J.H.S. 383 Philippa Schuyler
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Robust arts program; accelerated program for high achievers
Some concern with discipline
Philippa Schuyler is a large middle school with an accelerated track for high achievers and a robust arts program including a steel pan band. The school admits students from across Brooklyn and Queens and serves grades 5 to 8. Most students arrive in 6th grade, but families concerned about competition for good middle schools may want to get a leg up by applying for fifth grade.
The vibe throughout the school is calm and friendly. In classes we visited, children were engaged in their lessons and teachers spoke in conversational tones to draw them in. We saw a range of teaching methods. In some classes students worked together in groups, in particular in 5th grade and science classes. In others, there were more traditional lessons with students sitting in rows and the teacher leading a whole class lesson.
The highest achievers are placed in an accelerated program after 6th grade, which includes honors classes in 7th grade and Regents courses in algebra and living environment in 8th grade. Teachers may also recommend 7th-graders who make great progress to join the accelerated program in 8th grade. Roughly three quarters of all students earn high school credit by passing a Regents course by the end of 8th grade.
Philippa Schuyler invests in arts and elective programs to an unusual degree for a middle school. All students spend two periods a day in visual arts, drama, steel pan, choral music or robotics. Elective classes are dispersed throughout the day, offer a nice break from academics. During our morning visit we observed students working on routines in dance and rehearsing scenes in drama.
Fifth-graders have two core teachers: one for English, writing and social studies and the other for math and science, which helps them ease into middle school. Students spend less time traveling between classes and 5th grade teachers have more flexibility, for instance delving deeper into an English lesson on one day and focusing more on a social studies another. Sixth-graders also take a separate course dedicated to writing instruction, but change glasses for all their subjects.
All students learn either French or Spanish beginning in 7th grade.
The school has adopted a nurturing tone since the arrival of Principal Jeanette Smith in 2012. Rules are enforced but discipline is gentler than previously and the administration is responsive to parents and students concerns. When parents complained about the expense of purchasing uniforms, the school switched to a more flexible option of school shirts with navy pants or skirts. To cut down on tardiness, Smith did away with early morning homeroom. Instead, she extended the first period to give the subject teacher time to take attendance and distribute notices.
Some concerns persist: Some students report feeling unsafe in the hallways and bathroom; some teachers say discipline and order are not maintained well, based on responses to the annual school survey.
Students get a lot of support for high school admissions. The school automatically signs up all students to take the Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) and offers an onsite prep course. The school offers parent workshops on high school admissions. Philippa Schuyler has a long track record of sending students to private day and boarding schools through the Prep for Prep and Prep 9 programs; some graduates attend specialized and other highly selective high schools such as Medgar Evers.
Philippa Schuyler shares a building with a charter middle school, Achievement First Bushwick.
There are a range of free after-school activities run onsite by the New York Junior Tennis League such as homework help, visual arts and dance. Student may also participate in a range of sports teams.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: There are ICT (integrated collaborative teaching) and self-contained classed as well as SETSS.
ADMISSIONS: Open to Brooklyn and Queens students. For 5th grade only, students complete a school-based application; students with sufficient grades and record of attendance are invited to take an entrance exam, which consists of multiple choice math and English questions plus an essay. For grades 6-8, the school invites students to take an entrance exam based on their test scores, report card and attendance record. (Laura Zingmond, October 2017)