The School of Integrated Learning
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Theater, dance and steel drum; partnership with Medgar Evers College Prep School
Facilities could use an upgrade; no visual arts
MS 354, the School for Integrated Learning, has a lot going for it: strong, consistent leadership; an extended school day that includes sports and arts; and Regents-level courses for high-performing students. A new program allows strong students to take classes at Medgar Evers College Preparatory School, a sought-after selective 6-12 school about one mile away.
Beginning in 2017, one class of students at MS 354 will follow Medgar Evers accelerated curriculum, traveling to that school to take Mandarin and other courses, such as physics, not offered at MS 354. The arrangement allows MS 354, which is under-enrolled, to grow and gives more students access to Medgar Evers demanding academic program.
MS 354 is an orderly, traditional school with many teachers of West Indian ancestry, reflecting the background of most of the student body. Principal Monique Campbell, a native of Jamaica, is a warm and capable administrator who knows all students by name and brooks no nonsense. For example, students who don't wear a uniform--a light blue T-shirt for 6th and 7th graders and turquoise for 8th graders--can expect a look from the principal. But she and her staff have also been known to go to a nearby laundromat to wash uniforms for those who need it. "She cares about everyone," an 8th grader told us. A teacher said, "She is an organized professional and she's fair."
Campbell believes in constantly tweaking the curriculum and in providing professional development. "How do we continue to challenge ourselves?" she asks. Her thinking about discipline has changed with her years on the job. "It used to be more punitive here, there was more detention," Campbell said. "Now for a child who doesn't do the homework, we might have study hall." She said knowing a child's family circumstances helps explain obstacles to finishing homework.
Double and even triple periods for English, social studies, and science give students plenty of time for extended class discussions and lab work. In a science class, students figured out how to blow up a balloon in a plastic bottle. In physical education, students were charged with introducing a game from another culture--such as cricket--and writing about it. All 8th graders take Regents-level Living Environment; 8th graders in the top class also take U.S. History and Algebra. Students have ample opportunity to explore the arts: 6th graders study theater and music; 8th graders dance. A steel drum band performs around the city. There are no visual arts classes.
Campbell opened MS 354 in 2005 as a replacement school for MS 390, a large, often rowdy school. MS 334, also carved out of MS 390, opened at the same time but it did not enjoy the success of MS 354. The two schools merged in 2016 under Campbell's leadership. She inherited a dozen teachers from MS 334 who were unfamiliar with the MS 354 culture and standards; some adapted but she encouraged others to leave.
Many students arrive at MS 354 performing significantly below grade level but catch up by the time they graduate. Sixth and 7th graders take a SHSAT prep course at the school. In 2017, two 8th graders won admission to Brooklyn Tech.
The building, shared with KIPP AMP Charter School, has a huge gymnasium, large schoolyard and refurbished auditorium. A new multi-media room will have a washing machine and dryer and a small kitchen. However, some of the facilities are in need of repair. We saw lockers with doors gaping and some classrooms doors were cracked.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: There are self-contained and ICT classrooms as well as a SETTS room.
ADMISSIONS: Zoned school. Students are admitted to the school's Integrated Learning Academy (the "top class" on each grade) based on their attendance, report card grades and test scores. Students in the Medgar Academy are placed at MS 354 if there is no space at Medgar Evers. (Pamela Wheaton, May 2017)Read more