Urban Assembly Academy of Government and Law, The
Lots of support for incoming freshman, early college awareness
Limited course offerings, some teacher turnover and discontent
The Urban Assembly Academy for Government and Law (AGL), delivers on its name, infusing law and civics into most areas of the curriculum. The school was founded with the help of Urban Assembly, a not-for-profit group that assists in the creation of small college preparatory schools.
The school has a traditional feel. Housed in the Seward Park Educational Campus, the schools stately blue hallways are lined with college banners; students wear preppy uniforms of khaki or blue pants and blue collared shirts. In classrooms observed, teaching styles were mixed and student-teacher interaction was relaxed. Some teachers rely on lots of hands-on learning, like in chemistry class, where students hovered over tin pans filled with water and splashes conducting oil spill experiments aimed at identifying factors - rain, waves, objects, etc. - that cause oil to disperse in a body of water.
In all grades there are themed classes, such as the 11th grade government class, where students sat quietly in rows watching a political cartoon connecting Occupy Wall Street to periods of economic unrest in the 1930s and 1960s. In Forensics, AGLs 10th grade science class, students were chatty, but on-task as they took measurements of each other as part of a lesson on anthropometry, the science of human measurement.
Most of AGLs students start high school performing below grade level. Some arrive with a history of massive absences in middle school, according to Assistant Principal Andrea Brand. To ease their transition to high school, 9th graders attend classes in a cluster of rooms tucked at the end of one hallway. They also attend a mandatory, extended-day program, and, with 10th graders, take separate classes for reading and writing instruction each day.
Students in all grades attend themed, small group advisories. Advisory in the lower grades focus on study skills and community service; the upper grade advisories address preparation for college. Graduate students in law and social work from New York University provide tutoring and counsel services to students.
Typical of small schools, Urban Assemblys course offerings are limited. Students can take Advanced Placement American History, Spanish and English as well as several College Now classes. Spanish is the only foreign language taught. Extra-curricular activities, such as the schools law and mock trial teams, are where students enjoy variety.
David Glasner has been principal of the school since July, 2009. Prior to taking the helm, he served for one year as the schools assistant principal and taught for several years at the Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics. [In 2014 David Glasner left to become principal of a middle school in Shaker Heights, Ohio. His successor Alison Breedy is an attorney and a former interim-acting principal at J.H.S. 218, a struggling middle school in Brooklyn.]
In the 2010-11 Learning Environment survey, teachers gave low marks to the administration. Brand said there is teacher turnover every year, and that the dissatisfaction expressed in the survey stems, in part, from some teachers leaving because theyre not a good fit for the school. Our students have a lot of needs and teaching them is a very demanding job, said Brand. Everyone has multiple responsibilities here. If youre not wearing five hats in this school, youre not doing a good job.
College admissions: Most graduates attend CUNY or nearby SUNY schools, but some have ventured further to schools including Howard University, Syracuse University, Virginia State and Wheaton College. In addition to college-focused advisories, students visit colleges and take an SAT prep course onsite.
Special Education: Roughly ten percent of students have special needs. There are ICT (Integrated Collaborative Teaching) classes, each lead by two teachers and a student support team that includes two full-time social workers and several social work interns.
After school: Ninth graders have mandatory extended day instruction. Offerings range from student government and academic help to after school clubs such as art, drama, basketball and step team. Student athletes can participate in the campus-wide PSAL teams.
Admissions: Limited unscreened. (Laura Zingmond, October 2011, principal update December 2014)
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Boys PSAL teams
Badminton, Baseball, Basketball, Bowling, Handball, Volleyball, Wrestling
Girls PSAL teams
Badminton, Basketball, Bowling, Softball, Table Tennis, Tennis, Volleyball
Manhattan NY 10002