M.S. 442 Carroll Gardens School for Innovation
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Two teachers in each class; children with disabilities integrated into all classes
Has dedicated space in building, but shares a floor with pre-k classrooms
MS 442, School for Innovation is a welcoming place with engaging academics and a carefully thought-out plan to integrate children with disabilities in all classes. In a city that’s often segregated by race and class, MS 442 has a mix of Black, white, Hispanic and Asian children, as well as children from families of different income levels.
Each class has two teachers, one certified in special education, who do a good job serving a broad range of students—from struggling to advanced learners. All students enjoy an array of arts and extra-curricular activities.
Having two teachers in the room ensures that all students get attention. When one teacher is leading a lesson, the other may be working with an individual. When students are working in groups or completing an assignment, both teachers circulate the room, fielding questions or sitting in on student-led discussions.
Teachers use a “mastery-based” approach to instruction. Rather than getting a traditional numerical grade on a test or assignment, students are given feedback on a range of skills they’re required to learn that year.
The idea is that students get multiple chances to learn skills and they get full credit for each one they master, whether they do so in October or January. At the end of the school year, each student’s record of skills achievement (both mastered and still needing improvement) is converted into a numerical grade.
Several times each week, students break up into small groups called “intensives,” tailored to their skill levels, so, for instance, students strong in math may work together on advanced topics while others may get the extra help they need. Teachers re-evaluate their students’ progress regularly, and it’s common for students to switch “intensives” several times throughout the year.
Each student is given a laptop computer to use throughout the school day, though the degree to which they rely on computers varies by lesson and class. For instance in math classes we observed, the teacher was modeling an equation on an interactive white board at the front of the classroom as the students jotted down notes with pencil on paper; in an English class we visited, students were writing on their individual computers, drafting character essays and outlining scripts for podcasts that they were to record with audio software and present later in the week.
All students take classes in Spanish, music, art and technology, where they learn computer coding and design. By 8th grade some students take high school level courses in earth science and algebra.
Through a partnership with the Brooklyn-based BEAM Lab, MS 442 created a Maker Lab where students design and build things from scratch. When we visited the lab, students were busy stripping and soldering wires to create electrical circuits to insert in their custom-made boom boxes.
Students put on an annual play such as Annie, Fame, The Music Man, Alice in Wonderland, and Hairspray with the Broadway Junior program. There are a range of after-school activities such as sports, robotics, Double Dutch, gaming and drumming.
MS 442 is housed in the former Bishop Ford Catholic High School, a massive building that it shares with a pre-kindergarten center and BUGS Charter School. Each school has its own dedicated space in the building, though MS 442 is spread across two floors, one of which it shares the pre-k classrooms.
Sixth-graders may leave the building for lunch once a week; 7th-and 8th-graders go out for lunch twice a week.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: MS 442 students with special needs outperform the citywide average on state exams. All classes follow the ICT (integrated co-teaching) model with two teachers (one certified in special education) serving a mix of general education and students with special needs There are two ASD Nest classes per grade where children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) learn alongside general education students. ASD Nest students also attend small group support sessions that focus on social and developmental skills.
ADMISSIONS: As part of a district-wide equity plan, all District 15 middle schools use an open admissions method with priority for 52 percent of seats going to students from low-income households (who qualify for the federal free and reduced-price lunch program), students in temporary housing, and English Language Learners. There are no “screens” for admission. To learn more about the D15 Diversity Plan, visit d15diversityplan.com. (Laura Zingmond, December 2018)Read more