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J.H.S. 220 John J. Pershing
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Collaboration with nearby Maimonides Medical Center
The school struggles with raising its reading scores
Housed in a red brick building with tall white columns flanking its main entrance, IS 220 John J. Pershing School is located one block away from Maimonides Medical Center in Sunset Park. The hospital provides mentorships and community service opportunities to students, introducing them to different science and medical careers.The large middle school enrolls many immigrants students from Latin America and China. Most live in the school's zone, others enter through the district's gifted and magnet science programs.
In science, kids create display boards detailing possible experiments to learn more about the scientific process. They begin with a science fiction writing project to exercise their writing skills which gives them an engaging introduction to science, a teacher explained at an open house. Emphasis is placed on science vocabulary and learning the roots of scientific terms. In the 7th grade Marshmallow Challenge, students create bridges with marshmallows and toothpicks; the members of each group contribute their ideas on how to make their bridge stable, teaching the value of teamwork, the teacher said.
More advanced students take the Living Environment Regents and integrated algebra Regents for high school credit. The school changed its math curriculum in response to the Common Core, supplementing the Connected Mathematics textbook with other resources such as manipulatives, number boards and group activities. Administrators say there has been a concerted effort to strengthen the math curriculum and, while math scores have risen, the school still struggles with raising its reading scores, especially among the many students still learning English.
There are also some concerns about safety, discipline and student behavior. According to the annual school survey, more than a third of teachers and students say students are disrespectful to teachers; about a quarter of the students say they don't feel safe outside of the classroom or school building. A similar number of teachers say that they don't always get the help they need to deal with behavioral problems. Longtime Principal Loretta Witick gets high marks from the teachers but about one third of the teachers says they wouldn't recommend that parents send their children to the school.
The school felt welcoming on our visit to an evening open house for prospective parents and students. When a child came on the tour without his parents, several staff members looked out for him, telephoned his family and saw that he got home safely. Outside of the auditorium students wrote insightful and personal interpretations of what friendship means to them on a "What makes a Good Friend " wall.
In the arts, the school offers visual art, drama, architecture and music. Students use multiple mediums including watercolor, paper mosaics and collage to learn the elements of art including, shape, form and composition. Older students may study architecture, and sometimes work with an architect from Maimonides. In 2012 the school had three winners in the Morgan Book Project competition, a free program in which the Morgan Library collaborates with teachers to develop a unit of study designed to engage students in writing, illustrating, and building a book.
Students play ball during recess in a school yard built in 2005 by the Trust for Public Land. It includes a track that circles around a basketball court and a volleyball court, outdoor classroom area and is also open for use by the community.
English as a Second Language: More than one third of IS 220 students are immigrants, primarily from Latin America or Asia. There are self-contained ESL classes as well as transitional bilingual classes in Chinese. Parent coordinator Sylwia Jasinski reaches out to non-English-speaking parents to let them know there are special headsets allowing them to receive simultaneous interpretation in Spanish and Chinese during evening meetings, where children are entertained with arts and crafts and food is served. Jasinski also has a sizable lending library of parenting books in both English and Spanish.
Special education: There are team-teaching classes and self-contained classes.
After school: The school participates in the Beacon Program from 2:30 - 4:30 pm. There is a painting club and a summer art class run by one of the painting teachers. Other clubs and activities include homework help, drama, music, physical education, Broadway Jrs.,C.H.A.M.P.S. sports, chess, creating comic books using Macbooks and young historians, according to the Middle School Handbook.
Admissions: Neighborhood school. There are three gifted "Superintendent's Program" classes on each grade. Admission to this programis determined by a combination of factors making up a "composite score". The final 4th grade report card counts for 45 percent, state tests 45 percent, attendance five percent and punctuality five percent. Entrance into one of the three magnet science classes is by lottery.(Eliana Mascio, October 2013; admissions updated January 2015)Read more