J.H.S. 118 William W. Niles
Two programs for high achievers; ceramics studio
Limited foreign language instruction; no outdoor recess
MS 118, the William Niles School, is a large, neighborhood school with a robust arts program and a solid record of sending top students to competitive high schools, both public and private. It has three academies: a zoned program called Excellence and two selective programs, PACE and Spectrum, that attract high-achieving students from across Districts 9 and 10.
The vibe throughout the school is calm and friendly. Teachers and staff seem to be tolerant of normal, tween behavior: kids can fidget and are allowed to have a bad day when they struggle to focus. All students participate in advisory sessions that address topics ranging from self-awareness and relationships to community and world matters. Each advisor serves as a familys contact person for most school matters involving their child. Students in need of greater support can get counseling through the onsite mental health clinic run by Astor Services for Children and Families.
Each academy has its own dedicated space, director, assistant principal, and staff for academic classes. Arts classes, including visual arts, theater, dance and ceramics (the ceramics studio is equipped with several kilns), serve a mix of students from all three academies.
PACE and Spectrum offer Regents-level algebra, Earth Science, and U.S History. PACE has a more traditional feel. In some classes we observed, students sat in rows and teachers delivered lessons from the front of the room. Spectrum has more group work and student-led discussions. Spectrum is a good fit for high achievers who are stronger in some skills than others because its structure allows for teachers to tailor assignments to students individual strengths, according to Principal Giulia Cox. For instance, students strong in math may tackle problems independently or with a few peers, while the teacher works with a group of students who need extra support.
PACE and Spectrum academies offer one year of Mandarin Chinese taught in the 8th grade.
Excellence and PACE students participate in Shakespeare in Lincoln Center, where a teaching artist works with students in their English classes to study and stage a Shakespearean play. Spectrum students participate in a Mock Trial, where students study and prepare all aspects of a legal case in class and then stage a mock trial of it in a Bronx courthouse.
Excellence has a transitional bilingual program for native Spanish speakers.
Cox led MS 118 from 2002-05, then worked in the alternative high school division. She returned as principal in December 2014.
The cafeteria in the century-old building is small and lunchtime is spread out over five periods beginning at 10:30 am. There is no outdoor recess.
One huge upside: MS 118 administers the SHSAT (Specialized High School Admissions Test) and Bard High Schools admissions exam onsite during regular school hours. PACE and Spectrum have a strong record of sending graduates to the city's top schools including specialized high schools and selective schools like Bard and NEST+m.
Prep for the SHSAT and TACHS (Test for Admission into Catholic High Schools) are offered after school and are open to all students. There are some additional activities such as chess, debate and theater and sports. After-school classes in algebra are offered to select 8th graders in Excellence.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: Excellence has ICT and self-contained classrooms including one for bilingual students. PACE has a small, self-contained class on each grade; Spectrum has an ICT class on each grade.
ADMISSIONS: Excellence is only open to students zoned for MS 118. PACE and Spectrum are open to students in districts 9 and 10. Admissions is based on an entrance exam, interview as well review of applicants report card and state test scores. Some students in Excellence may transfer to PACE and Spectrum when deemed appropriate.(Laura Zingmond, May 2017).