Upper West Side
An avenue-by-avenue guide to the most family-friendly area outside Orlando.
Thu May 15 2008
129 W 67th St, Upper West Side. 212-501-3318. Grades K--8.
What's special: Rigorous musical training based on model developed in former Soviet Union.
Downside: Demanding program is unsuitable for children who lack keen interest in music and discipline to practice.
The Special Music School of America, serving children from all five boroughs, combines regular academic classes with unusually rigorous musical training, including individual lessons from Russian-conservatory trained musicians. Admission is extremely competitive there are typically 350 kindergarten applicants for 15 spaces but the payoff for those who are accepted is great. The school is an unusual public-private partnership designed to offer New York City children the kind of musical training previously found only in the "spetsshkola," or special schools of the former Soviet Union. Read the full review from Insideschools.org
100 West 84th Street, Upper West Side. 212-595-7193. Grades K--8.
What's special: Super bright kids and fast paced academics
Downside: Far more applicants than seats available
Open to children from all five boroughs, the Anderson School is one of the most selective schools in the city. Academics are accelerated, particularly in math, and very bright children have the opportunity to take part in advanced work such as national math competitions. Unlike Hunter College Elementary School, which accepts children only in kindergarten, Anderson accepts older children as well. Read the full review from Insideschools.org
100 W.77 St, Upper West Side. 917-441-0873. Grades 6--8.
What's special: Everyone says they integrate technology in the curriculum but here they really do it.
Downside: Tiny, noisy cafeteria. No science lab or lockers.
Teachers say they love The Computer School because they are given the freedom to craft creative lessons. Students seem happy and engaged in unusual projects: Photoshopping pictures of themselves into historic photographs, for example, or using dance steps to learn about math concepts. The school serves kids with a range of abilities, including some with special education needs, and has a good mix of kids from different racial groups and income levels. Read the full review from Insideschools.org
735 West End Ave, Upper West Side. 212-866-6313. Grades 6-8.
What's special: Innovative curriculum, caring community.
Downside: Cramped quarters on top floor of elementary school.
West Side Collaborative combines innovative programming, an interdisciplinary curriculum, and a variety of creative activities in a safe, nurturing environment. This is a tall order for a small middle school housed at the top of an Upper West Side elementary school. Creative activities add a special dimension to the academic work. When studying the exploration of America, for example, students had to apply for a job on an imaginary boat captained by Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese navigator. Read the full review from Insideschools.org
154 W 93rd St, Upper West Side. 212-678-5888. Grades 6--8.
What's special: Small school, high expectations, nurturing atmosphere.
Downside: Many students need a lot of catch-up in academics, so scores are still too low.
Community Action was started in 1994 by PS 166 parents. As district gifted programs siphoned off higher achievers, the school found it necessary to develop a culture to work with kids who need extra help. As the school's good reputation spreads, better-achieving students have been applying, but catch-up academics are still stressed. Read the full review from Insideschools.org
270 W 70th St, Upper West Side. 212-799-1477. Grades 5--8.
What's special: An unusual combination of great warmth and rigorous academics.
Downside: The only downside is its popularity because that makes it very difficult to get in.
A tiny gem of a place, the Center School is one of the oldest and most popular alternative schools in the city. The school combines a progressive attitude toward how children learn with a classical view of what they should learn. That means teachers expect the kids to move around the classrooms and to chat with one another as they work rather than sit silently in rows and absorb knowledge. At the same time, the subject matter is traditional: Latin is mandatory, and everyone is expected to spell properly, and to learn conventional geography and algebra. Read the full review from Insideschools.org
32 W 92nd St, Upper West Side. 212-799-2653. Grades 6--8.
What's special: Cozy, safe environment; strong arts, two teachers in every class.
Downside: Low test scores.
Students who have attended a Spanish/English dual language elementary school, or who are bilingual and speak both Spanish and English, can continue to learn two languages at the Dual Language Middle School, a tiny, cozy, and safe place with a strong arts program. Unlike dual language elementary schools where students spend half the day learning in English, and half in another language, here 70 percent of the curriculum is taught in English and 30 percent in Spanish. Read the full review from Insideschools.org
100 W 77th St, Upper West Side. 917-441-1163. Grade 6--8.
What's special: The school is a calmer place than it was.
Downside: Academic achievement remains low.
Until recently, MS 44 had a reputation for violence and a revolving door of principals with five principals in five years. Now, MS 44 has a calmer atmosphere, a smaller enrollment, and fewer kids with behavior problems. Teachers say they can concentrate on improving academic achievement. Read the full review from Insideschools.org
103 W 107th St, Upper West Side. 212-678-2861. Grades 6--8.
What's special: Delta honors prepares kids well for specialized high school exam; new sense of community in the school.
Downside: Building could be better lit; class changes are loud; cafeteria is small.
MS 54 houses two programs, Delta Honors, one of the city's most demanding and successful middle school programs, and CORE, which serves students with a range of abilities, including new immigrants who are just learning English and some students with severe disabilities. Read the full review from Insideschools.org
154 W 93rd St, Upper West Side. 212-222-2857. Grades 6--8.
What's special: Determined new principal and brand new quarters.
Downside: Still a long way to go to reach high achievement goals.
These days, MS 256 likes to call itself by its number and to emphasize the "excellence" in its title rather than "athletics." Not that it doesn't have a licensed phys. ed. teacher, gym every other day, and a connection with a Knick that led to the kids playing a game at Madison Square Garden; but since 2002, the school has re-tooled and academics are now front and center. Read the full review from Insideschools.org
234 W 109th St, Upper West Side. 212-678-2960. Grades 6--8.
What's special: Engaging instruction.
Downside: The amount of homework can be overwhelming.
Founded in 2001 as the first clone of upper Manhattan's highly successful Mott Hall Middle School, Mott Hall II seeks to offer students academically rigorous, project-based instruction in a nurturing atmosphere. It took some time for the school to hit its stride, and become a place where students are "more thoughtful about themselves as scholars and people," said Mary Moss, co-director of the school, since its launch, with Ana De Los Santos. But today, she said, "when we say what the school is like, it comes from what\'s actually happening. Read the full review from Insideschools.org
210 W 61st St, Upper West Side. 212-757-4343. Grades 6--8.
What's special: High aspirations and community spirit.
Downside: Test scores somewhat low for a selective program.
When we first visited, The Hudson Middle School Honors Program was a fledgling middle school program striving to match the successful record of the Delta Honors program at MS 54. Established in September, 2002 with a 6th grade class, the school has since added a grade each year and graduated its first class of 64 students in spring 2005. It is located on the top floor of PS 191, which also houses a gifted program. Many of the students in the first senior class opted to be pioneers in some of the new small schools that will start in the fall of 2005. One student made it into Bronx Science, others to A. Philip Randolph and Beacon, as well as an array of schools around the city. Read the full review from Insideschools.org
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