The Mott Hall School

Grades 6-8
Staff Pick
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What’s Special

Dynamic principal and imaginative classes

The Downside

Cramped, worn facilities

Our Review

Founded in 1985 as a magnet school for gifted children, Mott Hall has long been a source of pride in the Dominican communities of Washington Heights and Inwood where most its pupils live. This school brings motivated kids together and provides a network of support that sustains them up to high school and beyond.

Mott Hall is thriving under the leadership of Judith De Los Santos-Pena, who became principal in 2015. Teachers are designing lessons that allow kids to move, debate and collaborate more, and the school has re-established its lost connection to City College nearby.

We saw engaging instruction in every class. In science, children used different tools to simulate bird beaks to try to get beans out of a cup in an exercise on adaptation. Sixth graders formed a human number line for a game of "Simon Says" to reinforce the concept of absolute value. Choices during and after school include instrumental music, coding, Latin, French, Spanish, poetry and more. Mott Hall now requires all children to take Regents-level courses in science and math.

Class size is small and teachers know every child by name. Children are welcome to eat with teachers in their classrooms at lunchtime. Alumni gather with staff for an annual picnic in Inwood Park. "Children really make a connection to the professionals here," said a teacher.

A personable psychology major, fluent in English and Spanish, De Los Santos had been a Mott Hall teacher herself in the 1990s and quickly earned the respect of staff, many of whom, according to school surveys, were unhappy with the previous principal. She has "a lot of trust in teachers," said a veteran teacher.

The school has had ups and downs over the years. Founded by Mirian Acosta Sing, Mott Hall originally served children in grades 4 to 8a configuration designed to give gifted low-income children five years to prepare for rigorous high schools. It was one of the first schools in the city to use laptops. In its early days, children studied the effect of light on coral reefs in labs at City College, and explored ratio and proportion by designing kites and building kites out of balsa wood and paper. Unfortunately, over the years, some of these special features fell away. (The school lost its 4th and 5th grades in 2008)

To inspire the staff, De Los Santos-Pena pulled up videos of classroom instruction in Mott Hall's heyday. She and assistant principal Natasha Bracey-Ferguson added chorus, drama and orchestra, and arranged for Mott Hall students to use City College science labs again to supplement Living Environment coursework. Children visit Aaron Davis Hall on campus to watch films there on topics they are studying in class, such asUnder the Same Moon, about immigration. Two City College math teachers walk over to coach teens and staff on Fridays. Architecture students are helping Mott Hall children design a garden.

Eighth graders are dismissed early on Fridays for community service. A "green team" visited a Brooklyn recycling plant to learn more about the science of recycling and then raise awareness in the neighborhood. A drama team works with a theater group for the disabled, preparing shows for people living in senior homes.

The space is cramped, and the school lacks a gymnasium, elevator and auditorium. However, when an opportunity arose to move to a more modern space, alumni wrote passionate letters opposing the plan, saying its proximity to City College is part of its identity.

The dean walks children to the M100 and M101 bus stop on Amsterdam Avenue after school to make sure they get there safely. There is yellow bus service for 6th graders.

SPECIAL EDUCATION:In a small "self-contained" class for children with special needs, the adults were encouraging and funny. There are team-teaching classrooms on every grade, in which about six children with disabilities are mixed in with their general education peers.

ADMISSIONS:Open to students living in District 6. Students must submit an application by early December, and some are invited to take an admissions test in January. The school considers grades, attendance, teacher recommendations and behavior. "Motivation and work" are the most important thing, said De Los Santos. About two-thirds of admitted students scored level 3 and 4 on standardized tests; one third scored 1 or 2. For more information contact Delca Ortiz ( or call (212) 281-5028.(Lydie Raschka, February 2017)

About the students

Free or reduced priced lunch
Students with disabilities
English language learners

About the school

Shared campus?
This school is in its own building.
Uniforms required?
Metal detectors?
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average


Average daily attendance
93% Citywide Average
How many students are chronically absent?
20% Citywide Average

Is this school safe?

How many teachers say order and discipline are maintained at this school?
78% Citywide Average
How many students think bullying happens most or all of the time at this school?
50% Citywide Average
How many students say they feel safe in the hallways, bathrooms and locker rooms?
83% Citywide Average
How many students say most students treat each other with respect?
43% Citywide Average

About the leadership

Years of principal experience at this school
6.0 Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?
82% Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal has a clear vision for this school?
89% Citywide Average
How many teachers trust the principal?
83% Citywide Average

About the teachers

How many teachers have 3 or more years of experience teaching?
72% Citywide Average
Teacher attendance
96% Citywide Average
How many teachers say they would recommend this school to other families?
82% Citywide Average
How many teachers think the staff collaborate to make this school run effectively?
87% Citywide Average
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

Test scores

How many students scored 3-4 on the state math exam?
27% Citywide Average
How many students scored 3-4 on the state ELA exam?
35% Citywide Average

Arts offerings

This school has 3 dedicated spaces for Music, Visual arts, and Media arts
This school has 3 licensed arts teacher in Dance (part-time), Music (part-time), and Music

Engaging curriculum?

How many students say this school offers enough programs, classes and activities to keep them interested?
76% Citywide Average
How many students say they are challenged in most or all of their classes?
61% Citywide Average
How many students say the programs, classes and activities here encourage them to develop talent outside academics?
72% Citywide Average

Are students prepared for high school?

Accelerated courses offered for high school credit
French, Algebra I, Living Environment
How many 8th graders earn high school credit?
26% Citywide Average
How many graduates of this school pass all their classes in 9th grade?
84% Citywide Average
What high schools do most graduates attend?
A. Philip Randolph Campus HS, Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics, and City College Academy of the Arts
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

How does this school serve students with disabilities?

This school offers self-contained classes
This school offers team teaching (ICT)
Average math score for ICT students
1.9 Citywide Average
Average math score for self-contained students
2.1 Citywide Average
Average ELA score for ICT students
1.9 Citywide Average
Average ELA score for self-contained students
2.2 Citywide Average
How many students say that students with disabilities are included in all activities?
68% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school offers enough activities and services for their children's needs?
87% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school works to achive the goals of their students' IEPs?
90% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say they are satisfied with the IEP development process at this school?
89% Citywide Average
For more information about our data sources, see About Our Data
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71-111 Convent Ave
Manhattan NY 10027
Harlem (District 6)
Trains: 1, A, D to 125th St ; B, C to 135th St
Buses: Bx15, Bx33, M100


Judith De Los Santos
Parent Coordinator
Evelyn Camacho Moran

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