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Upper West Side

An avenue-by-avenue guide to the most family-friendly area outside Orlando.

It's a whole lot easier to list what's not geared toward kids on the Upper West Side: Ouest, Barneys Co-op, Lincoln Plaza Cinemas, Dive Bar. Done.

The venerable Manhattan nabe, sandwiched between Central Park and Riverside Park as perfectly as the creme in an Oreo, is brimming with so many tot-focused shops, eateries, museums and play spaces that grown-ups can feel like too-tall interlopers. But there's no better place for a weekend family walk than these leafy streets lined with grand Beaux Arts apartment buildings and Italianate brownstones. Just don't try to cover the area in one sweep; pick a single avenue to stroll down, and take your time.

Amsterdam Avenue

Begin at Little Shop of Crafts (711 Amsterdam Ave at 94th St, 212-531-2723), a neighborhood mainstay offering workshops in beading, mosaics and T-shirt design for kids and adults. Several blocks down, you may spot girls in pink leotards getting picked up from Ballet Hispanico (167 W 89th St at Amsterdam Ave, 212-362-6710), where lessons are also available in jazz, salsa and hip-hop.

To sample the UWS brunch scene, pop into Popover Café (551 Amsterdam Ave at 86th St, 212-595-8555); the namesake oversized baked goods are as entertaining as they are tasty, and the coconut-almond-crusted challah French toast soothes a savage sweet tooth. Another favorite sit-down spot is the cavernous, elegant Dean's Pizzeria (215 W 85th St between Amsterdam Ave and Broadway, 212-875-1100), serving classic round or extra-thin square pies.

You can feel good about dropping cash at the well-stocked A Time for Children (506 Amsterdam Ave between 84th and 85th Sts, 212-580-8202), which donates 100 percent of its profits to the Children's Aid Society; the boutique sells Hanna Andersson baby clothes, candy-colored socks, stuffed Paddingtons and a selection of books. At West Side Kids (498 Amsterdam Ave at 84th St, 212-496-7282), the shelves overflow with Haba baby toys, Melissa & Doug wooden puzzles, craft supplies, classic board games and trucks galore. A bulletin board with Polaroids of local kids welcomes shoppers at Roam (488 Amsterdam Ave at 83rd St, 212-721-0155), where moms swoon over Egg Press bodysuits, shower invites and reasonably priced toddler fashions, from puff-sleeve tees to kimono tops.

Bring tiny tots to the Children's Museum of Manhattan (212 W 83rd St between Amsterdam Ave and Broadway, 212-721-1223), for hands-on exhibits about the environment and ancient Greece, plus areas dedicated to messing around with sand or paint.

Ready to nosh again? Hampton Chutney Company (464 Amsterdam Ave between 82nd and 83rd Sts, 212-362-5050) is an airy, casual oasis with calming yoga music, a kids' corner outfitted with shelves of board books and a deep, carpeted window seat filled with teddy bears. The delicious Indian dosas enfold adult-pleasers like potato masala or grilled asparagus with goat cheese, while the kids' menu offers less-highfalutin combos like turkey-and-cheese. For an old-school feel, try the bright blue booths at EJ's Luncheonette (447 Amsterdam Ave between 81st and 82nd Sts, 212-873-3444); kids eat dinner for free on Fridays and Saturdays. Roppongi (434 Amsterdam Ave at 81st St, 212-362-8182) is an unexpectedly accommodating spot to bring sprouts with sophisticated palates. "Udon noodles, sticky rice, chicken teriyaki and miso soup are their favorite things in life," says local mom Elizabeth Franco of her two boys, Benjamin, 6, and William, 1. "The restaurant has only two high chairs, but we've never had a problem. And it's so chill that it can actually be relaxing to take the kids."

The always-packed hair salon Cozy's (448 Amsterdam Ave at 81st St, 212-579-2600) seats little ones in a fire truck facing the TV so that little bobs come out nice and even. For a final sugar rush, pick up red-velvet and caramel-chew cupcakes from the famous Crumbs Bakeshop (321 Amsterdam Ave at 75th St, 212-782-9800).

Columbus Avenue

Less densely commercial than Amsterdam, this thoroughfare still holds a full weekend's worth of enticements. The salon Dashing Diva (590 Columbus Ave between 88th and 89th Sts; 212-877-9052, dashingdivawest.com) often has as many children sitting in its chairs as adults; pedis for kids under eight are $20. If that's not your style, check out Hands On! (529 Columbus Ave between 85th and 86th Sts, 212-496-9929), an instrument-based music education program for infants, toddlers and preschoolers.

Kidville (466 Columbus Ave between 82nd and 83rd Sts, 212-362-7792) coifs your child while distracting him with DVDs, toys and fun seats, but doesn't stop there; its mini caf, well-stocked clothing boutique, birthday party program, and sports and art classes make it a complete microcosm. Greenstones & Cie (442 Columbus Ave between 81st and 82nd Sts, 212-580-4322) rounds out its gorgeous stockpile of jackets, pants, dresses and sweaters with hair bands, baby hats, Robeez and Pediped footwear, and a stylin' collection of bibs—in prints like sushi, yellow taxis and i HEART ny.

One of the nabe's big draws is the American Museum of Natural History (Central Park West at 79th St, 212-769-5100), where you can spend the entire day or just take a break from the stroller traffic to catch a wild IMAX flick. The museum also offers a range of summer day camps focusing on topics like robotics, water, fossils and astrophysics.

On Sundays from 10am to 5pm, don't miss the big flea market and Greenmarket at M.S. 244 (100 W 77th St at Columbus Ave, cenyc.org), where kids can run around while you browse fresh produce, vintage clothes and jewelry, music and lots more. Love 'em or hate 'em, Crocs (270 Columbus Ave at 73rd St, 212-362-1655) sells comfy, colorful shoes and sandals that little ones adore. Or go upscale at Z'Baby Company (100 W 72nd St at Columbus Ave, 212-579-2229), for girlie frocks, hipster cargo pants and rock-star dresses with silk screens from the Rolling Stones to AC/DC.

Broadway

New York Kids Club (265 W 87th St between Broadway and West End Ave, 212-721-4400) supervises tykes six months through six years during unstructured playtimes, and offers classes in dance, crafts and martial arts. And children's flicks usually reign at the AMC Loews 84th Street 6 (2310 Broadway at 84th St, 212-877-3892), where the first screenings of the day start around 10am.

At neighborhood institution Harry's Shoes for Kids (2315 Broadway at 84th St, 212-874-2034), staffers will get your tot properly fitted with a new pair of Primigis, Pumas, Uggs or Stride Rites. The Zeyna and Philippe shop (2265 Broadway at 82nd St, 212-580-4401) stocks kids' clothing in sizes from infant to tween, Petunia Pickle Bottom diaper bags, board books and yoga wear for mom. A surprise hit, though, is Essential Plus (2259 Broadway between 80th and 81st Sts, 212-724-4905): a drugstore at street level but a toy wonderland one flight up, complete with two train tables (Brio and Thomas & Friends). You'll know you've found it when you see the flock of toddlers gathered around the coin-operated Flintstones car and Bert-and-Ernie fire truck out front.

Finish up at Italian gelateria Grom (2165 Broadway at 76th St, 212-362-1837), where a small cup of all-natural frozen goodness will set you back five bucks—but don't scream highway robbery until you've tasted it. We suggest a combo of the fragola (strawberry) sorbetto and tiramisu gelato.

Playgrounds

Local parents recommend Riverside Park's Hippo Playground (Riverside Dr at 91st St), for its swings, climbing equipment and hippo sprinklers, and Elephant Playground (Riverside Dr at 76th St). West Siders also favor Central Park's Safari Playground (CPW at 91st St), which has a tree house, picnic tables and a toddler jogging path.

Neighborhood schools

Elementary school

P.S. 333 Manhattan School for Children
154 W 93rd St, Upper West Side. 212-222-1450. Grades K--8.
What's special: Unusual level of parent involvement.
Downside: Atmosphere may be too relaxed for some children.
Reading scores: 4/5 stars
Math scores: 5/5 stars
Manhattan School for Children, housed in the former Joan of Arc Junior High School, is a relaxed, laid-back place where kids wear caps backwards and call teachers by their first names. Parents come right to the classroom to drop off their children, and parents are welcome, even in the middle school... Read the full review from Insideschools.org

Middle school

I.S. 250 West Side Collaborative
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.
Reading scores: 4/5 stars
Math scores: 4/5 stars
"We are a community. We stick together like peanut butter and jelly," said a second grader, whose teacher, Robin Berg, captured the phrase and posted it on the blackboard, along with other pithy sayings of her students... Read the full review from Inside Schools

High school

H.S. 485 Fiorello H. LaGuardia HS of Music & Art and Performing Arts
108 Amsterdam Avenue, Upper West Side. 212-496-0700. Grades 9--12.
What's special: A haven for artists with a nice racial mix.
Downside: The size of the school can be overwhelming.
LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts is a highly selective, widely acclaimed school that trains students for the country's best art schools and music conservatories, as well as for conventional academic colleges and universities...Read the full review from Inside Schools

Elementary schools

P.S. 145 Bloomingdale School
150 W 105th St, Upper West Side. 212-678-2857. Grades K--5.
What's special: An abundance of bilingual and gifted and talented classes meets the needs of a diverse student population.
Downside: Getting parents involved is a challenge for the principal.
Reading scores: 3/5 stars
Math scores: 4/5 stars
PS 145 is a pleasant surprise, according to a group of parents considering the school for children entering kindergarten. Classrooms are bright and cheery, and children benefit from an art room, a computer room, and a music and gym teacher. The halls are quiet, a reflection of the classrooms; we didn't see any teachers struggling to keep their students under control. The absence of unstructured recess might be a factor behind the school's atmosphere. Students don't just run around aimlessly. Instead, they get exercise in gym class or by taking educational walks through the neighborhood. Read the full review from Insideschools.org

P.S. 163 Alfred E. Smith School
163 W 97th St, Upper West Side. 212-678-2854. Grades K--5.
What's special: Diverse student body, lively faculty, humming classrooms.
Downside: Kindergarten classrooms housed in trailers.
Reading scores: 4/5 stars
Math scores: 5/5 stars
A neighborhood school that serves both gifted children and those with special needs, PS 163 has committed, enthusiastic teachers who are eager to hone their skills and embrace new teaching methods. Kids are engaged in their lessons, and the teaching we saw on our visit was excellent. The building has been renovated, and classrooms have new rugs and furniture. Halls and doors have been painted in "jelly bean colors" of orange, lime, green and pink. The auditorium has been spruced up and the school has a new science lab, new computers, and air conditioning. Read the full review from Insideschools.org

P.S. 165 Robert E. Simon School
234 W 109th St, Upper West Side. 212-678-2873. Grades K--5.
What's special: Gifted and talented and dual language programs.
Downside: Old, shared building could use more repairs; parents say more safety agents are needed.
Reading scores: 3/5 stars
Math scores: 4/5 stars
Housed in a large, Gothic-revival building, PS 165 offers both gifted and talented classes and an English-Spanish dual language program that enables the many Spanish-speaking children to become literate in their native language while giving a few English-speaking students the chance to learn Spanish as early as kindergarten. The school also offers dual language classes with collaborative team teaching (CTT). These classes have two teachers, one of whom is certified in special education, and a mix of children with special needs and those in general education. Read the full review from Insideschools.org

P.S. 166 Richard Rodgers School of Arts & Technology
132 W 89th St, Upper West Side. 212-678-2829. Grades K--5.
What's special: Nicely renovated building with outdoor garden for reading.
Downside: Building is divided by race and class.
Reading scores: 5/5 stars
Math scores: 5/5 stars
PS 166 has in recent years attracted a growing number of upper-middle-class white families—some of whom could afford private school. The upper-middle-class children are concentrated in the two "gifted and talented" classes in each grade. A super-organized PTA has raised a substantial amount of money to pay for full-time classroom assistants in the lower grades, part-time assistants in the upper grades, and a one-day-a-week science teacher, as well as art and music supplies. The PTA raises about $300,000 a year, in part by asking each family to contribute $1,500 a year. Partly as a result of this fundraising, the gifted and talented program has become second only to PS 9 in the number of applicants in the district. Read the full review from Insideschools.org

P.S. 191 Amsterdam School
210 W 61st St, Upper West Side. 212-757-4343. Grades K--5.
What's special: A small intimate atmosphere with resource rich classrooms.
Downside: Future of gifted program in jeopardy.
Reading scores: 3/5 stars
Math scores: 4/5 stars
PS 191 has a lot going for it: enthusiastic teachers; a thoroughly engaging music teacher; partnerships with Studio in a School and Lincoln Center Institute; separate outdoor playgrounds for Pre-K, kindergarten; and older students; and a huge grant from City Councilwoman Gail Brewer to renovate the auditorium . Classes are small, with as few as 15 and never more than 25 children. Read the full review from Insideschools.org

P.S. 199 Jesse Isador Straus School
270 W 70th St, Upper West Side. 212-799-1033. Grades K--5.
What's special: Ethic of tolerance toward children with disabilities.
Downside: School's popularity makes it difficult for those outside the neighborhood to get in.
Reading scores: 5/5 stars
Math scores: 5/5 stars
Strong, coherent leadership, a unified staff with a shared vision of education, and an active parent organization have made PS 199 one of the most popular and successful schools in the district. The school is one of the few in the district that's wheelchair accessible, and parents say the presence of handicapped children helps make the school a particularly gentle and tolerant place. Read the full review from Insideschools.org

P.S. 333 Manhattan School for Children
154 W 93rd St, Upper West Side. 212-222-1450. Grades K--8.
What's special: Unusual level of parent involvement.
Downside: Atmosphere may be too relaxed for some children.
Reading scores: 4/5 stars
Math scores: 5/5 stars
Manhattan School for Children, housed in the former Joan of Arc Junior High School, is a relaxed, laid-back place where kids wear caps backwards and call teachers by their first names. Parents come right to the classroom to drop off their children, and parents are welcome, even in the middle school. A wide corridor serves as a meeting place for parents, kids, and teachers during the day. By the coffee pot, you'll hear two mothers chatting in Spanish, and several fathers planning a winter fund-raising event. Parents of different races seem to feel comfortable together. "Don't look at it as a place you'll be sending your children," parent coordinator Tatiana Hoover tells prospective parents. "Look at it as a community you'll be joining. Read the full review from Insideschools.org

P.S. 75 Emily Dickinson School
735 West End Ave, Upper West Side. 212-866-5400. Grades K--5.
What's special: Strong dual-language program with small class sizes.
Downside: Dark, gloomy building.
Reading scores: 4/5 stars
Math scores: 5/5 stars
Once a fairly traditional school, PS 75 has evolved in recent years to adopt new teaching methods. The school has introduced the Teachers College Readers and Writers Workshop, which encourages children to write from their own experiences, constantly revising and editing their drafts. Each classroom has its own library, and children have plenty of access to fun-to-read picture books and children's literature. Kids still practice how to form letters on lined paper in workbooks here -not the free-form writing on unlined paper popular at some progressive schools- and there's plenty of emphasis on phonics, spelling, and grammar. Kids learn cursive in 3rd grade. Read the full review from Insideschools.org

P.S. 84 The Lillian Weber School
32 W 92nd St, Upper West Side. 212-799-2534. Grades K--5.
What's special: Small class size and strong focus on arts.
Downside: More parent involvement needed.
Reading scores: 3/5 stars
Math scores: 4/5 stars
Once known for its pioneering progressive methods and dual-language programs, PS 84 went through some unsettling leadership changes when its longtime principal retired several years ago. In recent years academic results have been disappointing and the internal strife led many of the parents in its Upper West Side neighborhood to seek other district schools or to apply to gifted programs. However, since 2004, the school has embarked on an upward path, by methodically applying the curriculum mandated by the city Department of Education and adding an array of music, dance, and visual arts programs, a change reflected in the school's new name: the Lillian Weber School of the Arts. Read the full review from Insideschools.org

P.S. 87 William Sherman School
160 W 78th St, Upper West Side. 212-678-2826. Grades K--5.
What's special: Creative teaching and high levels of achievement.
Downside: School lost librarian because of budget cuts.
Reading scores: 5/5 stars
Math scores: 5/5 stars
Long one of the most popular schools on Upper West Side, PS 87 is a progressive neighborhood school that accepts children by lottery from outside its attendance zone. It's easy to see why the school is many parents' first choice: Walk into any classroom and you're likely to find something unique and interesting. Read the full review from Insideschools.org

P.S. 9 The Sarah Anderson School for Music and Art
100 W. 84th St, Upper West Side. 212-678-2812. Grades K--5.
What's special: Good teaching & good art; popular gifted program.
Downside: Each program needs a better mix of race and social class.
Reading scores: 5/5 stars
Math scores: 5/5 stars
PS 9 is a cheery, well-lit school where children's artwork lines the halls. The building houses the Anderson School one of most selective programs for elementary school children in the city; the gifted and talented (G&T) program, for children who score high at least in the 90th percentile on an IQ test; and the "Renaissance" program, which serves as a neighborhood school for children who live in the zone. In 2005, Anderson with about 443 pupils, became its own school with its own principal. Read the full review from Insideschools.org

P.S. 859 Special Music School
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.
Reading scores: 5/5 stars
Math scores: 5/5 stars
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

334 Anderson School
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
Reading scores: 5/5 stars
Math scores: 5/5 stars
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

Middle schools

P.S. 859 Special Music School
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.
Reading scores: 5/5 stars
Math scores: 5/5 stars
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

334 Anderson School
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
Reading scores: 5/5 stars
Math scores: 5/5 stars
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

I.S. 245 The Computer School
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.
Reading scores: 4/5 stars
Math scores: 5/5 stars
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

I.S. 250 West Side Collaborative
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.
Reading scores: 4/5 stars
Math scores: 4/5 stars
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

I.S. 258 Community Action School
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.
Reading scores: 3/5 stars
Math scores: 5/5 stars
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

M.S. 243 Center School
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.
Reading scores: 5/5 stars
Math scores: 5/5 stars
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

M.S. 247 Dual Language Middle School
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.
Reading scores: 2/5 stars
Math scores: 4/5 stars
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

M.S. 44 The Middle School for Science, Technology and the Arts
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.
Reading scores: 2/5 stars
Math scores: 2/5 stars
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

M.S. 54 Booker T. Washington School
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.
Reading scores: 4/5 stars
Math scores: 4/5 stars
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

MS 256 Academic and Athletic Excellence
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.
Reading scores: 3/5 stars
Math scores: 3/5 stars
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

MS 862 Mott Hall Il
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.
Reading scores: 4/5 stars
Math scores: 5/5 stars
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

The Hudson Middle School Honors Program
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.
Reading scores: 3/5 stars
Math scores: 2/5 stars
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

High schools

H.S. 470 Louis D. Brandeis High School<
145 West 84th Street, Upper West Side. 917-441-5600. Grades 9--12.
What's special: State of the art facilities with an emphasis on technology.
Downside:Low attendance; slow progress in academics.
Louis D. Brandeis High School has suffered from a history of poor performance and disorder, but in the last few years has made real strides toward improvement. In 2003 New York State took it off its list of failing schools, and the graduation rate has begun to climb. In addition, the school has received a facelift and benefited from a number of new resources. That's not to say that all is perfect: the attendance rate is a worrisome 73 percent and while scores are rising, they are still below par. Read the full review from Insideschools.org

H.S. 479 Beacon High School
237 West 61st St, Upper West Side. 212-245-2807. Grades 9--12.
What's special: Conscientious, caring teachers and lots of arts.
Downside: Overcrowding; some kids may need more structure.
One of the most popular high schools in the city, Beacon offers students a liberal arts education with a progressive bent, a rich arts curriculum, and caring teachers who always seem willing to help. Art rooms, a well-equipped photography lab, a small theater and music studios offer students the chance to work on creative projects in depth. Read the full review from Insideschools.org

H.S. 485 Fiorello H. LaGuardia HS of Music & Art and Performing Arts
108 Amsterdam Avenue, Upper West Side. 212-496-0700. Grades 9--12.
What's special: A haven for artists with a nice racial mix.
Downside: The size of the school can be overwhelming.
LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and Performing Arts is a highly selective, widely acclaimed school that trains students for the country's best art schools and music conservatories, as well as for conventional academic colleges and universities. The eight-story building opened in 1984 with the merger of two older schools, the High School of Music and Art and the High School of Performing Arts, made famous by the movie "Fame." Students take a regular academic course load and as well as three to four periods a day of their chosen art specialty: drama, dance, vocal music, and instrumental music or studio art, and the newest specialty, technical theater, in which students learn aspects of stagecraft such as lighting and costume and set design. Professional artists, including musicians from the New York Philharmonic and the New York City Opera, teach studio courses. Read the full review from Insideschools.org

H.S. 505 Edward A. Reynolds West Side High School
140 West 102nd Street, Upper West Side. 212-678-7300. Grades 10--12.
What's special: Enthusiastic staff dedicated to education of older students who have not found success elsewhere.
Downside: Attendance is poor. Reconciling an alternative culture and new state standards remains a challenge.
One of the city's oldest transfer alternative schools, Ed Reynolds West Side is named for its late and beloved founder, who started the school in 1972 when the idea of alternative education was still untested. The school is housed in a modern building with a newly renovated gym, the latest in technology, a well-equipped arts room and impressive science labs. The facilities are a clear draw for students and its location attracts many young, enthusiastic teachers. However, on a given day up to one-third of the students may be absent. Read the full review from Insideschools.org

High School of Arts, Imagination and Inquiry
122 Amsterdam Avenue, Upper West Side. 212-799-4064. Grades 9--12.
What's special: Teaching artists from the Lincoln Center Institute.
Downside: School is housed in a windowless basement.
The High School for Arts, Imagination and Inquiry offers students the chance to explore dance, music, drama, and visual arts with teaching artists from the not-for-profit Lincoln Center Institute just across the street. This new, small school, one of five in the old Martin Luther King Jr. High School building, uses the arts to engage students and enrich their lives. \"We think the arts should be a strong part of a child\'s education, [but] we don\'t focus on performance or technique,\" said Principal Stephen Noonan, a graduate of the city\'s Leadership Academy, a program to train new principals, and the former assistant principal at Samuel Gompers High School in the Bronx. Rather, he said, the school strives to integrate arts into the academic curriculum and to encourage students to appreciate various art forms. Read the full review from Insideschools.org

Manhattan/Hunter College High School for Science
122 Amsterdam Ave, Upper West Side. 212-501-1235. Grades 9--12.
What's special: A new approach to college prep.
Downside: Drab building with metal detectors.
A collaboration between Hunter College and the Department of Education, Manhattan/Hunter High School for Science makes an unusual effort to ensure that students are prepared not only for college-level academics, but also for the freedom and responsibility of college life. The new school is designed to address the troubling fact that more than one-third of college students nationally drop out before completing their freshman year. Read the full review from Insideschools.org

Martin Luther King, Jr. HS for Law, Advocacy & Community Justice
122 Amsterdam Ave, Upper West Side. 212-501-1201. Grades 9--12.
What's special: The opportunity to connect with high-powered law firms.
Downside: Oppressive, high-security building.
A large banner proclaiming: "Eighty-six percent attendance!" hung across the corridor of the High School for Law, Advocacy and Community Justice on the day of our visit. While that number is just a bit above average for city high schools, it represents a big increase for this small school, one of five in the Martin Luther King complex. The High School for Law, Advocacy and Community Justice has had its share of growing pains since it was founded in 2002. Read the full review from Insideschools.org

Martin Luther King, Jr. HS of the Arts and Technology
122 Amsterdam Ave, Upper West Side. 212-501-1198. Grades 9--12.
What's special: A new mini-school has a principal with a vision and a capable young faculty.
Downside: Housed in an imposing and unwelcoming building, with lingering high security atmosphere.
Martin Luther King Jr. High School of the Arts and Technology is one of two small high schools that opened in the former Martin Luther King, Jr., High School in 2002 in an attempt to revive a building that has been plagued by low student achievement and violence. When we visited Arts and Technology students were attentive and participatory in all the classes we saw. The young, highly articulate faculty work together well and convey an infectious enthusiasm to their students. Read the full review from Insideschools.org

Urban Assembly School for Media Studies
122 Amsterdam Ave, Upper West Side. 212-501-1110. Grades 9--12.
What's special: Unique opportunity for students to work with some of the major media institutions in the city.
Downside: School may not be attractive to students looking for a lot of structure.
The name Urban Assembly Media High School may raise images of a school filled with budding Oprah Winfreys. Indeed, this may be the path that some of the students take, given they are attending a school with such partners as ABC, TimeWarner, and the Daily News. But founding Principal Lynette Delgado has a much broader concept in mind a school focused on teaching about the power of media, how it works, and how it affects our understanding of the truth. "When I see one neighborhood with a lot of cigarette advertising and another with none, I want to explore why and how it affects a community's perception of itself," Delgado told us. Read the full review from Insideschools.org

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