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Volume 20 Issue 17 | September 7 - 13, 2007

Back to School

3 middle schools that get good grades from parents

By Anindita Dasgupta

Salk School of Science, Manhattan Academy of Technology and the N.Y.C. Lab School are three of the most popular District 2 middle schools, according to school officials and parents of sixth graders who graduated last June from these Lower Manhattan schools: P.S. 89, P.S. 1, P.S. 124, P.S. 150, P.S. 234, New Explorations into Science Technology and M.A.T.’s elementary school.

Parents spent a great deal of time touring schools throughout District 2, which covers most of Lower Manhattan, Chinatown and parts of Greenwich Village and the Upper East Side last school year. Many of District 2’s public schools have application processes including evaluation of standardized test scores, interviews -- often for parents and students -- and application essays.

The survey was not scientific and there are of course other middle schools in the district which receive good ratings. Here’s a look at the three that rated high Downtown:


Salk School of Science

The Salk School of Science was created in 1995 as a collaboration between the New York University School of Medicine and the city Department of Education. This middle school of about 230 students was named after Dr. Jonas Salk, who created the first vaccine for polio. While the school opened a few months after Dr. Salk’s death, it still maintains Dr. Salk’s passion for science. Located on East 20th St., Salk’s curriculum emphasizes a hands-on, in-depth exploration of science. Students are exposed to humanities subjects as well as math and science. The science specialization of the school is found as professionals from N.Y.U.’s Schools of Medicine and Dentistry run mentoring programs at the school. Salk students also make trips to the professional schools where some of their school events like science fairs and admissions events take place.

Location was a major consideration for Bette Lawlor, whose 11-year old son is starting at Salk this year. “At some point, they start going [to school] on their own,” she said. Living in the Village, she wanted a school that was a little closer to home. She feels starting at Salk will be a big transition for her son, who graduated from P.S. 150 in Tribeca, where he was with the same class for seven years. “It will be a big change for him,” she said. “P.S. 150 was such a wonderful, tight community.” As a result, these were some of the aspects she looked for in middle schools. Some of the top contenders included East Side Middle, M.A.T., and Lab, but in the end the Lawlor’s went for a school that best fitted their son’s strength and interest in math and science. Lawlor said her son was excited after talking with some students at Salk. “In addition to being bright and highly rated, the students looked like they were having a lot of fun,” Lawlor said. There was also another draw to the school for her son. “I think there were some reptiles in one of the classes,” Lawlor said. “He was so excited about that.”


Manhattan Academy of Technology

M.A.T. has been a longtime favorite for Downtown parents. The school is located in Chinatown on Catherine St., where it moved in 2003. M.A.T. is known for its supportive staff and excellent after school program. In the past, parents have crowed about M.A.T.’s hands on teaching approach to math, relatively small class sizes (between 25 and 28 students) and the individual attention their children received.  Parents also felt that the school’s principal, Kerry Decker is very open to parents’ suggestions and is very approachable. While the school has an extensive math and technology program, it offers many options for students to branch out in the humanities. Stephanie Waterman’s daughters, eighth grader Anna and sixth grader Molly fall into this category. As sixth graders, students are given a taste of different subject areas such as dance, Spanish, and art. They then have the option to focus their studies as they move through middle school. This was a big draw for the Watermans. “[As sixth graders], they are too young to figure out what to specialize in,” she said. “I wanted my kids to have a little bit of everything.” Waterman said the technology aspect of the school was not overwhelming. “Students are required to take one computer class, but in the 21st century that’s

Anna met Ms. Shore, M.A.T.’s art teacher when she first entered and has reaped the benefits of being her students since then, said Waterman. This summer, Anna was thrilled to find out that she was the grand prize winner of the 2007 Princess Grace Children’s Art Competition. the The prize included an all-expense paid trip to Monaco to view “The Grace Kelly Years” exhibit at the Grimaldi Forum Monaco for Anna and one legal guardian, and three nights in a four star hotel. Waterman said Ms. Shore had encouraged Anna to enter the competition and other competitions around the school. Shore’s dedication to her students’ is reflective of M.A.T., she said. “The teachers really make the school,” she said.


N.Y.C. Lab School

The New York Lab School for Collaborative Learning, located on West 17th St., has a history of high academic standards with an emphasis on collaboration between students and teachers. The basis of the school’s philosophy is that students can learn from each other. “That truly is the model [of the school],” said Mary Silver, whose son is in eighth grade at Lab. “They work with the concept that everyone is responsible for everyone else’s learning.” John Scott, whose daughter is starting at Lab this year agreed. Collaboration at Lab is extended to special education students as well, he said. Instead of taking special education students out of the classroom once a week for specialized instruction, as many schools do, Lab splits each class into 60 percent general education students and 40 percent special education students. To accommodate the students, there are two teachers in each classroom - one to specialize in each type of education, explained Scott, a Tribeca resident. “Some parents might say that they don’t want their kids in the classroom with special education students,” he said. “But, that’s what it’s like in the real world.” He added that the school is very community oriented and that is part of what drew him to it for his daughter.





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