Pace High School poised for year of changes and improvement


BY Aline Reynolds

M.S. 298 and Pace High School in Chinatown are undergoing sunstantialchanges this year, including the addition of five new classrooms, a main office, a computer lab and a new workout room. The school was founded in 2004 as a collaboration between Pace, the New Century High Schools Initiative, New Visions for Schools and the New York City Department of Education.

The school’s mission is to “slowly [build] a strong foundation that is perpetuating excellence, accountable to oneself and others, collaborative and empathetic to all,” according to its website. The school scored 6.9 out of 10 and above on general performance compared to all N.Y.C. high schools, and it was ranked in the 80th and 90th percentile among parents, teachers and students according to a survey prepared by the Department of Education.

Experienced and new teachers alike were prepping for the 2010-2011 academic year, which started today. One student also shared her thoughts of the school’s focus on prepping students for state exams.

New science teacher settles in

Twenty-four-year-old Neil Cyphert, a 2010-11 New York City teaching fellow, is “psyched” to begin his first year as a public school teacher.

“It’s overwhelming but I’m really excited,” he said, walking out of a teacher’s meeting on Tuesday.

Cyphert, who will be teaching “Living Environment” to ninth graders, plans to modify the science curriculum this year. He wants to take the kids on trips to museums and parks around the city so they have a better understanding of what they’re learning in the classroom.

“I’m going to try to stress a lot of discovery, hands-on activities and field trips… I want them to see nature up close,” he said.

He hasn’t scheduled any field trips just yet and was also settling into his new classroom on Tuesday.

“The room’s okay,” he said. “I’m putting up some bulletin boards, hanging things on walls — it’ll look good by the end of the day.”

David Rohlfing prepares for new grade

David Rohlfing will be teaching tenth grade English for the first time this year, with twice as many students as he had in his freshman class last year.

“It’s a whole new curriculum for me,” he said. “But I’ve been teaching long enough that I’m excited about that.”

Rohlfing previously taught ninth grade for two years at Pace and eighth grade for six years before that at M.S. 104 Simon Baruch School in Gramercy Park.

Rohlfing has some leeway in his lesson planning to decide on the focus of his classes. “We’re going to focus a lot on writing,” he said.

Rohlfing also wants introduce a new unit on grammar, which he feels has been neglected by middle and upper-school English curriculums.

“I’ve never really [taught] it explicitly,” he said. “I think it’ll be really exciting for them to learn how [language] functions and the way it works.”

Rohlfing has yet to prepare his new classroom for the youngsters, whose first day is Wednesday.

“The desks are in place, but the bookshelves are a mess,” he said. “I also kind of like to let the kids get involved in creating the space.”

Student blog on InsideSchools.org

A student posted the following note on September 2 on the website InsideSchools.org: “Pace’s focus is to pass every Regents known to man… They put so much stress on students to pass these Regents when many aren’t as prepared but I must say we do [pass] these tests.”

The note continues, “To the parents and students who would like to attend…my sister, who attends Penn State was one in the first graduating class…said that the hard work Pace puts you through is nothing compared to what [college] work is like.”

2009-10 D.O.E. Survey Results

In a 2009-10 D.O.E. school survey, the school scored 7.6 out of 10 in academic expectations, a drop from 2008-09; 7.0 out of 10 in communication, higher than in 2008-09; 7.2 out of 10 in safety and respect, down from 2008-09; and 6.9 out of 10 in engagement, higher than in 2008-09.

The school scored 94 percent among parents who are satisfied with the education their child has received in the 2009-10 school year, down from 96 percent in 2008-09; 89 percent of parents who felt they had sufficient opportunity to partake in their child’s education, dropped from 92 percent in 2008; and 92 percent on how well the school communicates with them, up from 82 percent in 2008.

Ninety-three percent of teachers say the school’s leaders let staff know what is expected of them, down from 100 percent in 2008; 89 percent of school leaders allow teachers to play a meaningful role in setting goals and making important decisions for the school, down from 100 percent in 2008; and 86 percent of teachers say order and discipline are properly maintained at the school, down from 94 percent in 2008.

Ninety-one percent of students say that most of the school’s adults the students encounter on a daily basis remember them, the same percentage as in 2008; 91 percent of them feel safe in the hallways, bathrooms and locker rooms of the school, up from 90 percent in 2008; and 74 percent of the students say the teachers inspire them to learn, up from 73 percent in 2008.