Inwood Academy for Leadership Charter School
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Safe school that provides social as well as academic support
Working to offer more for high-achievers
Opened in 2010 as a tiny middle school, Inwood Academy for Leadership has grown into a middle and high school located in two buildings walking distance from each other. The school starts at the unusual entry point of 5th grade and most students stay though high school.
Founding principal Christina Reyes now serves as executive director. She was a middle school teacher at a nearby parochial school, Manhattan Christian Academy. As an after-school tutor for local kids she noticed a lag in skills and was inspired to offer a different kind of public school choice. She looks for an experienced and racially diverse staff familiar with her student population and cultivates leadership: both middle school principal Valerie Hoekstra and high school principal Mary Hackett rose through the ranks of Inwood Academy.
School surveys shows the school is safe and orderly. Hoekstra said small advisory groups of only 10 students per group have helped. The groups meet with an adult three days a week during the last period of the day “in every corner of the building,” and older students run a session every other week, sometimes leading games, like one called “What’s in a name?” in which students explain the origins of their names to get to know each other better.
Most students enter the middle school with low skills. Students may get extra help after school, during lunch and on Saturdays. To raise expectations, the middle school now requires all 8th graders to take Regents algebra, because, Hoekstra said, those who did “were much more able to take advanced programs in high school” and go on to a four-year college, which is the goal, she added. The high school has a class for students interested in applying to specialized high schools, which Hoekstra runs and has about 30 students.
The middle school’s once-high suspension rate is beginning to improve. In 2016 the rate was 30 out-of-school suspensions compared to 23 in 2018. The in-school suspension rate dropped from 20 to 5.
“Kids who are out of school fall behind,” Hoekstra pointed out. Staff members seek to understand the reasons behind the disruption. Teens may want attention, be struggling at home or school and want to escape with poor behavior, she said. “We’re pretty mindful of that.”
The high school boasted an excellent four-year graduation rate for its first graduating class and is continuing to improve its Advanced Placement course offerings and Regents work to strengthen the numbers of graduates ready for college-level work.
The middle school is at 433 West 204th Street. The brand new high school campus opens fall 2019 at 3896 10th Avenue.
The middle and high schools combined offer nearly 20 sports teams. The school has added a debate team and produces plays and musicals at both locations.
Admissions: By lottery. Preference is given to children residing in District 6. The school takes roughly 20 new students in 9th grade out of 130. Few are admitted in 6th grade though many apply, the parent coordinator said. (Lydie Raschka, web reports and interview, January 2019)