it in small groups before lunch rather than after school sessions that students often missed. A math teacher told us she is now able to give more attention to students who struggle. MS 35 also offers Saturday School for students who want extra academic help, and 87 kids attended the Saturday before our visit.
All 35 8th graders take the Regents exam in math, as does one class of 7thgraders.
MS 35 students have drama once a week and 90 minutes of gym per week. One downside is that the school does not offer any foreign languages.
During lunch, students sit in assigned seats, with boys and girls at alternate tables. Sixth and 8th graders eat lunch together around noon, but, since MS 35 shares the cafeteria with other schools in the building, 7th graders must eat lunch at 10:30 am, something they told us they did not like. The cafeteria always provides vegetables and fruit with every meal, and no soda. Students have recess after lunch, outside on a blacktop playground with basketball hoops when its nice and inside in the gym when its raining.
After school: SCO, formerly St. Christopher-Ottlie, a family and children's services agency, runs an after-school program as does the Beacon program, a city-run youth services organization. Activities include dance, basketball and art.
Special education: There is one self-contained class (special needs children only) in each grade. Some of those students attend mainstream classes for reading and math.
Admissions: District 16 is a middle school choice district. Students may apply from out of district but most students come from surrounding areas. Students are interviewed. The principal said she looks for students, who want to succeed. There is one open house a month. Call the school for dates. (Anna Schneider, October 2011)