Robert F. Wagner (J.H.S. 167)
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Challenging academics, strong leadership and a large band program
School's large size may not appeal to some
J.H.S. 167, the Robert F. Wagner School, is a large, well-regarded middle school with strong leadership, engaging instruction and lots of motivated students. It admits neighborhood students who are zoned for the school as well as District 2 students who are accepted through its screened program known as “SP” (special progress).
Jennifer Rehn Losquadro has been principal for over a decade and during her tenure has created a warm and orderly environment. Hallways are clean and quiet; many classrooms are cheery spaces that are nicely decorated with student work. During lessons we observed, teachers were enthusiastic and children seemed relaxed and engaged.
Walk into any classroom and you’re likely to find children sitting and working in groups, whether it’s testing the effectiveness of hand-made rockets in science or researching immigrant life at the turn of the 20th century in social studies. Many classrooms have extensive libraries, and students read fiction of their choosing in book clubs and during independent reading as well as tackle classwide selections in literature such as one 8th-grade class’s reading of Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.
Students are expected to write a lot in all subjects. In English there’s a lot of emphasis on the craft and structure of writing and by 8th grade, children are researching and writing lengthy essays.
Roughly 75 percent of the students are admitted through the SP program. The main difference between SP and the “Academic” classes is the latter has two extra periods of English each week and the pacing of instruction may vary a bit, depending on the class and subject. By 8th grade most students who start out in Academic classes join SP, according to Rehn. A select group of incoming 6th-graders are placed in honors math, which puts them on track to study algebra by 8th grade.
The school’s size has advantages. Wagner has a massive instrumental music program with three full-time band teachers, a very active PTA and a wide array of classes, after-school programs, theatrical and musical performances, sports and field trips. More than 500 students study instrumental music, taking daily classes and performing in one of the school’s several bands. Those not studying music take classes in art, technology and drama in nicely equipped labs and studios.
Each grade is housed on its own floor and has it’s own assistant principal and guidance counselor who stay with the same group of students for all three years. Children in all grades are scheduled for small advisory groups, which help teachers keep tabs on students’ needs and address problems before they escalate.
A fourth guidance counselor focuses on high school admissions and meets individually with each 8th grade family.
Spanish instruction begins in 7th grade.
Facilities include a large outdoor recreation yard where kids take physical education or hang out after lunch, a gymnasium, auditorium, and a studio filled with spin bicycles. Students wanting a quiet respite from the main cafeteria can eat lunch in an adjacent room where they can relax and play board games
Wagner has a solid record of sending graduates to specialized high schools including LaGuardia, Bronx Science and Brooklyn Tech as well as a range of well-regarded District 2 schools such as Eleanor Roosevelt and N.Y.C. Lab School.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: Wagner has self-contained and ICT (integrated co-teaching) classes.
ADMISSIONS: Wagner admits students from within its District 2 zone. Admission to the screened SP program is open to all District 2 students and is based on a review of students’ grades, state test scores, and records of attendance and punctuality. Zoned students with high grades and test scores do not automatically gain admission to SP. They must apply to it separately by ranking it on the middle school application ahead of Wagner’s zoned program. Assignment to honors math is based on students’ 5th grade test scores. (Laura Zingmond, October 2017)