Many of the teachers here started as student teachers where the school "vetted" them. The older teachers mentor them and they're brought into the unique liberal arts culture of the school. Our experience is that teachers will alert us if there are any behavioral or academic issues, nipping problems in the bud before they become bigger and more difficult to address.
Unlike some schools these days that pour on the homework starting in Kindergarden and First Grade, Midtown West takes a phased approach, starting with just 20 minutes a night in the earlier grades and steadily increasing as the kids get older. The after school program offered home work help, as needed. This approach allows kids to be kids.
Midtown West is a small elementary school with high academic standards that was started in 1991 by parents and teachers fed up with their other, more traditional choices available from the New York public school system. Working with the Bank Street College, a social studies focused curriculum was developed which includes more than 100 field trips in and around New York throughout the K through 5 grades. The school is part of District 2 in Manhattan, however it's classified as "Open Enrollment," meaning anyone who resides in District 2 can apply. That said, most of the students live in the Hells Kitchen/Clinton vicinity. There are two classes per grade, and teachers teach in two grade rotations, so students have the same teacher two years in a row. A lot of emphasis is placed on community building, which results in a friendly, safe atmosphere. Art, science, music and physical education programs are offered. Parental involvement is huge — the PTA plays a significant role, raising about $250K per year. Parents are encouraged to get involved in various PTA committees and its easy to make one's voice heard. The PTA also helps run the after school program, which offers a wide range of classes, from cooking to chess to tap dancing and more. Some here have complained about staff turnover, however if you compare this school with others in the city, it actually ranks quite high for staff longevity. Quite a few teachers have spent the bulk of their careers at the school, and there's a real sense of identity and commitment to maintaining the school's ideals felt among staff members. In fact, the current principle taught at the school for close to 20 years. Because the school is small, most of the teachers are on a first-name basis with all of the students. Comparing PS 212 to Success Academy, as on parent does below, is ridiculous—their educational philosophies are diametrically opposed. The school's test scores are high, however, unlike some schools, the kids aren't being "taught to the test"—the goal is to give them a well-rounded, community-grounded liberal arts education.
My experience with this school was horrible. The office staff has this attitude as soon as you walk in. Try smiling once in a while. The previous principal left in the last 2 months of school and the teacher who took over could have cared less about all the students. She was rude, didn't smile, and favored certain parents. You need to form an alliance with the right parents to survive at this school. Some of the parents think they own the school. If you butt kiss enough, I suppose you will get anything you want, but not every parent can afford the time to do that, so the parents who don't work and spend all their time at the school benefit the most, and so do their children. Parents don't belong in school all day. Leave the school and let the teacher's do their job. Don't hover like a giant helicopter.
As the parent of a child with special learning needs I can honestly say that this school falls very short when it comes to understanding and addressing special needs. There is also significant turnover in staff. I have experienced 3 principals in four years. It is April and both of my children are being taught by permanent substitute teachers that were "student teachers" in September. Safety is another major concern. The building is shared with a high school and students are coming and going at various times of the day. The yard where children play is exposed to 47th street and only blocked by a tennis net. I have never felt that my children were safe or properly educated at Midtown West. Many parents love the school and there are a few fantastic teachers. However, in general it is just not the place that many say it is.
I do believe this school promotes honesty, but when the staff isn't always honest, there are problems relaying that message to the students. The school boasts school safety and protection for all students, but it seems like they are concerned with "some" of the students, not all of them. If the school favors the parents, then they are very helpful and concerned for "that" student. I don't think they would allow anything horrible to happen to any of the students, but favoritism definitely runs deep at 212.
Curriculum could be more rigorous. Success Academy is down the street and their children are leaps and bounds ahead of our kids in the same grade. Very sad, considering they have all grown up together.