Mark Twain Intermediate School for the Gifted & Talented sets itself apart from others because of its dual mission. Students are immersed in an environment of academic rigor blended with a full visual art and performing arts experience, all in an extremely supportive environment. Twain is organized into clusters, or mini-schools, of four classes with a team of teachers assigned to each. Clusters are scheduled for conference periods to facilitate interdisciplinary planning, data analysis and communication with parents to discuss student progress. This helps teachers and families strategize and focus their instruction to suit individual student needs. Cluster teachers ensure that tutoring and/or enrichment is made available to students during regularly scheduled lunch periods.
Every child is involved in the in-depth study of a Talent area. Talent teachers often have the students for two or even all three years which establishes strong relationships and excellent skill development. No bells are rung during the day for passing, yet classes change smoothly and efficiently.
Our organizational structure gives us the framework for success but our numerous awards and accolades demonstrate success. New York Family Magazine and their parent company Manhattan Media honored us as one of three NYC middle schools that “foster academic, emotional and social growth in students,” the coveted Blackboard Award.
Mark Twain has consistently been among the highest performing schools in NY. Many times in recent years, the NYS Department of Education conferred the “Reward School” selection based on high student performance on state tests and overall academic progress.
Among our noteworthy achievements is our extraordinary success regarding acceptances to specialized high schools, both in the sciences and the arts. Last year, out of a graduating class of approximately 400, 66 graduates were accepted to Stuyvesant High School and 92 to Brooklyn Technical High School and 20 to Staten Island Tech. Many others were accepted into other Specialized High School programs. One or more offers were made by LaGuardia High School for the Arts to the 90 students who were accepted there. We attribute this success to our student body’s determination, our challenging curriculum, a dedicated staff and administration, and an internal Specialized HS Test Prep system we offer during student lunch periods.
GreatSchools.net rates us as “10 out of a possible 10 points” and SchoolDigger.com rates us “5 out of 5 stars.” InsideSchools.org refers to us as featuring “high academic achievement and a strong talent program.”
Though this may not be a high school, we still have a large percentage of our graduates taking the Common Core Algebra, Earth Science (in grade 7) and Living Environment Regents Exams. Last year’s results are completely typical with an remarkable passing rate and average in the 90’s.
Our modernization plan continues thanks to the leadership of Principal Karen Ditolla. She’s managing the resources that come from a proactive Parents’ Association, a strong relationship with our former and present City Councilman, a caring physical plant staff, an eager student body, and a faculty with many unique skillsets. Our school library has undergone a major half million dollar physical renovation that also includes digitizing the entire collection, availability of a substantial set of EBooks for the entire student body to download, and participation in a system where NYC Library books can be borrowed from our facility and delivered. Our largest talent, Computer Mathematics is housed in three separate well equipped labs. Our Science Talent lab was just completely renovated and updated. Other classroom science labs have been done or are in process. Our auditorium received major renovation featuring new cushioned seating, a new sound system, electrical upgrades, large screen TVs, etc. Many of our bathrooms were renovated this past summer with more to come. We expect our new state of the art Dance Studio to be operational before next year. And there are plans to build a Court Room for student use as well. Many locations in the building including our auditorium, lunch room, computer labs, library and multiple classrooms are now air conditioned and there are plans to air condition a number of other locations. Our newest computer lab features large screen iMacs, wired and wireless high speed connections, and a 3D MakerBot Printer. And thanks to a nearly continuous stream of funding, we have interactive Smart Boards or in some cases, large flat screen TVs under wireless control, in nearly every instructional classroom in the building. We have approximately 100 Apple iPads in multiple mobile carts and an iPad and computer in the hands of nearly every teacher in the building. Our over 900 seventh and eighth graders are piloting a 1:1 Apple iPad program where they carry these devices with them all the time modeled after a similar program at Staten Island Tech. The goal is to move to fully digital content like online textbooks and other Common Core content. We’re also piloting a new mobile device deployment and management system for the DOE and Apple.
The bottom line is that we continue to have an administration dedicated to upgrading our school’s instructional technology and overall intrastructure in terms of funding, staffing, scheduling and professional development.
Our is239.schoolwires.com site is our portal to every portion of the Twain community. It is an excellent resource for parents and students alike. You will find information pertaining to admissions, school events, our Parents’ Association, school calendar, notable accomplishments, and the like. We are comparatively unique in NYC in that many faculty members generate content for this centralized site to use in conjunction with their classes. Our web site also enables us to share examples of the outstanding work and activities our students are engaged in. This web site is our forum that serves to showcase the hard work of every member of our team.
At the same time, we are now deploying Skedula/PupilPath as a way for parents to monitor their child’s progress/grades. Students now get many of their assignments through this system. Standardized test results and other information are readily available. And teachers can even accept online homework through the system, via computer or mobile device.
We also provide students with opportunities to learn from home with accounts for PearsonSuccessNet.com (online access to English, Math, Science, Social Studies and Foreign Language textbooks and other Common Core materials). We also make use of StudyIsland.com (a game-oriented test prep system for ELA and Math that students access from home, school and their iPads), Streaming.DiscoveryEducation.com (100,000 educationally appropriate videos from PBS and the Discovery Network) and BrainPop.com (animated curricular content).
Mark Twain is an exemplary school for the Arts. Not only have our Music Talent students performed at prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall, Brooklyn Borough Hall, Hofstra University, and Lincoln Center, but they have also received some of the highest possible ratings in the annual New York State School Music Association Major Organization Festival. Our Visual Arts students have had their work featured on television, art exhibitions, Carnegie Hall, the Manhattan office of the Center for Arts Education, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Moreover, they have received numerous accolades in a wide variety of contests. All three of our Music talents attained the coveted Gold with Distinction awards at the NYSSMA Festival. Our Fine Arts and Media students brought home honors in the Scholastic Art competition, the Arts Connection competition, the Snug Harbor Museum art show as well as the PS Art competition.
Our students collaborate on projects that involve the efforts of multiple talents. For instance, many different talents join forces to produce our award-winning senior yearbook Reflections, our dance, drama, and musical performances, as well as our web site at is239.schoolwires.com. Such collaborative endeavors are worthwhile experiences for all involved.
We encourage our students to test their academic and creative prowess and evidence of that success includes victories in a wide range of competitions. In addition to a first place borough finish in the Math Team competition, our Math Team again went all the way to the state finals in Albany against the best private and public NY middle schools. In the SIFMA Stock Market Game competition, we’ve seen two teams of 6th graders win in the last three years, two national InvestWrite essay winners in the past 7 years, and two sought after invitations to participate in the Capital Hill Challenge variant of the game where one school is paired up with one Congressional representative for a very demanding national competition. Five separate awards marked our participation in last year’s FutureCity competition based around SimCity simulation software. Our senior yearbook has earned several consecutive 1st place finishes in the American Scholastic Press Association’s national competition. Creative Writing students have won multiple essay competitions including multiple Gold Keys in the Scholastic Writing Awards, the Water Conservation Poetry Contest, and the Holocaust Essay & Poetry Contest. Recently, the work of over a dozen Creative Writing students appeared in Teen Ink literary magazine.
Our supportive Parents Association and local politicians are busy raising funds for future upgrades. And most importantly, we achieve these results around the time and programming and financial commitments to our eleven talent programs that other schools look at with envy. Our “Team” of students, teachers, administrators and parents just continues to make us proud year after year and decade after decade.
Clearly, Mark Twain is a distinctive middle school with an honorable tradition of excellence we strive to uphold.