New Heights Academy Charter School
Citys largest charter school offers Japanese
Some students balk at strict discipline
The largest charter school in the city, New Heights Academy Charter School provides students in grades 5-12 with a strict, structured environment, small classes and the chance to learn Japanese.
Like many charter schools, New Heights follows a traditional style of teaching, with desks in rows or a U-shaped formation, students in uniforms, and a no-nonsense attitude towards goofing-off. On the day of our visit during the schools first year, a child was reprimanded for wearing turquoise socks and another had to sit in the back of the class because, she said, "I was laughing."
Teachers lectured at the front of the class as students took notes, and timers beeped to instruct students when to stop working on their assigned task. Students were focused and organized.
While parents may appreciate the strict atmosphere, nearly one-third of students who responded to the Learning Environment Survey said discipline was unfair. Nearly half of the teachers said the principal is an ineffective manager and the school lacks order and discipline. On the positive side, the school has a high graduation rate, good attendance and students go on college trips.
Housed on several floors of a renovated former office building, the school has six new science labs and newly equipped classrooms. [Photo by Civic Builders, a non-profit organization that builds and renovates charter schools.]
Class sizes are capped at 24 students, and struggling students receive additional tutoring from teachers. The school officers Japanese, Italian and American Sign Language, operations manager Libby Madrid said in a telephone interview. High school students may leave the building for lunch. Middle school students have recess in a nearby park.
Special education: The school has several learning specialists and has expanded special education services in recent years, Madrid said.
Admission: Lottery. (Vanessa Witenko, September 2007, updated by Clara Hemphill with telephone interview, September 2012)
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Manhattan NY 10031