What... (i.e. camp, dance class, birthday party)
Pick a NYMetroParents Region: All Regions   Manhattan    Brooklyn    Queens    Westchester    Rockland   Fairfield    Nassau    Suffolk  




     Home  >  Articles  > Education Advice & Tips
by Judy Antell


  Too often, education stories focus on the failures.  In our new feature, we are highlighting the successes, the schools and programs that should serve as models for other NYC schools.  We welcome your input — if you know of an innovative or high performing school — elementary, middle or high school, public or private — let us know.  Send your comments to editor@nymetroparents.com.

Alan Zwirn’s students at work. Photo: Lisa Pines

   Mayor Bloomberg wants to reform middle school, and some districts are eliminating middle schools altogether, folding them into K-8 schools, or 6-12. But there are many middle schools that are thriving.  One such program exists at M.S.51, the William Alexander Middle School, in Park Slope, Brooklyn (which my oldest daughter, now in 10th grade, attended).  This gifted and talented arts school has concentrations that include vocals, drama, dance, art and photography.  ‘Vocal talent’, which has been led by Alan Zwirn for over 20 years, attracts a dedicated group that rehearses before, during and after school, and performs on weekends.

   Zwirn demands a huge time commitment from his students, and produces incredible results, a chorus for the sixth, seventh and eighth grades, and a ‘show choir’ that performs  — and rehearses — even more frequently.  A former Broadway dancer choreographs the shows, and parents who have worked professionally as set designers and costumers contribute their time.  But it is the students, who are at that ‘hard to reach’ adolescent stage, who work the hardest.  Zwirn requires that students maintain a B average to stay in the show choir, which means the hardest working students work even harder.  Soloists who skip rehearsals are denied their moment in the spotlight.

   A measure of Zwirn’s success is that graduates return to sing with the current choruses. At chorus shows, high school students volunteer to usher, and join in on some songs.  Zwirn is even starting a teen chorus for graduates. How many middle schools boast graduates who return again and again, not to torment younger students, but to continue learning with a favorite teacher?

   But it is not just the vocal music program that shines at 51. There is an excellent drama program, where students perform, and write their own plays.  The photography and studio arts programs have strong teachers and engaged students, and newer disciplines, including dance and band, are growing in popularity.

   Engaging middle schoolers in something beyond academics is key, making them feel a part of something and wanting to come to school.  But M.S.51 doesn’t stint on academics; its graduates go on to top high schools, including Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Tech, Beacon and Bard.

Boredom buster

Be a parent in the know
Receive our weekly highlights newsletter · Over 1,000 local activities

More Education Advice & Tips Articles

Earthly Messages in a Sci-Fi Film for Kids: 'Battle for Terra'
How To Help Your Child Tackle Homework
Money Lessons: Teach Your Children Well
Fun and Games for Kids in April...
How to Keep Kids Focused in School When Spring Fever Hits

Be a good fellow parent and share this with a friend who would be interested
Email Friend

Local Education Advice & Tips Sponsors

Long Island Stuttering & Speech Pathology,PLLC
1023 Pulaski Road
East Northport, NY
It's back-to-school, and you may have concerns reg...

Metro. Center for French Classes & Etiquette, Manners & Protocol
38-08 Bell Boulevard
Bayside, NY
The Metropolitan Center for Etiquette, Protocol an...

100 New York
Suffern, New York
(845) 357-9077
We offer a unique after-school program with free t...

Deerkill Day Camp
54 Wilder Road
Suffern, NY
Deerkill Day Camp, celebrating its 57th season und...
Kids 'n Shape
162-26 Crossbay Blvd
See Our Education Advice & Tips Directory

local zones


Nassau cont.


Suffolk cont.


Westchester cont.



Rockland cont.


Queens cont.


Brooklyn cont.


Copyright 2015 NY Metro Parents Magazine Site Design: THE VOICE