Medgar Evers College Preparatory School
Brooklyn NY 11225
Fast-paced academics for hard-working kids
Some may prefer less test prep, more class discussion
Medgar Evers College Preparatory School offers a super-fast-paced curriculum, a wide array of Advanced Placement classes, and an unusually large program devoted to the study of Mandarin. A source pride in the African-American community, this combined middle and high school sends its graduates both to the Ivy League and to historically black colleges such as Howard University and Spelman College.
Longtime Principal Michael Wiltshire boasts that children begin their high school studies almost soon as they arrive in 6th grade; many pass Regents exams in Algebra 1, Geometry, Living Environment, US History and Global History before they finish 8th grade. “By the time they get to 10th grade, they have finished their high school requirements,” says Wiltshire, who has a doctorate in math education. That gives students ample time to take Advanced Placement classes (21 are offered) or classes at Medgar Evers College next door; some even earn an associate’s degree.
All 6th, 7th and 8th graders take Mandarin, and many continue in the high school. There are four Chinese teachers who offer what Wiltshire calls the largest non-heritage Mandarin program in the city—that is, a program for students who are not of Chinese ancestry. At the time of our visit, 10 students had just won scholarships from the Asia Society to study in Beijing for the summer.
Students in grades 6 to 9 commit to a six-week long summer school, which is designed to give them a head start on their demanding studies. Children typically have two to three hours of homework a night and some attend extra tutoring sessions after school and on Saturday.
On our visit, we saw a lively Chinese class in which children sang songs in Mandarin. A drama class recited Gwendolyn Brook’s poem “We Real Cool.” A physics class studied resistance and circuits. A history class discussed America’s disillusionment after World War I. An English class read excerpts from the Hindu epic “Mahabharata.” Most of the classes have desks in rows, with the teacher at the front delivering instruction.
“We really are a traditional high school,” says Wiltshire.
The school’s strength is in math and science, with AP classes offered in physics, chemistry, environmental science, calculus, statistics and computer science. The high school math and science classes are organized so that each teacher has three sections, or about 100 students in total, rather than the five sections of 34 students typical in high school. In history and English, most teachers have four sections of 34 children, and, like a lot of public schools, they don’t assign many long writing projects because their student load is high. On the positive side, AP classes are much smaller.
One parent complained that the school is too focused on memorization and test prep, without a chance for analysis and class discussions, especially in the humanities. Many of the readings involve worksheets and brief excerpts of books, rather than full texts.
Wiltshire says the staff is introducing time for children to read novels or other books for pleasure each day; teachers are also looking for ways to introduce more writing, more research and more critical thinking into the curriculum.
Housed in a cinderblock and concrete building adjacent to the Medgar Evers College campus, the school’s facilities are clean and bright. There are portable classrooms adjacent to the main building. Classrooms are mostly bare; teachers travel from room to room and generally aren’t assigned their own rooms which they can furnish with books and supplies. Classrooms have college-style seating, with chairs equipped with armrest rather than desks. There is no auditorium.
For physical education, middle school students take dance in a mirrored dance studio. There is no gym. High school sports take place on the college campus.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school has limited special education services. In recent years, the Department of Education has assigned 9th grade students with special needs, including some who read at a 5th grade level, to the high school outside of the regular admissions process. Wiltshire said the staff is still grappling with how best to serve them.
ADMISSIONS: There are 120 seats in 6th grade, and the school expands to serve 240 in the 9th grade. While most come from Brooklyn, some come from southeast Queens, taking the Long Island Railroad to Atlantic Avenue and then the subway. “The kids who do well are the ones who have a sense of independence and maturity,” says Wiltshire. The school looks not only at grades and test scores but also attendance, punctuality, special artistic or athletic talents, and parents’ level of commitment--needed to ensure get kids to school on time and help with the heavy homework load. Parents and children are interviewed and children are given a diagnostic test. (Clara Hemphill, April 2017)
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Programs and Admissions
Three years of computer science or information technology leading to A+/and or Networking Certification and internships. Excel Program leads to Dual Enrollment at Medgar Evers College.
Students must complete a research project for submission to a major science competition and take AP and/or undergraduate courses in science and research.
Chinese (Mandarin), French, Spanish
Advanced Placement (AP) courses
AP Biology, AP Calculus, AP Chemistry, AP Chinese, AP Comparative Government and Politics, AP Computer Science, AP English, AP Environmental Science, AP Human Geography, AP Physics, AP Statistics, AP US Government and Politics, AP US History, AP World History
Boys PSAL teams
Basketball, Bowling, Cross Country, Indoor Track, Outdoor Track, Swimming
Girls PSAL teams
Basketball, Cross Country, Indoor Track, Outdoor Track, Soccer, Swimming, Volleyball