KIPP STAR Charter Middle School
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Advisors follow students through high school and college
Some students might prefer more class discussions
Part of the national KIPP Charter Network, KIPP STAR Middle School offers students continuity and an unusual level of support from 5th grade through high school--and beyond. When they graduate from 8th grade, most students attend KIPP NYC High School in the Bronx; when they graduate from high school, their advisors stay in touch with them through their college years, sometimes visiting them on campus.
When students join us, we make a commitment to help them through college, says KIPP STAR Middle Co-Principal Stacy Johnson. That means advice and help with everything from filling out financial aid forms to adjusting to dorm life. Johnson even attended the graduation of two of her former students at Hobart and Williams Smith Colleges and SUNY Oswego in upstate New York.
KIPPs motto is Work Hard, Be Nice. Like the other schools in the network, KIPP STAR emphasizes both character development and academics--and students receive separate report cards for each. Students get paycheck points for good behavior and earn special activities such as a pizza party or karaoke night. At the end of the year, those with good attendance and enough paycheck points go on overnight camping trips upstate (in the 6th grade) or a civil rights tour of the South (in the 7th grade). Students who break one of the schools rulessuch as not wearing a belt required by the school uniform--serve detention during lunch or after school and lose points on their paychecks. The school once had a high rate of suspensions, but Co-Principal Joseph Negron says the suspension rate has declined markedly. The advantage of the structured approach, Johnson said, is that children know what to expect. Its predictable, with no surprises or gotcha, she said.
Students have different teachers for English and math starting in 5th grade. In the 5th and 6th grades, science and history are combined in a non-fiction writing class. On our visit, children in that class were preparing brochures on how to prepare for different kinds of storms; in a history class, they considered whether Harlems history was being preserved in light of gentrification. In an English class, they wrote letters of gratitude to family members. Eighth graders may take the algebra I Regents exam. The school does not offer Regents-level Living Environment. We found it was better to have a well-rounded foundation in science, with an introduction to chemistry, earth science, physical science and genetics, says Johnson.
Students were well-behaved and attentive in the classes we visited, many of which featured the teacher at the front asking questions. We didnt see a lot of class discussion, but Negron said the school is working to engage childrens curiosity and not just memorize facts.
In addition to standard academics, KIPP STAR offers soccer, cheerleading, African dance, drama, martial arts, and Afro-Caribbean drumming. An afterschool program is available until 6 pm.
KIPP STAR shares a building with PS 125 and Columbia Secondary School. It has its own entrance and wing ; the gym, auditorium and playground are used by all three schools. An unusual perk: the building has a swimming pool, and STAR students may learn to swim.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school has a special education coordinator who oversees services as well as learning specialists in each grade and two full-time social workers. The school offers team-teaching and SETSS, speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy. Johnson, a former reading and special education teacher, is knowledgeable about learning differences. On our visit, we saw a number of strategies to help children who had reading difficulties: some received small group instruction; others listened to audio books equipped with earphones and iPads.
ADMISSIONS: Lottery, with priority to District 5 students and those who qualify for free or reduced lunch. Many children come from the Bronx. In 2014, KIPP STAR added a kindergarten in the Terence D. Tolbert Educational Complex, 10 blocks north on West 133rd Street. When the elementary school has a full complement of grades K-4 in 2019, nearly all the children admitted will come from the elementary school. (Clara Hemphill, May 2017)Read more