Mott Hall II
Small, welcoming school with diverse student population and accelerated curriculum
Historic buildings quirks include a gym with padded pillars
Mott Hall II is a small, well-regarded Upper West Side middle school known for its nurturing attitude and diverse student population. The 300-plus students here receive a rigorous education in an environment that favors hands-on learning. The school's historic building has its drawbacks (as well as quirky charm) but students here genuinely seem to appreciate their teachers and enjoy their school.
The first clone of Harlem's pioneering Mott Hall School, it shares the landmark Robert E. Simon Educational Complex with PS/MS 165, a pre-k-8 school. Most Mott Hall II classrooms are on the fourth floor of the historic building, which features soaring ceilings, ample natural light and asphalt-coated outdoor play areasas well as meandering narrow halls, ancient steam radiators, obtrusive support columns, no athletic fields and other architectural quirks.
Assistant Principal and Co-Director Marlon Lowe became the principal in fall 2013, after the death of longtime principal Anna de los Santos Tornatore. Teachers give him high marks on school surveys. The assistant principal is Marciarie Rodriquez, who also came from the Mott Hall teaching ranks. Modern projection screens and dry-erase boards have replaced dusty chalkboards, science labs have been implemented (two are mobile) and shared laptops are rolled in via cart. A multimedia room functions as a library most of the time, for personal and class use, and as a computer lab 25 percent of the time.
Mott Hall II is often viewed as an undiscovered gem in District 3. Student test scores are more than respectable (particularly in math). On our visit we saw rooms full of students actively engaged in their projects. Some kids were learning ratios and proportions by calculating the changing sizes of Alice as she traveled through Wonderland. Others were enlarging a scale blueprint of Disney's "It's a Small World" amusement ride. Literary discussions included debating whether characters in S.E. Hinton's novel The Outsiders died happy.
Core subjects are taught at an accelerated pace (typically one year above grade level) in a project-based environment where teachers often lecture for no more than 15 minutes before students begin hands-on tasks. Sixth-graders are assigned to one of four classes, which travel as a group to different rooms. This practice makes the transition to middle school less intimidating, and it also allows students with special needs to more easily be included in mainstream studies within team-teaching classes. The 6th-grade curriculum has a heavy focus on math, science and humanities but also includes Spanish. Electives expand in 7th and 8th grade, but some courses such as French and instrumental music are offered only through the school's many after-school programs (which also includes science and business classes).
Eighth-graders can enroll in advanced biology and math courses to prepare them for the math and science Regents exams: in science, they take living environment, rather than the earth science offered in most District 3 schools, which allows them to take chemistry in ninth grade. Homework averages about one-and-a-half hours every weeknight, administrators say. Mott Hall II also has advisory classes and competent counselors offering guidance. Students we spoke to said they liked their teachers and praised the faculty's caring attitudes. "If you have outside problems, you can talk to them," one 8th-grade girl said.
Over 65 percent of students gain admission to their first choice high schools, according to Parent Coordinator Jory Plevel. About 25- 30 percent land a spot at specialized schools including LaGuardia;High School for Math, Science and Engineering;Bronx Science;Brooklyn Latin or Lehman. Othersgain entrance to private schools including the Nightingale-Bamford School, Riverdale Country and Exeter, some with substantial scholarships. Roughly 50 percent attend popular schools like Beacon, Millennium, Bard, Columbia Secondary, NYC iSchool and Frank McCourt, and a smaller group opt for select special interest schools such as Young Women's Leadership, Quest to Learn and the Harbor School.
Special education: Students with special needs are assigned to team-teaching classes in which special ed and general ed students learn together with two teachers, one of whom is certified in special education. Mott Hall II also has a self-contained 12:1:1 class.
Admissions: Mott Hall II is a screened middle school open only to students in District 3. Mott Hall II looks for students who perform at or above grade level as noted on their 4th-grade year-end report cards. Potential students who rank Mott Hall II first take a reading, writing and math assessment administered by the school in late January/early February. ELA and math test scores are only "taken into account as part of the whole picture," the parent coordinator wrote to us in an email.(Skip Card, December 2012; updated by Lydie Raschka, via email, October 2014)
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Manhattan NY 10025