Girls Prep Lower East Side Charter Middle School
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All girls school with attractive opportunities beyond school
Different entry points can be a bit challenging for teachers
Girls Prep Middle School seeks to empower girls with a keen focus on math and science, a strong college-bound culture, and unusual opportunities over the summer and long after graduation.
Each summer, 10 students are chosen to take science and fiction writing classes at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY. All-female Stephens College in Columbia, MO, offers 10 girls a chance to join a summer leadership academy; it also awards an alumna a free, four-year scholarship. In a "reverse admissions," Southern Vermont College asks the Girls Prep staff to choose an alumna they think is a good fit for admission to the college on a scholarship. In 2017, a Girls Prep alumna was accepted to Yale University.
It's a formal, serious place, without a lot of idle chit chat. Girls study science up to five times a week. They are encouraged to seek help from teachers and express themselves through theater, dance and art.
On our visit, we saw girls working diligently in quiet rooms. Fifth graders researched famous female scientists, such as computer scientist Grace Hopper, in preparation for writing letters to President Donald Trump to persuade him to support programs that benefit women of science. Sixth graders used laptops to research Ancient Mesopotamia. Regents-level math and science courses are offered in 8th grade. The girls participate in science programs outside of school and visit the Museum of Mathematics.
Lacy Reed was a literacy coach and teacher at the school before becoming principal in 2016. [see photo] Reed and her staff lengthened math and language classes to 90 minutes, so teachers could embed more time for practice. They also moved the school's start time one hour later, which helps address tardiness, attendance and alertness. Teachers have office hours, like in college, for girls who need extra help.
Eighth graders cast a wide net for high school including parochial, private and public schools. Past graduates have gone to Philips Exeter Academy, Bard, Midwood, Sacred Heart Academy, East Side Community (which sets aside some seats) and others listed on their website.
The middle school, about a mile from the Girls Prep elementary school, is housed in a building shared with East Side Community, a 6-12 school. The two schools share a playground and a cafeteria. A drawback to the arrangement: because Girls Prep is arrayed on four floors, it doesn't have as cohesive a feel as it might.
One challenge is staggered entry points: most enter in 5th grade from the lower school, but some are brand new to Girls Prep, and a few more new students enter in 6th grade. It takes work for teachers to "help new girls acclimate," Lacy said. The longer math and English periods have helped, she said.
There is a free after-school program until 6 pm.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: Some classes are co-taught and mix children with disabilities into classes with general education students.
ADMISSIONS: Lottery. Priority goes to residents of District 1, Girls Prep elementary students, NYCHA residents and Public Prep staff. Tours open to the community the first Friday of every month. (Lydie Raschka, December 2016)Read more
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Manhattan, NY 10009