Excellent schools: Harlem Village Academy Middle School

What makes a school outstanding? Academic rigor, long hours, community spirit, and mutual respect are just some of the guiding principals of this high-performing charter.

By Leslie Crawford

Community spirit

Operations Director Clesont Mitchell at Harlem Village Academy Middle School with three students.  Teachers often describes the school as a family; administration refers to students as “our brothers and sisters.” 

Eigth grade math teacher

Teacher love

Eighth grade match teacher fools around with two students. “We love our teachers,” is one of the basic credos of Harlem Village Academy Middle School. The administration gets “thousands” of applications each year for teaching positions. 

Putting in the hours

School days go from 7:45 to 4:45 (except on Fridays, which end at 2:00), and that’s not including after-school (elective) courses and tutoring, along with Saturday remedial classes, two hours of nightly homework, and homework packets to complete during extended vacations.


Full parental involvement

When a child wins a spot at Harlem Village Academy through the lottery, parents are asked to be active participants in their child’s education – including ensuring their child arrives at school well-rested, in full uniform, and keeping up with schoolwork.

A culture of confidence

To create what staff call a “culture of confidence,” motivating signs and slogans are posted throughout the school, and when kids take standardized tests, their teachers leave them hand-written notes of encouragement.

Expecting excellence

There's no slipping through the cracks and if students do – academically or behaviorally – they are called on it immediately. Infringements like coming to school without your uniform’s belt or arriving late to class earn you demerits, then detention.

Not just reading and writing

Extracurriculars are a must, including P.E. music, and art. After-school, kids are encouraged to pursue their "passions" with courses like yoga and sculpture or sports like soccer and flag football.

College bound

"We don't tell kids, 'You are going to college," says Operation Director Clesont Mitchell. "We tell them, 'You are graduating from college."

is a senior editor at GreatSchools.