School of Business, Finance and Entrepreneurship
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Warm, focused school with strong teaching
No language or music instruction
Despite its location on a bleak block in Bedford-Stuyvesant, MS 385 creates a warm, purposeful environment for neighborhood kids. Most students enter 6th grade with very weak skills, but thanks to strong leadership, a solid teaching staff and extended-day programs, MS 385 has helped kids make significant strides. The school, founded in 1999, shares its building with another middle school, MS 57, as well as a District 75 program for students with severe disabilities.
Principal Glyn Marryshow arrived in 2000, when only eight percent of students were passing the state English test and only four percent the math exam. By 2003, those figures had jumped to 30 and 25 percent respectively, with the most significant gains shown by kids who had scored previously at the lowest level. (The proportion of students receiving a "1" has dropped from 77 percent to 18, according to Marryshow.) These students may not be getting a passing score of "3" yet, but they are certainly improving.
The many kids who need extra help receive it in after-school programs, a Saturday morning academy, and peer- and lunchtime tutoring sessions. The principal also insists that every teacher assign homework every night.
Although most classes have students with a range of skill levels, the highest performing students are grouped together. Classrooms we visited were orderly, students approached their work with seriousness and focus, and most kids abided by the dress code of light tops and dark slacks. Teaching was strong, in part, perhaps, because MS 385's "school based option" designation has allowed Marryshow to hand-pick his staff of mostly young teachers.
We impressed by lessons we saw. One class of 8th graders was writing comparative essays about two short stories they had read. Science students were learning how to use microscopes properly. In a math class, advanced students were using percentages to learn about interest and calculate sales commissions.
We did see one teacher raise his voice at a disruptive student in a special education class, but mostly teachers and students seemed to treat each other with respect. "Teachers here are young, and kids are willing to relate to us," said Valon Beasley, an 8th grade English teacher. "We are usually aware of a [confrontational] situation before it comes to a head."
A nice computer lab houses classes in technology and in finance, the school's loosely-followed "theme." The day we visited, 8th graders working in groups prepared multimedia presentations about businesses they had dreamed up. One showed us her proposed fashion-design company, and told us: "The teachers make learning fun."
The school offers little arts instruction, and lacks language courses and other extras. It does, however, have a notable journalism club, that produces a magazine full of student work.
Most 385 graduates go on to Boys and Girls High School up the street. Some attend Paul Robeson High School, and a few are accepted into the specialized science high schools. (This school is featured in New York City's Best Public Middle Schools. Deborah Apsel, January 2004)Read more