J.H.S. 054 Booker T. Washington
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Rigorous and creative instruction
The Booker T. Washington School (MS 54) is a sought-after, academically challenging school with a music program and a range of elective classes and after-school activities.
Teachers develop their curriculum in house, injecting a lot of creativity into lessons and activities. A 7th-grader wrote to the Walt Disney Company to explain in detail the historical errors of its portrayal of Pocahontas. In science, students conduct a lab on the Big Bang Theory to understand the role of a singularity in the universe’s expansion, according to the school’s Quality Review.
In humanities classes, which cover both English and social studies, students take a three-year sequence in grammar and are required to read at least 25 books during the school year. There’s a school-wide spelling bee and the hallways are decorated with vocabulary words, brain-teasers and Latin root words worthy of an SAT prep course.
All students participate in the annual science fair and by 8th grade are writing research papers using secondary data. Weekly science labs run for a double period to allow time for experiments that are hard to complete in a single period.
Beyond core academics, the school has a strong music program that includes instruction in band, string instruments and chorus. Sixth-graders rotate through instruction in all three areas and take a fine arts class. For 7th and 8th grade, students concentrate in one area of music or in another interest such as fine arts, drama, technology, film or public speaking.
Sixth-graders also rotate through instruction in several languages, which typically include Spanish, French, Latin and Mandarin and then concentrate in one starting in 7th grade.
Tutoring is provided in the early morning and after school for those needing extra support. There’s also a range of sports and after-school activities run onsite.
MS 54 is housed in a three-story brick building a few blocks from the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine. The cafeteria is small, which means students eat lunch in three shifts, one for each grade. There’s a library packed with books and staffed by a full-time librarian and two technology labs filled with computers. The nurse’s office is a satellite of Ryan Community Health Center. Outdoor facilities include a row of outdoor basketball hoops and an attractive turf-coated athletic field large enough for soccer and softball (a rarity in Manhattan).
SPECIAL EDUCATION: Each grade has self-contained and ICT (integrated co-teaching) classes plus SETSS.
ADMISSIONS: All students must take an entrance exam. Admissions decisions also take into account students’ grades, test scores and records of behavior. Students who qualify for free or reduced lunch and have lower grades and scores are given priority for up to 25 percent of seats. Admission information is available on the MS 54 website. (Laura Zingmond, via interview and web reports, April, 2019)