Brooklyn NY 11212
Small high-achieving school in area with few strong schools, emphasis on writing
Some students may balk at the rules
Located in Brownsville, where many schools struggle, IS 392 stands out with a demanding academic program for high achieving students. The small, selective school has a gleaming and well-equipped facility and offers an array of opportunitiesincluding innovative projects, rugby and frequent trips to arts events.
An instructional coach describes IS 392 as having a close-knit staff and students who are smart, hilarious and "keep us on our toes."
Assignments hanging on bulletin boards attest to demanding and inventive projects, such as a public service announcement on child labor, a student-made soundtrack for To Kill a Mockingbird, reports on the solar system and short writing assignments in math.
Most students take the integrated algebra Regents in 8th grade, and some take the living environment Regents. In addition, all 8th-graders must complete two exit projects: a research paper related to Brooklyn and a science experiment that they present to the whole class. One boy studied driver reactions by planting different objects at the side of the road and seeing which riders slowed down, while another tried to determine how sound moves through various materials.
While most class discussions seemed teacher led, students were quick to participate. In 7th-grade English, students volunteered varying opinions as to whether the title character in the novel Lyddie, an orphan working as a servant to pay off her family's debts, is actually a slave. Sixth-graders broke into groups to plan a presentation, such as a skit, debate or song that would give their classmates a sense of a particular book.
Principal Ingrid Joseph took on her current role in 2013 after serving as assistant principal at the school for many years. She says the school has not had to make major changes to comply with the Common Core learning standards. A science teacher said there are fewer labs now and more emphasis on writing in science than there was previously. Within those limits, she said, the science classes try to be lab centered, focusing on real life issues.
Although children come in with generally strong academic backgrounds, there is a range of abilities, and a number of students face challenges at home. "This is a haven for a lot of kids. Its a place for them to forget their troubles," Joseph says, adding that students go on many trips, particularly to theaters and arts events, and the school has partnerships with a number of organizations.
Everyone takes art here, and projects often reflect what students are working on in social studies. One class created elaborate papier-mch masks in conjunction with a study of Native Americans, while another made kites to correspond with their work on China. The children take three years of Spanish.
For years, IS 392 has fielded one of the few rugby teams in the city and has won a number of championships. It prides itself on offering other unusual sports as well such as badminton and ultimate Frisbee.
The workload can be an adjustment for incoming students, Joseph says, and 6th-graders often find the writing particularly difficult. On the other hand, she says, high school principals frequently tell her how well her graduates write.
Students say the amount of homework they have depends on the teacher and that they sometimes have to finish classwork at home. "The students who are most successful here are those who eventually learn to be self-sufficient," says Joseph.
The school has high attendance and virtually no suspensions. Some students, though, complain about the strict uniform policy, which extends to makeup and outerwear.
Special education: There are two self-contained classes.
Admissions: Applicants must take an admission test. The school recently has gone beyond test scores to include an interview and writing sample. District 23 students have priority but any Brooklyn 5th-grader can apply. (Gail Robinson, May 2014)