Esperanza Preparatory Academy
Small school offers dual language program and welcomes special education students; expanding to include high school grades
Many new, untried teachers; dim lighting and low ceilings in some classrooms.
Tiny Esperanza Preparatory Academy, founded in 2008, has a dual language program and welcomes special needs students. At Esperanza ("hope" in Spanish), college and university pennants hang on walls, and staff says the school mission is to make sure that students know that college is an option. In September 2012, the school expanded, growing a grade per year beginning with 9th grade to become a 6-12. The high school focuses on science, math and Spanish language proficiency.Attendance is high.
Esperanza Prep is one of several schools in the Tito Puente Educational Complex in Spanish Harlem. Located on a quiet block, it is surrounded by a large park. Esperanza classes are on the bottom floor; half of the classrooms have plenty of sunlight while the other half are below ground and have no natural light and low ceilings. The school has its own library and shares a cafeteria, gym, and auditorium with Global Neighborhood School and TAG Young Scholars, a citywide school for gifted students.
Students wear a white collared shirt with the school emblem, khaki pants, black shoes, and belt. They earn "kudos" or praise, for acts displaying P.R.I.D.E.: Perseverance, Responsibility, Integrity, Discipline, and Enthusiasm. High school students are required to complete 50 hours of community service per semester. In the fall of 2013, Principal Alexandra Estrella left and was replaced by Wendy Mercedes, formerly a 6th- and 7th-grade English teacher at the school.
School begins when students arrive for breakfast at 7:30 a.m. Each student is assigned a news article to read, and must answer comprehension questions as part of the social studies curriculum. All students participate in Socratic circles, small-group discussion forums designed to improve their speaking skills.Teachers meet frequently with one another and collaborate on lessons. They are mostly young and some lack experience in classroom management. There were no major disruptions, although some students talked amongst themselves during class time or called out. Test scores remain low.
Esperanza offers a dual language program with students receiving equal amounts of Spanish and English instruction daily. Native Spanish-speakers go to "Native Language Arts" and English speakers go to Spanish as a foreign language class. One-third of the students are English Language Learners (ELLs).Students practice Drop Everything and Read as part of a daily D.E.A.R. program. Esperanza offers instrumental and vocal music, art, and Spanish, for native and non-native speakers and has a special focus on technology.
Thanks to a $250,000 grant from Hewlett Packard, classrooms have SMART boards and carts of laptop computers. Students create their own wikis and write their own blogs, integrating English with other subjects. The Carmel Hill Fund provides accelerated reading and math programs and has donated 1,600 books to the school library. Students are bused to Randalls Island to play rugby and soccer once a week.
After school academic programs are offered Tuesdays and Thursdays. The school has a debate team, drama club, science club, a journalism club, a computer class, and a travelers club where students learn about cultures and nations around the world. Esperanza has rugby and track and field teams with matches held at Columbia University's Baker Fields.
Special education: Special education is a strength at Esperanza Prep where 40 percent of students have Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and outperformed general education students on standardized tests in 2009, the principal said. There is one self-contained class on each grade and four team-teaching (ICT) classes across the grades. Students are transitioned from self-contained classes to ICT classes whenever possible she said. The school offers physical and occupational therapy, speech therapy, counselors, and a social worker.
Admissions: District 4. Priority given to students who attend information sessions. Priority to continuing 8th graders for the high school and then to Manhattan residents. (Seth Lemerman, November 2009; update from interviews at the new high school fair, Lydie Raschka, March 2012)
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Boys PSAL teams
Baseball, Basketball, Soccer
Girls PSAL teams
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New York, NY 10029