The Math & Science Exploratory School
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Strong science program, engaging instruction; nurturing environment
Awkward building layout
MS 447, The Math & Science Exploratory School, is a well-run school that takes pride in its inclusive culture, welcoming many students with special needs and accommodating a range of incoming skill levels.
The science program is especially strong and emphasizes real-world research and investigations through partnerships with cultural institutions. Students in all grades engage in imaginative projects and take frequent class trips to places like the American Museum of Natural History, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn Grange Rooftop Farm and the Dolan DNA Learning Center.
The vibe throughout the school is cheery and relaxed, and teachers and staff put a lot of effort into maintaining a nurturing environment. Group work, rich class discussions, lots of writing and hands-on activities are emphasized in all subjects. To help students reenergize for their afternoon classes, the school offers lunchtime arts and sports activities. Students scheduled for a late lunch period can bring a snack to school and eat it at the start of their fourth-period class.
Arin Rusch, a former teacher and assistant principal at the school, has been principal since June 2014. During her tenure she has taken steps to make the school more inclusive. Teachers and staff participate in racial bias training and the school eliminated tracking, where only a select group of top students were offered high school–level math and science by 8th grade. Now all subjects serve children with mixed abilities and by 8th grade all students take algebra and living environment, high school–level courses. In addition to their regular math and English classes, students take math and literature labs one period a week, in which they are grouped by skill level so teachers can tailor work to their specific needs.
All students participate in the school's exploration program, which involves 12-week-long studies on topics like city planning and community development, engineering, forensics, inventions for a better world and service learning. The school’s investment in the exploration program is impressive. It is treated as a separate subject and there’s a dedicated staff of exploration teachers, including several certified in special education, who work with classes on their designated exploration day, whether they're leading a field trip or overseeing exploration-themed projects and research across all subjects that day.
Each "Expo" culminates with student projects and presentations. For instance, the Food for Thought exploration, where 6th-graders examine how food-consumption patterns impact the natural environment, concluded with students compiling cookbooks and peparing dishes inspired by their studies for a tasting party attended by parents.
There is extensive arts instruction, including a full orchestra and a recording studio where children may compose their own music using digital programs. Students take dance, instrumental music, visual arts or drama. Sixth-graders rotate through each talent and then, beginning in 7th grade, students pick one area to specialize in through graduation.
All students take a technology class each year and learn Spanish in the 7th and 8th grades. After school, students may take advantage of academic help and a broad range of activities in sports, arts and music. There is also a morning gym program open to students who get to school early.
Teachers lead small-group advisories that help them keep tabs on students' social and academic concerns. Themes of social justice and inclusion are emphasized in classes, celebrated in schoolwide activities and shared via posts to the school's "No Place for Hate" Instagram account.
To accommodate full-day exploration studies and still be able to offer technology, art and advisory every semester, the school operates on a six-day, or "A" to "F," cycle. For instance, if kids have an "A" schedule of classes on Monday, they will not have an "A" day again until the following Tuesday.
MS 447 shares space with the Brooklyn High School for the Arts inside the sprawling former Sarah J. Hale High School building, constructed in 1929. The floors are shiny and the hallways are well-lit and nicely decorated, but the layout is awkward. The 6th-grade classrooms are housed in a connected annex that’s a cozy space but a long trek from the classrooms in the main building. The two schools share use of the auditorium and cafeteria. MS 447 has its own gym and entrance to the building.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: MS 447 has a strong record of serving students with special needs, who outperform the citywide average by a lot. There are ICT (integrated co-teaching) classes, SETSS and an ASD NEST program that serves a small group of children with an autism spectrum disorder (ASD). All students with special needs, including those with ASD, are fully integrated into classes that follow the ICT model. ASD NEST students also take a special class several times a week that focuses on social development training.
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 2017; admissions updated June 2019)Read more