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Mark Twain Intermediate School 239

Mark Twain Intermediate School 239 (known as “Twain”) is a public middle school in the Coney Island section of Brooklyn, New York. It is known for its academic rigor and talent classes.


In 1972, the NAACP brought suit in Hart V. Community School Board 21 in the United States District Court, charging that Mark Twain Junior High School 239 was unconstitutionally segregated. The school is located in Coney Island, a predominantly African American and Hispanic section of the school district and in fact had about an 85% percent minority enrollment. Judge Weinstein found the plaintiffs were correct in that the school was unconstitutionally segregated.

The remedy plan proposed by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was developed by Professor Dan Dodson of New York University and would have compelled the busing of pupils throughout the district for integration purposes. The school board plan was to make Mark Twain a magnet school for the gifted and talented and thus attract sufficient white pupils on a voluntary basis to integrate the school, and at the same time, all the middle schools in the district. The plan was the product of more than 150 people representing a broad spectrum of input from community, parent, District 21 and Brooklyn College professionals.

Judge Weinstein then appointed a master professor, Curtis Burger of Columbia University Law School to report back to him with a recommendation. The recommendation basically was to accept the school board's plan and the judge so ordered in July of 1974.

Mark Twain Junior High School 239 for the Gifted and Talented opened as a magnet school effective September 1975 beginning with grade 7, phasing in grades 8 and 9 over a three year period and was integrated to the ratio of white pupils to minority pupils in the district which was 7 to 3 at that time. Discriminatory policies are used to maintain this ratio; recently, a student of Indian descent was denied admission even though a white student of similar capabilities would have been admitted

Mark Twain today

Mark Twain is organized into clusters of four classes with a team of teachers assigned to each cluster. Clusters are scheduled for conference periods to facilitate interdisciplinary planning. The clusters are assigned periods for tutoring, enrichment and thematic development. All students study a foreign language - French, Italian or Spanish. Every child is also involved in the in-depth study of a talent area. All classes are co-educational, including physical education, technology, and electives.

Mark Twain is noted for having a relatively large number of acceptances to specialized high schools each year. The city-wide reading and math scores have resulted in the school being listed on the Internet as number four in New York State.

Children are admitted to the school on the basis of state- and city-wide test scores and Mark Twain's own tests in individual talent area.


Like electives in many other schools, students can choose which talent class he or she would like to be in. This choice is made before the entrance exam, so that the student can be tested in the chosen talent area. The class usually lasts all three years, although switching to another talent is possible. Talents are frequent classes, occurring four or five times a week. However, they are considered major subjects. There are eleven separate talent classes: computer/mathematics, art, athletics, creative writing, dance, media (video and photography), science, strings instruments, theater (drama), vocal music, and winds instruments.

Special programs

Mare Stellarum (Mark Twain Chapter of the National Junior Honor Society)
Seventh and eighth grade students, selected by grades and conduct, are awarded the prestige of acceptance into the chapter.

Computer Squad
The Computer Squad provides technical support for students and staff.

Audio Visual Squad
The Audio Visual Squad provides direct technical assistance for all shows and special events in lighting, sound, and video; and provides technical support for teachers wishing to use equipment in their classrooms not handled by the Computer Squad.

Senior yearbook (Reflections)
The award winning yearbook requires a great deal of student and teacher participation. The media students handle the photos for the yearbook, and the creative writing talent students handle the written content. The Yearbook Business staff fund-raises by scouring the community for advertising, gathering boosters, and generating interest in cluster ads. The design aspects of the yearbook are overseen by a group of students selected from the computer/math talent classes. Also, photography and art talent classes contribute to the images in the yearbook.

Video yearbook
The sister project to the printed Senior Yearbook, the Video Yearbook is mostly handled by the visual media classes. All the same concerns apply as to any major school publication, particularly one directed at its graduating class.

The Chronicle
The official school newspaper, The Chronicle, contains eight to twelve pages of news articles, editorials, reviews, and other content handled under the direction of the seventh grade creative writing classes. Photographs are provided by media talent.

The Territorial Enterprise
In 2006, a student-created, written, and organized newspaper called The Territorial Enterprise was distributed in the school. It was the first student-produced newspaper in Mark Twain I. S. 239 history. The name comes from the first newspaper in which Samuel Langhorne Clemens published material under his famous pen-name, Mark Twain. The creators used it for its connection to the name of the school and the man it was named after.

It was an editorial newspaper, focused primarily on school-based problems and suggestions for improving the school. It was founded by a very small group who decided to start their own newspaper; they were dissatisfied with the official school newspaper, because they felt it sugar-coated Mark Twain I. S. 239 and did not have any impact. Some of its authors wrote under pen-names, and some preferred to use their own. They worked with the principal, Carol Moore, to approve its content, produce it, and distribute it.

It had two issues, all in 2006, and then came to a sudden close. The cause of this was the distribution of the unedited version of the third issue, which contained an article with comments insulting to a few of the staff. The distress it caused to the staff led to the permanent closure of The Territorial Enterprise.

See also

Sources and references


External Links

Mark Twain official website

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