Sun Yat Sen Middle School (M.S. 131)
Share this school
Effective program in English for new immigrants; dual language Mandarin classes
Odd layout in strangely configured building
MS 131 has long been known for its strength in teaching English to new immigrants, particularly to children from China. In addition, the school offers English speakers the chance to learn Mandarin and bilingual children the chance to perfect both languages. Computers are equipped with Chinese software that allows students to read, write and print in Chinese.
There is a focus on writing, class discussions and debates, an effective way to improve students’ written and spoken English. In a history class, children might defend or refute the notion that America is the land of opportunity; in science, they might argue the relative benefits of bottled or tap water, according to the school's Quality Review Report. Some lessons demonstrate the practical applications of math. For example, 8th-graders use their knowledge of algebra to research the best telephone plan for a family.
In addition to core academics, children are exposed to art, music, dance, foreign language. Students are required to perform 20 hours a year of community service. Teachers strive to offer emotional support, to spark children’s curiosity, and to encourage them to be independent thinkers and socially responsible adults, according to the school’s yearly Comprehensive Educational Plan.
Benjamin Geballe, a former assistant principal at the Lower Manhanttan Community Middle School, took the helm in 2018 after the departure of long-time principal Phyllis Tam.
The school earned high marks in its most recent Quality Review and is the subject of a book, An Island of English, about effective instruction for immigrants.
MS 131 has a strangely configured building shared with Pace High School and the Emma Lazarus High School. The layout of the rounded building is confusing, with curved hallways and not much natural light.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school offers ICT (integrated collaborative teaching) and self-contained classes.
ADMISSIONS: Zoned school. Students from anywhere in Manhattan are eligible for the dual-language program, which gives preference to Mandarin speakers. (Clara Hemphill, web reports, October 2018)