New Voices School of Academic & Creative Arts
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Strong arts, dedicated staff and welcoming environment
Small, cramped facilities with no gym
Harmonies from the musical Grease greet visitors walking the halls of New Voices School of Academic and Creative Arts. Up a flight of stairs, a student's artwork depicting a teen contemplating her body image in a mirror is part of a makeshift gallery. A ten-minute uphill walk through the residential Sunset Park neighborhood, New Voices is a simple route from the Prospect Avenue stop on the R train.
The school delivers on its name offering courses in music, dance, visual arts, graphic arts and drama. Partnerships with organizations such as Theater for a New Audience, Brooklyn Museum of Art and the National Book Foundation help support the school's mission.
Sixth-graders are introduced to chorus, visual arts, theater, instrumental music, graphic arts, and dance, and then specialize in one studio for 7th and 8th grade. The entire school community gets involved in the annual musical theater production. From calling production cues to applying makeup to the actors' faces, each child has some part to play.
The strong arts program complements academic instruction. For example, in addition to writing research papers, 6th grade students created models of ancient Egyptian artifacts such as a pharaoh's bust after a field trip to the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
In all classes teachers introduce basic concepts, then progressively allow students more freedom to control the direction of learning. For example, in humanities (combined course in English and social studies) teachers cover the basic tenants of the Fourth Amendment, then task students with leading discussions on privacy and mass surveillance.
The science program has grown the most in recent years, according to principal Frank Giordano. Students begin 6th grade dissecting earthworms, then move to more complex animals such as rats. Older students study the genetic composition of two generations of fruit flies. By 8th grade some students take high school level courses in algebra and Living Environment. No foreign language is offered in 6th or 7th grade; 8th grade students study French.
Giordano, who has been principal since 2004, has an easy way with the kids. He greets them by name and exchanges jokes with them. Unlike many administrators, he stays connected to the classroom: he teaches a 7th grade life science course each year.
New Voices shares the century-old building with PS 295. Narrow hallways swell with students during class changes and random sprouts of exposed insulation lace radiators. There is no gym, and kids have physical education in a corner of the cafeteria.
Students participate in after-school baseball, soccer, and running club. Other students join MS 88's girls and boys basketball teams.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school offers ICT (integrated co-teaching) classes in every grade. As a parent of two children with developmental disabilities, Giordano is sensitive to children with special needs. He says he wants to create a school in which low test scores do not preclude a promising student from having access to the arts.
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. (Seaira Christian-Daniels, March 2017; updated via web reports, June 2019)Read more