the big recap

The following is culled from various threads today (and a bit from yesterday too). I left everything as is, so styles don’t match but there is terrific stuff below I wanted to make sure people didn’t miss. Thank you all for the amazing feedback and info!

NYC iSchool 

They downplay regents and APs and their focus on college is getting kids into the right fit for them academically, socially, and economically. They say outright: If you are looking for the school that says they are going to get your kid into Harvard, Yale or MIT, that's not their focus. They do not discuss college until Jr. Year. And they try to keep homework down. 

They have 4 core beliefs: 

·    Adolescents thrive choice and responsibility

·    Learning has to be real world relevant 

·    Skills more important than content

·    Learning has to be individualized

Schedule has 4 components (no student has same schedule, but 9th & even 10th graders don't seem to get a ton of choice. Except for the core experiences all classes are mixed grade)

·    Flipped classes (primarily for regents): Online learning plus classroom discussions used for most regents. 

·    Modules: 9 week challenge based courses. Real world. Kids compose a piece of music and classical musicians come play. They do a pop up restaurant. They do memoir comics and sell them. 

·    Core experiences: requirements - the credits you need to graduate.

·    Area of focus (students do a research project in their senior year  

They have Advisory: 10 and 15 students. Students have one advisor for four years. They seem to have little staff turnover.

PE you can do run a 5K or a weight room or a few sports: Seems not terribly sporty or good for kids who want in-school athletics. But seems like anyone could bowl or do track and participate in sports.

You can do full years of science: Chemistry, Physics, AP Environ Science offered. But not all kids do. They have both AP Calculus and I think an AP History. One of the student guides had a strong science focus. They said kids could only take 1 AP at a time, but one of the guides was taking two so, yeah. 

Foreign language: They have Spanish which includes online spanish learning and regular meetings with teachers a few days a week. You can do Rosetta Stone for other languages (and while we really liked the school, Rosetta Stone seems like not school.).

We saw a class on that was about debt crises. Students chose a country from a list that had debt crises and had to research and do a full paper on that country, what caused the debt, and how moved to solve the crises. Seems like a good example of how they teach a subject (economics) through real world study.

Admission: They batch rank kids rather than rank kids in a specific order. Bath ranking is based on the online activity, GPA, attendance and test scores. I think this is on their web site. Batch ranking seems to mean that kids who rank iSchool first and fit into their first two batches are the ones who will get in. They are are looking for kids who want their school as it is not for everyone.

Kids seemed generally engaged and though a lot of computers were out. When we saw it in the spring I don't think any of the classes had laptops out, so I think it probably is day-by-day. They say iSchool is not like iPad but individualized. It is fairly diverse, but they are struggling to maintain that.

Facilities are completely Meh. There is out to lunch if you are not late to school. If you are late you eat in the cafeteria. 

 

It's absolutely untraditional...and for that reason I think it's important for you to see in person.  Might be worth emailing the admissions person to see if that can help you get off the wait list.   I appreciated what it had to offer with various pod classes that approach learning differently.  For example, one economics class had each group creating a podcast around a simple real world financial issue, such as why guacamole always costs extra at restaurant -- and delving into that in a deeper way.  Another pod was a class where the kids were each creating a graphic novel (art credit) and yet another where the kids were creating a television pilot, from the concept to the scripting, storyboarding and then shooting it and submitting into a local NYC station contest.  As the teacher in that class said, 'they don't realize it's really a writing class until they sign up.'  They are really trying to interest the kids and put subject matters into a more interesting package and execution.  Students do have the core classes they have to take, however...and from what we were told there isn't much variation/creativity in the Math classes.

 

As Amy also said, for the right student it could be a great fit.  I overheard some parents at the Clinton tour dismissing it because in their words "going into a classroom and seeing a bunch of the kids on computers with headphones on was a no-go for us".  

 

The school itself is not "impressive" in the way Clinton is...but again, that's not as important to some people.  But I did see some students react to the fact that it's a 5th floor walkup (no elevator), there are no lockers (the kids don't carry many books) and the "gym" is actually more of an exercise room.

Beacon (from their website)

As noted on our website, our requirements for admission are 85 or above in the major subjects and 3 or 4 on State tests in Math and English.  We will adhere to these criteria which may differ from the High School Handbook.

Students can begin registering for interviews on our website www.beaconschool.org/admissions starting on October 16.  Interviews will be held on November 18 and 19, December 2 and 3, and Monday December 11(after school).  Parents should be aware that it usually takes a few days to receive an admissions appointment, and should be encouraged to check their interview schedules carefully to avoid requesting a date that will conflict with another school’s interview. 

Students should submit their admissions portfolios as soon as possible after registering for an interview and no later than 10 days before their scheduled interview.

The portfolio should include a copy of the front page of their admissions application or their most recent report card, a piece of work in a major subject that has been graded by a teacher, and their admissions essay. 

Requirements

The following is required of all students who apply to Beacon:

  • A grade of 85 or above in English, history, science and math on the 7th grade June report card.
  • A score of 3 or higher on the 7th grade standardized test in English language arts and on the 7th grade standardized test in math, if applying from New York City public schools (students applying from private schools must submit ERB scores or an equivalent if those tests are offered at the student’s school).
  • An admissions portfolio.
  • Completion of the NYC Department of Education’s High School application.

The following is the application process:

  • If the student meets the criteria above, apply for an interview on the Beacon website between October 16, 2017 and November 14, 2017. Beacon will reply to your request once we have reviewed the student’s portfolio.
  • Turn in a portfolio to the Beacon School.
  • Come to an interview on the assigned date. Beacon will assign a date once we have reviewed the portfolio.
  • Rank The Beacon School on your New York City Department of Education High School application with the guidance counselor at the middle school.

(from me)

Thanks folks, for sharing all this Beacon info. 

To recap, you drop portfolios off at Beacon AND separately apply for an interview. 

The school reviews portfolios and then let’s you know whether or not they’ll grant you an interview. 

Interviews are taking place before and after applications are due to guidance counselors. 

I would hope they’ll let everyone know beforehand applications are due whether they’ll have an interview or not. 

You can absolutely rank Beacon even if you haven’t had the interview yet. 

Having said that, people have changed their rankings based on how the interview went. 

YOU DO NOT HAVE TO RANK BEACON FIRST TO GET IN. But they generally tell you that you have to. 

It make sense to drop portfolios off early and sign up for earlier interviews so at least you’ve got concrete feedback when ranking. 

If you’re a current Beacon parent and care to share info about Beacon culture, thank you. Also, feedback about the open houses is most welcome. 

(from parents)

My son graduated from Beacon last year. He is now at Brown Uni. and his friends are at very good universities.  There are drugs at all high schools, and I do not think Beacon has more kids that experiment with drugs than other high schools based on what I have heard.  My son had told me that pot was the drug he had seen the most at Beacon.  Beacon is a challenging high school and the kids work hard. He had 2-3 hours of homework most nights.  The ‘lack’ of regents is not important at all, and the PBAs (portfolio based assessments) require a lot of preparation – PBA week is certainly stressful!  The kids still do a lot of tests throughout the year and the make-up of the PBA is not all presentations – it depends on the subject.  The kids do a lot of writing in all subjects and my son’s writing abilities improved tremendously at Beacon. The curriculum he followed at Beacon was different than the one my daughter follows at Baruch.  He was more than prepared for college-level writing after 4 years at Beacon.  There are a lot of art-based opportunities at Beacon – film, dance, acting, music and many clubs, and the sports teams always seem to do very well, often winning. The facilities at the new building are lovely.  The teachers were very supportive at Beacon and overall my son had a good experience there.  It is a large high school which is something to consider (there were over 400 kids in my son’s grade), and when my son was there, they were not allowed to go out for lunch, which was the opposite of the old Beacon building where most kids went out.  The principal wanted to foster more of a community in the new school, I believe. That may have changed in the year since he left, however. 

 

The biggest real thing with Beacon is there are very few AP classes (mostly science, no humanities) and no guarantee you’ll get them. If that’s what you’re looking for, this is not your school. And the structure is definitely looser than at a more traditional school. 

Clinton

  • Still an "artists and writers" school
  • Will have their first 12th grade next school year
  • At full scale, upper grades will be about 480 students and about 50 faculty
  • 2 full time college counselors with preliminary college guidance begining in 9th grade
  • They have a PSAL team (did not specify what)...looking to add more.
  • Strong & impactful student council
  • Buddy system for 9th graders...with students from higher grades.
  • Regents exams/requirements completed by 10th grade so students could move deeper into the IB curriculum with all students taking IB courses in 11th and 12th grades.  
  • At a minimum, all graduating students receive a Regents diploma.
  • 4 years of Spanish
  • 4 years of Arts (Visual/Digital/Film)
  • Kids pursuing STEM must take Physics in 10th grade.  They referenced STEM but I did not see any real STEM offerings aside from math and physics...would be curious if any other attendees absorbed this differently. No coding classes, etc.
  • NOT ALL STUDENTS WILL RECEIVE THE FULL IB DIPLOMA. To pursue or not is decided by the student based on if he/she wants to take on the additional workload including a 4,000 word research essay; a project that starts the summer following 11th grade, in addition to other IB Diploma specific courses and projects.
  • No AP classes/exams offered
  • Schedule - M/T/Th/F - 9:04am - 3:52pm; W - 9:04am - 1:52pm
  • 52min per period
  • Advisory 4x per week
  • For the time being there is no individual student programming.  Sounds like groups of kids stick together throughout the day.
  • Homework - not excessive.  Can be 2 hours a night but can vary up and down based on student's time-management skills
  • IB curriculum intended to ensure that students will not only be prepared to enter college but also to succeed in college.  Clinton has an assigned (external) IB administrator to ensure proper implementation of the IB program.
  • 65-70% of the HS student body is female (projection for next year)
  • 16-17% of the students have IEPs with most services offered in-house
  • Admissions priority - 1) Clinton Middle School, 2) Manhattan, 3)other boroughs.  A few students from other boroughs were admitted this past year
  • 12th grade final IB exams are graded outside the school (often overseas given the international breadth of the IB program) and would not be scored until after college acceptances.  According to the principal (or maybe it was the guidance counselor?), this is no different than what happens with AP exams. 
  • OH Presentation will be sent to those who registered for the OH

Stuy

I liked the freshman support systems, you get assigned to one guidance counselor as an incoming freshman and that counselor stays with you for the whole 4 years.  The ratio is about 230 or 240 students per counselor, where as many highschools have about 510 students per counselor.

The freshman also get assigned to a Big Sib who is your upper class contact and support throughout the year.

The school is laid out by department, so physics on one floor, chemistry on another floor, Math etc etc. 10 floors in all.

There are 42 sports teams, 120 clubs, and our junior guide Jeremy says that you meet your friends in these clubs/sports.  

I asked him about homework load, especially with after school commitments to clubs/sports, he said that he felt like it was very manageable:

Freshman about 3 hours homework per day (30 min homework per class per day)

Sophmore a bit more

Junior about 4 hours homework per day

Jeremy said he came from a public middle school where on average he had only about 30 min homework per day, and he said that you are able to adjust and also that the teachers are understanding about new freshman being in a transition from Middle to High school.

Also re: starting homework after club/sports commitments, he said it's not problem, his team practice goes to about 6pm and then he comes home and does homework.

AP Classes
To get into AP classes, Jeremy said that it's usually based on your previous grades in that subject.  But if you really wanted to get into an AP class, you may be able to talk to the teacher about getting into the class.

Principal

We were very impressed with the Principal, Eric Contreras whose son is a current student. Personally I feel it's a great indicator that not only is Principal Contreras a parent, but a parent of high school age kids and more so, a Stuy student.  Principal Contreras is very supportive of the teaching and administrative staff and I always find that principals who support their teachers create stronger learning environments for the students.

Resources
Here is the link for the 2017 Stuyvesant brochure that they were handing out last night but had run out of before we arrived.

Here is a copy of the latest issue of The Spectator the student newspaper.  It is well done and in the current issue Vol 107 No.2 there is a Freshman Survey with charts and graphs of Freshman demographics (voluntary, so not accurate of the complete student body), lifestyle, political, religious backgrounds and they also do a Senior Survey.

 

*5-6 hours homework/night is standard, though it depends on the kid and what classes being taken

                (but guide knew NO-ONE who did less than 4 hrs/night)

*There is NO set teaching practice:  some teachers lecture and kids take notes; others have kids form interactive communal groups,

working together on projects.  Depends on teacher and class.

*Everyone has to learn how to swim (which is a great thing!)

*When asked about quality of life, guide responded “the biggest thing he could take away about Stuy is that being there forced him to learn how to deal with stress,

but then he loved his good friends, and he’d think to himself – but I am at STUY!”   

*There is a designated day for each subject to give tests (i.e. math tests on Mondays only) so too many tests don’t pile up for kids on one day.

My son enjoyed seeing the Chemistry lab experiments, but they weren’t anything he hadn’t already done in 6th or 7th grade.

But he liked the class and the teacher.

All the student guides (“Big Sibs”) DID seem completely nice and normal kids, not freakish stressed-out brainiacs,

but then, the Big Sibs ARE the kids able to deal with juggling everything, they ARE the student-PR folks for the school…

Baruch

"The principal went on a sabbatical two years ago because she received a fellowship from the US Dept of Education.  So she was out for one academic year.  She returned last school year.  She is not a new principal.  She has been there for 13 years and has been the principal for 7 or 8 of those years.

The SLT spent over a year re-programming the IEP/ICT program and now tracking has been eliminated - all students have the same academic opportunities. 

In any given year, teachers leave for a variety of reasons.  Sometimes they go on maternity leaves for an extended period of time.  Sometimes they move to the burbs.  

I think it is an amazing school.”

 

I checked in with current Baruch parents as well and all are basically happy with the school. There were some small glitches while the principal was away, but things have evened out.

Remember Baruch ditched the essay component of their screen this year. They’re now a data only admissions screen. And a quick side note: after offer letters are sent out, all specialized and a bunch of main round schools offer open houses, to help families decide if they’re received more than one offer. Baruch DOESN’T host an open house, which makes side to side comparisons impossible. I was in that spot - Jack had an offer from Baruch and Brooklyn Tech. It was harder to make a decision in March based solely on a tour the previous October.