Beacon High School

An Insideschools pick
227-243 WEST 61ST STREET
MANHATTAN NY 10023 Map
Phone: (212) 245-2807
Website: Click here
Admissions: selective
Principal: RUTH LACEY
Neighborhood: Upper West Side
District:3
Grade range: 9-12
Parent Coordinator: JUDITH MOORE
Humanities & Interdisciplinary
Wheelchair Accessible

Buses: M10, M104, M11, M20, M31, M5, M57, M66, M7, M72

What's special:

Conscientious, caring teachers and lots of arts

The downside:

Overcrowding, some kids may need more structure

InsideSchools Review

Our review:

Founded in 1993, Beacon was in the first wave of dozens of small, alternative high schools that opened in the 1990s and is now one of the most established and sought-after. Thousands apply for about 250 9th-grade seats and some students choose it over specialized schools like LaGuardia or Bronx Science.

Beacon belongs to a consortium of 30 New York state schools whose students are exempt from taking most state-mandated Regents exams and present portfolios of their work, instead of taking tests. The school stresses international travel and a well-rounded liberal arts education. At the same time, it has become increasingly academic, with lots of homework. At nearly 1200 students, it is no longer small.

Principal Ruth Lacey was an elementary school art teacher before becoming one of the school’s founding teachers. She sought to bring the nurturing atmosphere found in elementary schools into the high school. Teens “need the same kind of nurture but in a different way,” she said. Advisory groups of about 15 to 20 students stay together all four years. Some find their best friends among this group. A “Big Sibs” program matches 9th graders with older student mentors. Known also for its sports teams, Beacon students have won PSAL soccer and tennis championships, and track team members have brought home top honors.

The content and conversation in classes is substantial, earnest, and creative. In Literature and the Human Condition, students discussed Kafka’s The Trial, flipping through their books, filled with post-it notes, indicating close reading and preparedness. Art students worked on sculptures about “identity” using unconventional materials like condoms or orange peels along with paper and cardboard. In Advanced Math Applications the teacher walked students through a tax form. In an Immunology elective, half the class examined parasites using microscopes, while the other half researched factors that can cause an epidemic.

Beacon’s committed staff seeks to strike a balance between the arts and academics. An Algebra I class studied equations of lines through the work of American conceptual artist Sol LeWitt. A girl in Digital Photography clicked through photos of girls in headscarves as part of her Tolerance-themed project: “It’s about what you wear for your religion and how it affects how others see you,” she explained.

The converted warehouse that houses the school was designed with special attention to the arts including a “black-box” drama studio, a dark room, and music rooms used by the school’s many rock bands. The art room is large enough to accommodate those who want to work there during free periods.

While Beacon once aimed for kids in the middle, now only those who score above average on 7th grade standardized tests are admitted. “For teachers it makes it a lot easier,” said history teacher and tennis coach Bayard Faithfull. “When you give kids a text, you know they’ll be able to read it.” Yet Sam, a 12th grader, finds the practice of screening incoming students to be “a paradox,” adding, “I would see a good school as one that can teach all students.”

One 11th grade parent said the school’s academic expectations increase gradually over the years so they are manageable. But a 10th grade parent said 9th grade was “crazy hard” for her child, who struggled through books like Genghis Khan after track workouts, and put in long hours on the big, in-depth projects upon which students are assessed. Because Beacon does not have honors classes, a parent said all classes have a kind of honors-class intensity.

The parent of a student who was diagnosed with special needs as a sophomore said the school “is not particularly supportive of kids who are struggling.” However, once accommodations were put in place – like joining a geometry class with two teachers (one trained in special education), dropping Spanish, and getting extra help in math and humanities – the pressure eased for the student, who decided to stay. 

College and guidance counselor Dara Klein said college acceptances have “never been better.” Seniors go on to colleges like Oberlin, Johns Hopkins, Dartmouth, Georgetown, Macauley Honors, Amherst and Bard and they love to come back and visit. In 2010-11 five students received Posse Scholarships, awarded to students who show a gift for leadership, motivation and teamwork. Another won a Questbridge Scholarship, open to bright, motivated, low-income students.

Admissions: Beacon is a selective school, open citywide. Applicants are interviewed by Beacon students, as well as staff, and must present a portfolio of their work. A student’s grades, 7th grade standardized test scores, and teacher recommendations are also considered. The school is “looking for kids who excel in something other than academics” and “have the ability to juggle things,” said Faithfull. Beacon has about 300 more students than the building is meant to house and is scheduled to move to a bigger location in Hell's Kitchen at 530 West 44th Street. The move date is not yet set

Special education: Beacon offers special education teacher support services (SETSS), formerly called resource room and CTT classes. This school is featured in NYC's Best Public High Schools: A Parent's Guide. (Lydie Raschka, May 2011 )

InsideStats

Click tabs above to see school stats

At a glance

Shared campus? No

This school is in its own building

Number of Students 1276

Average Daily Attendance 96%

Uniforms? No

Metal detectors? No

Students at this school

Asian

  
9%

Black

  
15%

Hispanic

  
25%

White

  
48%

Free Lunch

  
28%

Special ed

  
5%

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

ARE CLASSES BIG?

Number of students in an average english class

33 24 CITYWIDE AVERAGE

DO STUDENTS LIKE THE TEACHERS?

How many students say their teachers inspire them to learn?

74% 64% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

DO TEACHERS LIKE THE PRINCIPAL?

How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?

83% 79% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

IS THIS SCHOOL SAFE?

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

98% 83% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

 
 

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

89% 80% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

HOW IS
ATTENDANCE?

How Many Students are Chronically Absent?

8% 34% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Who graduates

Class of 2013

How many 2009 freshmen graduated within 4 years?

99% 66% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many 2007 freshmen graduated within 6 years?

99% 75% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Previous Years

How many 2008 freshmen graduated within 4 years?

98% 64% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many 2008 freshmen earned an advanced regents diploma within 4 years?

NA 11% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many 2006 freshmen graduated within 6 years?

99% 73% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many 2008 freshmen dropped out within 4 years?

1% 12% 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?

38%

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

39%

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

NA

Are students ready for college?

How many 2009 freshmen graduated in four years with test scores high enough to enroll at CUNY without remedial help?

87% 27% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

SAT reading scores

592
414 CITYWIDE AVERAGE 496 NATIONWIDE AVERAGE

How many 2009 freshmen graduated in four years and enrolled in college?

93%

SAT math scores

584
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?

80% 75% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Special ed & ELL

How well does this school serve students with disabilities?

How many special ed students starting school in 2008 graduated within 4 years?

100% 44% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many special ed students starting school in 2006 graduated within 6 years?

100% 53% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

100% 79% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

96% 88% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How well does this school serve English language learners?

How many English language learners starting school in 2008 graduated within 4 years?

38% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many English language learners starting school in 2006 graduated within 6 years?

57% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Programs and Admissions

School admission priorities:

  1. Open to New York City residents

Source: High school directory

The Beacon School

Screened

Beacon High School offers an inquiry-based college preparatory program. Beacon emphasizes a challenging, well-rounded liberal arts education based on the principle of shared exploration and problem-solving.

Selection Criteria

  • English (85-100) , Math (85-100) , Science (85-100) , Social Studies (85-100)
  • Math Levels: 3-4 ; English Language Arts Levels: 3-4

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

Academics

AP COURCES: Biology, Calculus AB, Chemistry, Spanish Language

Online: N/A

Language classes: French, Spanish

Source: High school directory

Sports/Clubs

EXTRACURRICULAR: Arts Magazine, Chess, Computer Programming, Dance, Debate, Digital Film, Drama, End of Tunnel Press, Gay/Straight Alliance, Math Club, Model United Nations, Musical Bands (Jazz, Blues Rock), Newspaper, Photography, Poets, Senior Committee, Student Leadership Team, Student Movement Against Cancer, Sustainability, Yearbook

BOYS PSAL SPORTS: Baseball & JV Baseball, Basketball & JV Basketball, Bowling, Cross Country, Fencing, Indoor Track, Outdoor Track, Soccer, Tennis, Wrestling

GIRLS PSAL SPORTS: Basketball & JV Basketball, Bowling, Cross Country, Fencing, Indoor Track, Outdoor Track, Soccer, Softball, Tennis

Other schools sports: Club Sports: Boys Ultimate & JV Ultimate Frisbee, Girls Ultimate & JV Ultimate Frisbee

Source: High school directory

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