Columbia Secondary School

An Insideschools pick
425 WEST 123 STREET
MANHATTAN NY 10027 Map
Phone: (212) 666-1278
Website: Click here
Admissions: Selective
Principal: Miriam Nightengale
Neighborhood: Harlem
District: 5
Grade range: 6-12
Parent Coordinator: ANDI VAYDA
Science & Math
Wheelchair Accessible
Screened

Buses: Bx15, M10, M100, M101, M104, M11, M2, M3, M4, M5, M60, M7

What's special:

Free Columbia University classes, courses in engineering and philosophy

The downside:

Space in elementary school building not ideal

InsideSchools Review

Our review:

Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science and Engineering (CSS) is an academically challenging and diverse school founded with the backing of Columbia University, which lets qualified high school juniors and seniors take courses at Columbia for free. Most students start in the 6th grade and stay through 12th. By the end of middle school, students complete high school–level Regents classes in Earth science, U.S. history and algebra, which puts them on track to tackle lots of college-level coursework before graduation.

The school occupies the top three floors of PS 125, a five-story elementary school building, which also houses KIPP STAR. The building is designed for a younger population, so space is a little cramped and the hallways are narrow, although high school students do have lockers. Columbia Secondary has exclusive use of one of the building’s two gyms and shares use of the cafeteria, auditorium, indoor pool and outdoor yard. Kids wear a uniform of jeans and polo shirts (light blue in middle, dark blue in high school).

Students in all grades study engineering and philosophy, which reinforce the kinds of academic skills needed for higher level coursework, according to Principal Miriam Nightengale, who taught math at Brooklyn Tech and was the principal of the High School for Law, Advocacy and Community Justice before arriving at Columbia Secondary.

“Engineering really supports math instruction so kids get more practice at computation and practical applications of math,” said Nightengale. In engineering classes, students explore topics ranging from construction and urban design to computer programming.

In philosophy, students learn the art of argument. As part of an 8th-grade study on ethics and morality in fairy tales, some students argued whether or not trickery, as portrayed in Puss and Boots, is ever justified. By high school they are reading Plato’s Republic and contributing to the school’s philosophy journal, Contrariwise. 

Instruction in middle school blends traditional and progressive teaching methods. Math drills and grammar instruction help shore up basic skills, but there’s also a lot of hands-on learning and inventive projects. In 6th grade, students write similes about their first day of school. Seventh-graders create a magazine on sustainable farming after spending a week away working on a farm upstate. Eighth-graders design and build models of cities. Students study Latin in the 6th grade and are taught Spanish starting in the 7th grade.

In high school, students who are up to the challenge can take courses at Columbia tailored to their skills and interests. For instance, some students take Calculus or linear algebra for credit at Columbia. Those who aren’t quite ready can take non-college credit Calculus at Columbia Secondary. In addition to math, course options at Columbia, which vary by semester, have included psychology, sociology, computer science, chemistry, and a history class on the Roman Empire. Students can also take Advanced Placement courses in biology, English, physics and Spanish. 

There’s no avoiding rigorous math and science at this school, and some students who start off strong in these subjects falter when they transition to high school–level work. To combat this trend the school is working with educators from Teachers College to develop ways to help smart kids overcome their fear of failure. “Students sometimes shut down in the face of difficulty and rather than doing poorly in something, they don’t do it at all,” said Nightengale explaining that particularly in math and science, students need to understand that struggling is part of the process of learning. 

Elective classes and extracurricular activities are varied — but low on sports — and include biking, architecture, musical theater, organic gardening, neuroscience, student newspaper and underwater robotics.

To ease the college application process, the school has a fulltime college counselor. Students from Columbia Secondary’s first graduating class in June 2014 were accepted to a range of schools including Barnard, Cal. Tech, Columbia, M.I.T., Middlebury, University of Michigan, Vanderbilt and Weslyan.

Special education: The school has a very small population of students with special needs. It offers Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT) classes in select grades.

Admissions: For middle school, priority is given to students who live or attend school north of 96th Street in Manhattan. Applications are available in Spanish and English on the website. The most successful candidates score a 4 on at least one of the 4th-grade state exams in math and English and no less than a 3. Select applicants will be invited to take a written exam in early February.

The school has about 15-20 seats available for incoming 9th-graders and a few for 10th-graders, but it varies by year. Admission to the high school is citywide. The strongest candidates will have a grade of at least 90 in core subjects. Applicants with slightly lower grades, say an 85 in one or two subjects and higher grades in the rest, will be given strong consideration too. All high school applicants must have a 3 or 4 on the 7th-grade math and English state exams. (Laura Zingmond, February 2014)

Middle InsideStats

Click tabs above to see school stats

At a glance

Shared campus? Yes

This school shares its building with PS 125

Number of Students 664

Average Daily Attendance 96%

Uniforms? Yes

Students at this school

Asian

  
13%

Black

  
21%

Hispanic

  
47%

White

  
18%

Free Lunch

  
58%

Special ed

  
3%

English Language Learners

  
0%

INCOMING STUDENTS' PROFICIENCY: 3.60 2.80 CITYWIDE AVERAGE


1 = Far below grade level 2 = Below grade level 3 = At grade level 4 = Above grade level

Safety & vibe

DO STUDENTS LIKE THE SCHOOL?

How many students say their teachers inspire them to learn?

57% 64% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many students say this school offers enough programs to keep them interested?

78% 78% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

ARE KIDS NICE?

How many students complain about bullying?

58% 71% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many students say students at their school respect one another?

67% 57% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many teachers say order and discipline are maintained in the school?

78% 77% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

DO TEACHERS LIKE THE SCHOOL?

How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?

78% 80% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many teachers would recommend this school to other parents?

91% 79% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

ARE CLASSES BIG?

Number of students in an average english class

32 26 CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many students are chronically absent?

6% 24% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Academics

Percent of students who scored 3 or 4 on the state math exam

79% 25% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of students who scored 3 or 4 on the state ela exam

79% 22% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of students who scored 3 or 4 on the state science exam

NA 53% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

HS Prep

How many 8th graders pass high school regents exams?

Percent of 8th graders who take and pass the algebra regents:

94% 21% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of 8th graders who take and pass a science regents:

91% 14% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How do graduates do in 9th grade?

Percent who pass all their classes freshman year:

96% 85% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Special ed & ELL

How well does this school serve students with disabilities?

Percent of self-contained students who scored 3 or 4 on the state math exam:

NA 2% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of self-contained students who scored 3 or 4 on the state ELA exam:

NA 1% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of ICT students who scored 3 or 4 on the state math exam:

NA 5% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of ICT students who scored 3 or 4 on the state ELA exam:

NA 4% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of SETSS students who scored 3 or 4 on the state math exam:

50% 7% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of SETSS students who scored 3 or 4 on the state ELA exam:

67% 6% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How well does this school serve English language learners?

Percent of ell students who scored 3 or 4 on the state ELA exam:

NA 2% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Percent of former ell students who scored 3 or 4 on the state ELA exam:

NA 13% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

HS InsideStats

Click tabs above to see school stats

At a glance

Shared campus? Yes

This school shares its building with PS 125

Number of Students 664

Average Daily Attendance 96%

Uniforms? Yes

Metal detectors? No

Students at this school

Asian

  
13%

Black

  
21%

Hispanic

  
47%

White

  
18%

Free Lunch

  
58%

Special ed

  
3%

English Language Learners

  
0%

INCOMING STUDENTS' PROFICIENCY: 3.50 2.80 CITYWIDE AVERAGE


1 = Far below grade level 2 = Below grade level 3 = At grade level 4 = Above grade level

Middle school students reading at grade level:

77% 25% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Middle school students doing math at grade level:

74% 24% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Safety & vibe

ARE CLASSES BIG?

Number of students in an average english class

28 25 CITYWIDE AVERAGE

DO STUDENTS LIKE THE TEACHERS?

How many students say their teachers inspire them to learn?

57% 63% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

DO TEACHERS LIKE THE PRINCIPAL?

How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?

78% 78% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

IS THIS SCHOOL SAFE?

How many students say they feel safe in hallways, bathrooms and locker rooms?

83% 82% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

 
 

How many teachers say order and discipline are maintained in the school?

78% 77% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

HOW IS
ATTENDANCE?

How Many Students are Chronically Absent?

6% 38% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Who graduates

Class of 2013

How many students graduated within 4 years?

NA 70% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many students graduated within 6 years?

NA 78% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Previous Years

How many students graduated within 4 years?

NA 66% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many graduates earned an advanced regents diploma within 4 years?

NA 12% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many students graduated within 6 years?

NA 75% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many graduates dropped out within 4 years?

NA 11% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

College prep

Does this school offer a college preparatory curriculum?

How many students took an AP or IB class and scored at least a "3" on the AP exam or a "4" on the IB exam?

0%

How Many Students took a College Course and Got a "C" or Higher?

NA

How many students passed a Regents exam for algebra 2, physics or chemistry?

NA

Are students ready for college?

How many students graduated in four years with test scores high enough to enroll at CUNY without remedial help?

NA 27% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

SAT reading scores

NA
414 CITYWIDE AVERAGE 496 NATIONWIDE AVERAGE

How many students graduated in four years and enrolled in college?

NA 62% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

SAT math scores

NA
425 CITYWIDE AVERAGE 514 NATIONWIDE AVERAGE

Is the guidance counseling helpful?

How many students say that this school provides helpful counseling on college or job-seeking?

83% 76% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Special ed & ELL

How well does this school serve students with disabilities?

How many special ed students graduated within 4 years?

NA 45% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many special ed students graduated within 6 years?

NA 53% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many students with disabilities spend most of the day with non-disabled peers?

100% 68% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many teachers say students with disabilities are included in all activities?

100% 89% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How well does this school serve English language learners?

How many English language learners graduated within 4 years?

40% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many English language learners graduated within 6 years?

58% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Programs and Admissions

School admission priorities:

  1. Priority to continuing 8th graders
  2. Then to New York City residents

Source: High school directory

Columbia Secondary School

Screened

Selection Criteria

  • English (90-100) , Math (90-100) , Science (90-100) , Social Studies (90-100)
  • Math Levels: Levels 3-4 ; English Language Arts Levels: Levels 3-4

There may be additional selection criteria, see the High School Directory for more information

Academics

AP COURSES: Biology, English Literature and Composition, Spanish Literature and Culture, United States History

Source: High school directory

Sports/Clubs

EXTRACURRICULAR: Amnesty International, Ancient Egypt, Architecture, Architectural Design, Book Circles, Chess, Cooking, Engineering, Film, Gardening, House Reps, Journalism, Latin American Poetry and Song, Latin Dance, Math Bowl, Math Problem Solving, Moot Court, Multimedia Design, Neuroscience, Photography, Robotics, Science Fair, Student Government, Studio Art, Science Bowl, Theatre, Webpage; Students serve on the Borough Advisory Council

Other schools sports: Co-ed Fitness Program: Basketball, Biking, Capoeira, Hiking/Camping, Jogging, Soccer, Track and Field, Yoga

Source: High school directory

Comments

Please post comments

  • Give specific examples. Tell us why this school rocks (or doesn't)
  • No profanity. No racial or ethnic slurs. No personal attacks
  • Criticism is fine but don't be nasty.
  • Flag inappropriate comments. (Hover your cursor over comments to see flag)