Our School

Hamilton Heights Academy is a public school program of choice, serving children and parents in West Harlem/Washington Heights.

Our mission is to provide an academically rigorous education to a diverse population of students in an atmosphere that is nurturing, supportive, and respectful. We are committed to providing the best aspects of progressive education – every day filled with exploration and discovery – with a commitment to student achievement. Family involvement is at the heart of our program, and making home-school connections is critical to our mission. We celebrate the range of backgrounds and cultures among our population of families and in the community at large.

Initially conceived in 2000 by a group of West Harlem parents and brought to fruition with the support of District 6 administrators, Hamilton Heights Academy is designed as a small school, with two classes per grade. We opened our doors to our first Kindergarten class in 2002, and are growing by a grade each year. In September 2006 we will have classes K-4.

Hamilton Heights Academy is housed within a larger public elementary school, PS28, at 155th St. and Amsterdam Ave. on the border of West Harlem and Washington Heights.

BACKGROUND OF HAMILTON HEIGHTS ACADEMY

Hamilton Heights Academy (HHA) is a public elementary school program that was initially conceived in 2000 by a group of West Harlem parents who worked closely with the former superintendent of Community School District 6, Jorge Izquierdo, to create a neighborhood elementary school that was intimate, nurturing, and academically rigorous, serving a diverse community population, and was modeled on some of the most successful alternative schools in the city.

The steering committee and teachers of HHA founded the school on the belief that small, nurturing learning communities are important for children; that children learn best in an environment of active learning and purposeful investigation; that children thrive in an environment where family adults (parents and other caregivers) are involved in their educational lives; and where children are encouraged to inquire, to contemplate, to record, and to reflect in all they do both at school and at home.

HHA was conceived as a small school, with two classes per grade that would eventually grow to a kindergarten through 8th grade school, a model preferred by Schools Chancellor Joel Klein.

STUDENT POPULATION AND ADMISSIONS

HHA is a racially and economically diverse program that draws families from throughout Community School District 6 (135th St. to 218th St, Edgecombe Ave. to Riverside Dr.) Admission is open to all students residing in District 6. Our admissions process strives to find diverse families whose educational vision matches that of HHA. Suitable families are then chosen by lottery.

EDUCATIONAL PHILOSOPHY AND CURRICULUM

The educational philosophy of HHA emphasizes hands-on learning, multi-disciplinary thematic units, and supporting children as individuals with varied needs and varied learning styles. Students at all grade levels are filled with a sense of purposeful investigation and active learning. An emphasis is placed on inquiry, critical thinking, and problem solving.

HHA follows the New York City department of education’s mandated curriculum in English Language Arts (Literacy) and Mathematics. Teachers supplement this curriculum with carefully planned thematic units that integrate social studies, science, and the arts into each day’s work. Past examples of thematic topics include “work,” “What can one little person do?” and “neighborhoods.” Family adults can often be seen in classrooms contributing their own experiences to these thematic units.

PARTNERSHIPS AND ENRICHMENT PROGRAMS

HHA has developed partnerships with several programs that provide enrichment both within and outside the classroom setting. They include the following:

– Midori and Friends music program places professional musicians in the classroom.

– Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s “Chamber Music: Beginnings” sends instructors into the classrooms to teach elements of music and performance and schedules trips for classes to visit Lincoln Center, watch performances and interact with musicians and performers and discuss their work.

-City Parks Foundation which provides science instruction both in the classroom and at a nearby learning garden.

-Mott Hall Service Learning Program provides teachers with middle school students from prestigious Mott Hall to work with students in the classroom.

-Student teachers. HHA teachers host student teachers from the City College Graduate School of Education and from Bank Street Teachers College.

TEACHING STAFF

Teachers at HHA are selected by a committee consisting of experienced educators, founding parents, and steering committee representatives. We find teachers who are academically strong, community-minded, progressive in their teaching philosophy, collaborative, and committed to working in a small, diverse, growing school program. The high caliber of our teaching staff is one of our most treasured assets.

Our teachers are very involved in Lucy Calkins’ Reading and Writing Project at Teachers College. Not only are many of our teachers lead teacher on their grade levels, but they also open their classrooms as lab sites to TC staff developers, serve on leadership groups, and lead study groups.

THE HHA FAMILY COMMUNITY

Families are at the heart of the HHA mission and form the core of the school community. Family adults are encouraged, first and foremost, to be active participants in their child’s education. They have daily communication with their child’s teacher and are encouraged to continue classroom studies at home. They assist in classroom learning when possible, accompany classes on field trips, attend monthly meetings, and participate on committees.

HHA remains true to its mission as a small school program with just two classes per grade. We believe that small learning communities are better for children and encourage more support from family adults. At HHA, family adults walk their children into the classroom and greet the teacher each day. Family adults work together to help plan and support the classroom learning. Most importantly, children feel the support of not only their own family adults, but those of their classmates as well. Our teachers stress learning not only in school, but learning in life.

LEADERSHIP AND GOVERNANCE

HHA is a public elementary school program that exists within a larger elementary school, PS28. HHA is administered by a steering committee consisting of founding parents, teachers and parent representatives from each class who work in conjunction with the principal of PS28. Together, the steering committee and principal develop policies and procedures for the academy and handle important functions such as teacher hiring and curriculum development. HHA has many of its own procedures while sharing many of the resources, services and facilities of PS28.