John Adams High School
Small learning communities, innovative efforts to improve school culture
School still has a way to go
For years, John Adams High School teetered on the brink of closure and struggled to attract students. Its administration and faculty now believe the worst is behind them and see the school gradually rebounding, thanks to stronger academics, new programs and a more welcoming environment.
Signs of progress: The graduation rate jumped from less than 55 percent 2014 to nearly 62 percent in 2015. Attendance improved in the 2015-16 school year. Most important, in 2016, the state removed Adams from the list of schools threatened with state-takeover.
In fall 2016, in hopes of attracting stronger students, Adams launched a selective program featuring the International Baccalaureate, a challenging curriculum that stresses student projects.
Principal Daniel Scanlon came to the school in 2013 after serving as an assistant principal at Hillcrest High School and launched a review of everything going on in the building, followed by a major turnaround plan that school administrators say will take five years to implement.
Staff learned from student feedback that many children did not want to be at Adams, which Scanlon himself described as having been punitive and drab. That has led to such changes as the offering of research electives where students work on topics of their own choosing, and installing game tables in the cafeteria to relieve boredom at lunch. While rates of chronic absenteeism remain high, attendance is increasing.
To improve discipline, Adams has implemented Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS), which focuses on rewarding and reinforcing positive actions. (For a prize-winning video by Adams students that came out of this approach, visit the school website.) School officials say the program has slashed suspension by 80 percent in the last three years.
The building retains an institutional feel, but is now enlivened by student murals which decorate many hallways. Adams has a health clinic operated by North Shore LIJ health network. Adams has added more sport teams, such as golf, lacrosse and badminton.
Adams now is divided into a number of "small learning communities" at each with its own teachers, guidance counselor, dean and designated area of the building. With the communities, the school hopes to provide students with the variety of programs and activities they would get in a large school along with the sense of community and individualized attention they would find in a small one. There are learning communities for English language learners and for seniors who need an extra boost to graduate on time.
Most of the communities, though, are geared to a particular theme and offer electives in that area. S.T.E.M. and Art History and Fine Arts screen students for admission, as does the International Baccalaureate, which will have its own learning community in 2017. Adams also has programs in environment and science, law, health careers, media and communication and business and has started an Air Force ROTC that has attracted a fair amount of interest. A new career and technical education offering focuses on computers, giving students the opportunity to build their own computers.
"We want to try to make opportunities available to kids," Scanlon said. "We're trying to find something for every student."
Adams has many English language learners, including students who speak Spanish, Bengali and Urdu and has a large Bengali program. It also has many young people over-age for their grade. "We try not to focus on the negative," Assistant Principal Scott Silverman said. "We need to figure out what's going on emotionally" with students who act out or who have struggled "and support them and empower them." The school tracks students to quickly detect who is faltering academically or failing to come to school. Different levels of interventions then come into play.
Adams offers college credit courses in conjunction with York College and also gives Advanced Placement classes. In an AP Spanish class we visited, students worked intently, drafting an essay in Spanish about social media.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: Adams offers a range of services and supports, including self-contained and ICT (integrated co-teaching) classes.
ADMISSIONS: Criteria vary among the learning communities, with some screened programs and others using the educational option method, which seeks to ensure admission to students with a range of academic abilities. There is also a zoned program for students living in the area. Given a shortage of applicants, most students who apply to the education option programs will be admitted. (Gail Robinson, March 2015, updated March 2016)
About the students
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Programs and Admissions
This program is a rigorous program of study for highly motivated students. The goal of the IB Program is to develop well-rounded students with character who respond to challenges with optimism and an open mind. Students who successfully complete the IB coursework/requirements will receive the globally recognized IB Diploma. Students will be able to apply for substitute paraprofessional/teacher assistant upon graduation.
Prepares students for careers in social sciences, law, and international relations. Students will participate in Model UN, Moot Court, and Mock Trial.
Includes approved curricula in Medical/Health Careers and a new curricula in personal training, and psychology. Pre-med students will have the ability to pursue life guard certification and earn a CDOS (Career Development and Occupational Studies) Credential upon graduation.
Prepares students for careers in photography, sculpting, journalism, video production, studio recording, writing, theater, and fine arts. Students will participate in creating published newsletters, cyber journalism, yearbook, play productions, and the literary magazine.
Prepares students for careers in business and computer science. Students will participate in Virtual Enterprise, Microsoft certiport certification, Co-Op Tech, and internships. Students will be able to earn a CDOS Credential upon graduation.
Studying in the Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics (STEM) Academy, students will learn from teachers who are passionate about their subjects--and their students' future. Students take engineering, robotics, and computer science courses with the opportunity to earn industry credit and opportunities to exercise their skills in real-world experiences. In the STEM Academy, students take AP and College Now courses to earn college credits.
Our Future Educators will develop a sound methodology in the field of Education. Students will have the ability to mentor, become a teacher assistant, lead peer education opportunities and earn a CDOS Credential upon graduation. Students will be able to apply for substitute paraprofessional/teacher assistant upon graduation.
American Sign Language, Bengali, French, Hindi, Spanish
Advanced Placement (AP) courses
AP Biology, AP Chemistry, AP Computer Science, AP English Language and Composition, AP English Literature and Composition, AP Environmental Science, AP Physics, AP Spanish, AP U.S. Government and Politics, AP U.S. History
Boys PSAL teams
Baseball, Basketball, Bowling, Football, Handball, Indoor Track, Outdoor Track, Soccer, Swimming, Tennis, Volleyball
Girls PSAL teams
Badminton, Basketball, Bowling, Flag Football, Golf, Handball, Indoor Track, Lacrosse, Outdoor Track, Soccer, Softball, Swimming, Volleyball
Coed PSAL teams
Ozone Park NY 11417
Zone for the 2017-2018 school year. Call school to confirm.
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Ozone Park, NY 11417