Harlem Village Academy West Charter Middle School

Grades 6-8
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Location

244 West 144 Street
Manhattan NY 10030
Harlem (District 5)

Contact

Phone
646-812-9300
Principal
Jason Epting/Kevin Tallat-Kelpsa

What’s Special

Focus on kids independence, rather than obedience

The Downside

Shifts around teaching approach are a work-in-progress

Our Review

When it was founded in 2003, Harlem Village Academy was known for relentless discipline, silence in the halls, and a no excuses approach to education. That philosophy is changing: Teachers now encourage children to talk in class, work together in groups and take responsibility for their own education.

We dont want them to just be obedient, waiting for someone to tell them what to do, said Jason Epting, principal of Harlem Village Academys middle school, the oldest of a network of five schools now called Harlem Village Academies.

We were sending kids off to college, and they really didnt have the independence to be successful, said Matt Scott, chief operating officer for the network.

The Harlem Village Academies network has hired Shelley Harwayne, the founding principal of Manhattan New School and former superintendent of Manhattans top-performing District 2, to help staff adapt from a traditional approach to teachingwith desks in rows and the teacher doing most of the talkingto a more progressive approach, with desks in groups and teachers walking from child to child, offering individual help.

Instead of traditional parent-teacher conferences, each child now presents a portfolio of work to his or her parents, with the teacher looking on.

Theres a new philosophy around discipline as well. In the past, children might be sent home for minor infractionssuch as not wearing a belt as the uniform required. Now, the school has adopted restorative justice, finding ways for children to make amends (and borrow a belt) without forcing them to miss class. If youre not in class, youre not learning, Epting said.

The new methods are a work in progress, and, on our visit, many teachers seemed to be more comfortable with traditional methods. Its been a really hard change, one staffer said.

The school day is long, from 7:35 am to 4:30 pm. As is the case at most charters, teachers are not unionized.

Many children enter 5th grade with very low levels of academic skills, particularly in reading, and teachers work hard to bring them up to grade level. For math, the school blends the challenging Singapore Math program with a Japanese approach that focuses on understanding concepts. Children have math for at least 100 minutes a daysignificantly longer than at most middle schools.

As at most schools in the state, the Harlem Village Academy middle schools test scores plummeted with the introduction of new tests aligned to the Common Core in 2013. Still, the test scores are better than average for District 5 middle schools.

Located on the top floor of PS 194, Harlem Village Academy has clean but worn classrooms and corridors. A boys bathroom was closed for repairs at the time of our visit.

Students who graduate from the middle school are automatically admitted to the Harlem Village Academy High School, which has a high graduation rate and a good record sending graduates to college.

The founder of Harlem Village Academies is Deborah Kenny, formerly a teacher and an executive at Time Warner. She has received national attention for her work with Harlem Village Academies and published a book based on her experience,Born to Rise. The network has received support from donors such as Bill Gates and actor Hugh Jackman.

SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school has six special education teachers and a number of ICT, or team-teaching, classes. Epting, a former special education teacher, is committed to keeping children with special needs, rather than counseling them to leave as some schools do. Once they step into our school, theyre ours, Epting said.

ADMISSIONS: The school offers a lottery in April, with preference to students who live in District 5. The high school only admits students from Harlem Village Academy and Leadership Academy Middle Schools.(Clara Hemphill, March 2015)

About the students

Enrollment
989
Asian
0.3%
Black
78.2%
Hispanic
19.4%
White
0.7%
Other
1.4%
Free or reduced priced lunch
81%
Students with disabilities
19%
English language learners
5%

About the school

Shared campus?
Yes
This school shares the building with PS 194
Metal detectors?
No
How crowded? (Full is 100%)
98%
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

Attendance

Average daily attendance
92%
93% Citywide Average

Is this school safe?

How many teachers say order and discipline are maintained at this school?
72%
77% Citywide Average
How many students think bullying happens most or all of the time at this school?
26%
28% Citywide Average
How many students say they feel safe in the hallways, bathrooms and locker rooms?
83%
82% Citywide Average
How many teachers say their students are safe outside around this school?
75%
78% Citywide Average
How many students say most students treat each other with respect?
33%
43% Citywide Average

About the leadership

How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?
75%
82% Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal has a clear vision for this school?
67%
88% Citywide Average
How many teachers trust the principal?
63%
82% Citywide Average

About the teachers

How many teachers say they would recommend this school to other families?
74%
81% Citywide Average
How many teachers think the staff collaborate to make this school run effectively?
84%
86% Citywide Average
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

Test scores

How many students scored 3-4 on the state math exam?
46%
27% Citywide Average
How many students scored 3-4 on the state ELA exam?
23%
30% Citywide Average

Engaging curriculum?

How many students say this school offers enough programs, classes and activities to keep them interested?
62%
75% Citywide Average
How many students say they are challenged in most or all of their classes?
59%
56% Citywide Average
How many students say the programs, classes and activities here encourage them to develop talent outside academics?
60%
72% Citywide Average

Are students prepared for high school?

How many 8th graders earn high school credit?
0%
26% Citywide Average
How many graduates of this school pass all their classes in 9th grade?
18%
84% Citywide Average
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

How does this school serve students with disabilities?

Average math score for ICT students
2.53
1.9 Citywide Average
Average math score for self-contained students
2.33
2.1 Citywide Average
Average ELA score for ICT students
2.14
1.9 Citywide Average
Average ELA score for self-contained students
1.97
2.2 Citywide Average
Average math score for SETSS students
2.37
2.3 Citywide Average
Average ELA score for SETSS students
2.07
2.3 Citywide Average
How many students say that students with disabilities are included in all activities?
56%
67% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school offers enough activities and services for their children's needs?
88%
88% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school works to achive the goals of their students' IEPs?
90%
91% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say they are satisfied with the IEP development process at this school?
89%
90% Citywide Average
How many special ed students graduate in 4 years?
100%
93% Citywide Average
For more information about our data sources, see About Our Data
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