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Mark Twain for the Gifted & Talented (I.S. 239)

Grades: 6-8
Staff Pick
2401 Neptune Avenue
Brooklyn NY 11224
Phone: 718-266-0814

Our Insights

What’s Special

Strong talent program

The Downside

Location, limited diversity

Long one of the city's most sought after middle schools, IS 239 Mark Twain offers demanding academics and high-quality talent programs to students from throughout Brooklyn and beyond.

While students arrive with test scores well above the city average and many go on to a Specialized High Schools, Twain admits children not on the basis of their standardized test scores or their grades but on their performance on a test or try-out in any one of 11 talent areas, ranging from sports to instrumental music to science. 

Classes are composed of a mix of students with varying academic abilities in 6th grade, then divided more in the higher grades, as some children do honors and more advanced work. The school offers the algebra, Earth science and living environment Regents exams, as well as Spanish and Italian. A Department of Education report praised teachers for working to adjust material to match students of all academic levels. To help students cope with the school’s size, a cluster system, spanning different talents, divides the children into groups of about 150.

Since becoming principal in 2011 Karen Ditolla has worked to update and improve Twain’s 1930s building. The school has new labs, a black box theater, a mock courtroom that students use in a law and debate class, and coding labs intended to look more like the offices of Facebook or Google than a Coney Island classroom. After providing students with iPads, Twain has switched to equipping all its classrooms with more computers, such as laptops or Chrome books.

Noting that many of her students have strong basic academic skills, Ditolla says the key is to move them beyond the basics. “Our kids are very good compliance learners,” she says, “but they need to think and innovate and go out and showcase that.”

Over the years Mark Twain has struggled to maintain racial diversity. Originally a largely black school, it became a magnet school in 1975. By 1996 black parents were complaining their children were largely excluded from Twain. Today, the school is disproportionately white and Asian with fewer low-income students than other schools, although Ditolla says it is more mixed than many gifted and talented schools. 

Special education: Twain has five small “self-contained” classes for students with special needs as well as two team teaching classes on each grade that have both general and special education students.

Admissions: Students from anywhere in New York City are eligible. Students applying to any of the seven arts-based talent programs must complete an audtion. The other four progams, including Athletics, Computer/Math, Creative Writing/Journalism, and Science, select students via a lottery. Check the school's website and the DOE's Middle Schools Auditions webpage for full details. (Gail Robinson, from interviews and web materials, March 2019; admissions updated August 2022)


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School Stats

Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

Is this school safe and well-run?

From the 2022-2023 NYC School Survey

How many students say they feel safe in the hallways, bathrooms and locker rooms?
78% Citywide Average
How many students think bullying happens most or all of the time at this school?
59% Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?
84% Citywide Average
How many teachers say they would recommend this school to other families?
82% Citywide Average

From the 2019-20 NY State Report Card

How many students were suspended?
4% Citywide Average

From this school's most recent Quality Review Report

Are teachers effective?

From 2023 End-of-year Attendance and Chronic Absenteeism Report

How many teachers have 3 or more years of experience teaching?
80% Citywide Average
Years of principal experience at this school

How do students perform academically?

From the New York State 2022-2023 Assessment Database

How many middle school students scored 3-4 on the state math exam?
46% Citywide Average
How many middle school students scored 3-4 on the state reading exam?
51% Citywide Average

From the 2022-23 School Quality Guide

How many 8th-graders earn high school credit?
89% Citywide Average

Who does this school serve?

From the 2022-23 Demographic Snapshot

Free or reduced priced lunch
Students with disabilities
English language learners

From the 2022-23 School Quality Guide

Average daily attendance
91% Citywide Average
How many students miss 18 or more days of school?
34% Citywide Average

From the 2020 School Directories

Uniforms required?

How does this school serve special populations?

From the New York State 2022-2023 Assessment Database

How many English language learners scored 3-4 on the state math exam?
15% Citywide Average

For more information about our data sources, see About Our Data · More DOE statistics for this school

Contact & Location


Coney Island (District 21)
Buses: B36, B74, B82, X28, X38


Karen Ditolla
Parent Coordinator
Neslyn Le Brun

Other Details

Shared campus?
This school is in its own building.
Uniforms required?
Metal detectors?

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