I.S./H.S. 887 School for the Physical City
JUNE 2010 UPDATE: The School for the Physical City closed after graduating the last of its students in 2010.
DECEMBER 2006 UPDATE: The Department of Education announced that School for the Physical City is one of five failing high schools that will be closed after it graduates the last of its current students in 2010. It will not accept any new 9th graders for the Fall of 2007. According to the New York Times, the schools that are scheduled to be closed have "notably low four-year graduation rates, did a particularly poor job helping students who were already behind as incoming freshmen, and proved exceedingly unpopular with prospective students," in addition to being plagued by safety problems. The Dec. 12, 2006 Times article notes that the schools will be "replaced by collections of small schools."
2002 REVIEW: School for the Physical City serves children in grades 7-12 on several floors of a remarkably attractive building. Many classrooms are spacious, sunny and, at times, noisy as students plan projects and presentations for classes that often stress collaborative work, even when the subject is parts of speech. The school has lessened its emphasis on engineering and urban planning since its 1993 founding, and Regents exams, not given at the beginning, have been phased in. But Physical City still grades students largely on projects and papers, and students say writing becomes second nature to them. Many teachers create their own materials or use favorite portions from several textbooks. In one middle school humanities class, a group had surveyed the entire 323-student body about their experiences with police brutality; in another, a team of middle school students photographed each other to illustrate a project about hate.
Except for science and math, the high school allows students from grades 10 to 12 to take classes together; 8th- and 9th-graders are also grouped together. Several high school classes are interdisciplinary, like one on the Vietnam War that carries both English and U.S. history credits. The school is committed to its art program, and the computer lab is state-of-the-art. Most students seemed attentive, even rapt, but some, particularly in the middle school, were wandering off task. Junior Miller, who became principal in 2004 after completing the NYC Leadership Academy, a training program for promising administrators, plans to put new emphasis on science and math, and also hopes to revive the school's once-thriving Outward Bound program.
The school probably works best for average students, because the students write all the time, have very engaging assignments, and are treated with respect. It may not be successful for very high achievers, who might prefer a more competitive atmosphere, or for very low achievers, because the school might make too many excuses for them or fail to notice their learning problems. About 60 percent of the graduates go on to four-year colleges, according to the administration.
Admissions: The school is open to students citywide. Applicants for the 7th grade are interviewed at the school; incoming 9th graders apply through the regular high school admissions process. Many of the middle school students remain for high school, others leave for the specialized high schools. (Marcia Biederman, 2002, updated July 2004)