M.S. 88 Peter Rouget
Strong STEM instruction, lots of interesting programs, School of One math approach
Large size may not appeal to everyone
MS 88 is a large middle school with strong leadership, good instruction and a generous selection of activities and programs. Despite its size, its a welcoming and cheery place with dedicated teachers and staff. It offers many kinds of supports and class-settings to serve the wide-ranging needs of its diverse student body, including accelerated courses for strong students, classes for English language learners and plenty of extra help for children with disabilities.
Students are admitted to one of three programs or houses: School for Integrated Studies through the Arts (SISTA), the School for Medical & Health Careers (Medical), and School of Media Arts and Technology (SMART). Each house has its own floor of the building and selection of themed elective classes and activities. Students in SISTA may attend plays and choose from art-themed offerings like drama and visual arts. In the Medical house students have opportunities to conduct research with medical students, learn first aid, tour hospitals and volunteer in nursing homes.
SMART focuses on media and technology and is home to the School of One math program, which tailors instruction to each students skill level and learning style through a combination of computer-based and traditional, teacher-led lessons. Each day students are assigned to groups and complete work based on their skill sets and performance during the prior days lesson. I cant think of any other program that offers a 100 percent differentiation, said Ailene Altman-Mitchell, the schools longtime principal.
Throughout the school the vibe is calm, collaborative and friendly. Teachers meet daily in grade-level teams to plan lessons, coordinate projects and discuss their students progress. Even when theyre not leading a class or meeting with their team, many teachers open their rooms to colleagues and students seeking help, friendly conversation or a place to hangout. Many arrive early to offer extra help and stay late to run afterschool activities.
Teachers create many of their own lessons and dont rely heavily on worksheets or a scripted curriculum. We saw hands-on, creative projects in all subjects. For instance, art, social studies and math all intersected in a 6th-grade assignment asking students to calculate the area of their irregular shaped drawings of ancient Egyptian sarcophagi. Students in a 7th-grade Spanish class demonstrated their vocabulary and art skills by creating Wanted posters complete with detailed descriptions of their fugitives, written in Spanish.
Over the years the school has amassed an impressive roster of programs and partnerships with outside organizations that help support everything from arts, science and technology to social-emotional learning, teacher training and family engagement. Free, onsite medical and dental care for students is sponsored by The Lutheran Medical Center; and field trips to museums, zoos, science centers and botanical gardens are offered through a partnership with the Urban Advantage Program at the American Museum of Natural History.
The STEM offerings at MS 88 are unusually strong for a middle school. In addition to computer coding and robotics instruction, there is a design-thinking program where students brainstorm and design prototypes of useful products for kids, and a class in biomimicry (the study of natures designs to help solve complex human problems) led by doctoral candidates from the NYU Polytechnic Institute of Engineering.
Teachers train at the Earth Institute at Columbia University to develop an ecology-based science curriculum with interesting projects and lessons such as oyster bed farming and research in the schools onsite greenhouse. In 2013, MS 88 was one of five schools nationwide to win the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow competition for their submission: a plan developed by 7th-graders to decontaminate the Gowanus Canal.
The school offers Spanish and dual-language French instruction. High school-level courses in algebra, earth science and biology are offered to 8th-graders who excel in math and science.
After school activities include offerings such as LEGO robotics, vocal performance, school play, New York Road Runners, a rock band, visual arts, chess and sports.
Popular high schools for MS 88 graduates are High School of Telecommunications Arts and Technology, Midwood High School, Edward R. Murrow, Leon M. Goldstein and Sunset Park High School, all in the neighborhood. Some go on to specialized high schools.
English as a second language: English language learners are concentrated in SISTA so that they can take classes with extra language supports built into daily instruction. With the encouragement of math teacher Aaron Kaswell one ELL student expressed his math talents at school through KenKen puzzles and, before completing 8th grade, became the youngest person in the world to solve the hardest of KenKen puzzles, the Miyamoto Challenge.
Special education: The school has integrated co-teaching (ICT), SETSS and self-contained classes.
Admissions: District 15 residents and students. Applicants must be interviewed to be eligible for admission. (Laura Zingmond, May, 2014)