Quest to Learn

An Insideschools pick
An Insideschools pick for Special Education
351 WEST 18 STREET
MANHATTAN NY 10011 Map
Phone: (212) 488-3645
Website: Click here
Admissions: District 2
Principal: Jennifer Rygalski
Neighborhood: Chelsea/ Greenwich Village
District: 2
Grade range: 6-11
Parent Coordinator: BEAURA RINGROSE
Humanities & Interdisciplinary
New School

Buses: M11, M14A, M14D, M20, M23, M7

What's special:

Terrific science curriculum; novel approach to learning

The downside:

School is a work in progress

InsideSchools Review

Our review:

Quest to Learn offers a new approach to education based on the principles that make video games enjoyable. It's a radical experiment that may sound flaky, but Q2L is not an oasis for students looking to play video games all day. It's a place where kids learn traditional subjects like history, algebra and chemistry—albeit in an untraditional way.

"It's a common misconception about this school that you're going to come here and you're going to play video games to learn," explained one of the school's founders and co-directors, Arana Shapiro. "When we talk about games, we're talking about game-like learning--not about playing games but about looking at what makes games engaging for learning."

For example, students pretend they are spies in ancient Greece and re-enact the Peloponnesian War, learning about Athens and Sparta and the difference between oligarchy and democracy in the process. They make up a game to save an imaginary town from environmental disaster, or design real hot air balloons to help imaginary characters escape--learning real science along the way. They use Google Earth to study earthquake fault lines in an Earth Science class, or complete an independent study on photography (like the 9th grader in this video).

The idea is that if teachers design lessons the same way game designers make games, kids will be motivated to keep trying when they have trouble and will be rewarded with the pleasure of completing a task rather than traditional grades.

What makes Q2L lessons different from traditional classes is the way in which children move from one level to another, gaining points along the way–as they would in a video game.

There are lots of weird names and some techie jargon at the school: "Codeworlds" is math, "Mission Lab" is a place where teachers meet to plan lessons, and "systems thinking" is--well, we still aren't really sure what that is.

We saw kids clustered around laptops chatting about their latest "quest"—as their assignments are called—or engrossed in science experiments. We also saw some kids seated at desks in rows, plenty of old-fashioned textbooks, and students' essays posted on the bulletin boards as you might see in a traditional school. Students take the same standardized tests as other schools, and 8th graders may take Earth Science and algebra Regents exams. Two-thirds of the students are male.

Q2L is a place where teachers are constantly learning. "I have never seen so much professional development for teachers in my life," said Jeremy Engle, who was a founding teacher at Deborah Meier's legendary Central Park East Secondary School in the 1980s and who now help design the Q2L curriculum. "Collaboration is not just lip service here."

Teachers have a smaller class loads than the average public school teacher to allow time to meet regularly with other faculty members and with professional game designers—three of whom are on staff. Together, they write the curriculum and constantly fine-tune their lessons, repeatedly assessing what works, what needs to be improved, and what strategies they might use for kids who have difficulties. Teachers visit one another's classes to get ideas for their own classes.

The Institute of Play at Parsons The New School for Design pays the salaries of the game designers and curriculum specialists who work with teachers. Shapiro, from the Institute of Play, and Principal Elisa Aragon are co-directors who share responsibilities for running the school. In addition to the support of Parsons, the Institute of Play has some heavy-hitting funders, including the Gates Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation.

Q2L opened with a 6th grade in 2009 and will add a grade each year until it serves grades 6-12. It is housed in a wing of the Bayard Rustin Educational Complex, a building with a number of small schools that share a cafeteria and renovated library.

The school is a work in progress: The curriculum is still being developed, and not every course is polished. A few teachers say the lessons should be more challenging and that discipline should be tighter, according to the Learning Environment Survey. Standardized test scores are above average for the city but not stellar. Still, Quest to Learn is one of the most interesting schools to open in the city in recent years. The science classes we saw were particularly strong.

About half of Q2L 8th graders continue on to the high school, leaving space for new 9th graders, says Aragon. Others go to LaGuardia, Bronx Science, Millennium and Beacon.

Special education: One quarter of the students have special needs. Aragon says students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) fit right in with the rest of the student body. Quirky kids can "find friends who are really similar to them and be happy," says Aragon. On our visit, we saw an 8th grader in a wheelchair being pushed around by her purple-haired classmate as the pair joked with friends.

Admissions: Contact the school to attend a tour. Priority to District 2 students. (Anna Schneider and Clara Hemphill, October 2013)

Middle InsideStats

Click tabs above to see school stats

At a glance

Shared campus? Yes

Bayard Rustin Educational Campus

Number of Students 478

Average Daily Attendance 94%

Uniforms? No

Students at this school

Asian

  
9%

Black

  
14%

Hispanic

  
34%

White

  
37%

Free Lunch

  
41%

Special ed

  
28%

English Language Learners

  
3%

INCOMING STUDENTS' PROFICIENCY: 3.10 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?

67% 64% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

70% 78% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

ARE KIDS NICE?

How many students complain about bullying?

70% 71% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

66% 57% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

48% 77% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

DO TEACHERS LIKE THE SCHOOL?

How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?

16% 80% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many teachers would recommend this school to other parents?

80% 79% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

ARE CLASSES BIG?

Number of students in an average english class

27 26 CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How many students are chronically absent?

14% 24% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Academics

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

38% 25% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

44% 22% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

73% 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:

32% 21% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

25% 14% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

How do graduates do in 9th grade?

Percent who pass all their classes freshman year:

91% 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:

8% 5% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

11% 4% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

11% 7% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

19% 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:

17% 2% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

14% 13% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

HS InsideStats

Click tabs above to see school stats

At a glance

Shared campus? Yes

Bayard Rustin Educational Campus

Number of Students 478

Average Daily Attendance 94%

Uniforms? No

Metal detectors? No

Students at this school

Asian

  
9%

Black

  
14%

Hispanic

  
34%

White

  
37%

Free Lunch

  
41%

Special ed

  
28%

English Language Learners

  
3%

INCOMING STUDENTS' PROFICIENCY: 2.90 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:

41% 25% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Middle school students doing math at grade level:

31% 24% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

Safety & vibe

ARE CLASSES BIG?

Number of students in an average english class

22 25 CITYWIDE AVERAGE

DO STUDENTS LIKE THE TEACHERS?

How many students say their teachers inspire them to learn?

67% 63% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

DO TEACHERS LIKE THE PRINCIPAL?

How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?

16% 78% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

IS THIS SCHOOL SAFE?

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

78% 82% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

 
 

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

48% 77% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

HOW IS
ATTENDANCE?

How Many Students are Chronically Absent?

14% 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?

76% 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?

0% 68% CITYWIDE AVERAGE

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

92% 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 District 2 students or residents who attend an information session
  3. Then to Manhattan students or residents who attend an information session
  4. Then to New York City residents who attend an information session
  5. Then to District 2 students or residents
  6. Then to Manhattan students or residents
  7. Then to New York City residents

Source: High school directory

Quest to Learn Upper School

Limited Unscreened

Academics

AP COURSES: Biology, Calculus AB, English Literature and Composition

Source: High school directory

Sports/Clubs

EXTRACURRICULAR: Creative Coding for Girls, Visual Arts, Yoga, Swimming, Dance, Drama, Music (drums, guitar), Internships, Media Arts, Tae Kwon Do, Peer Mediation, Q2L Ambassadors, Robotics, Student Government, Technology, Parkour, PSAL Sports, Citywide Math Olympiad, Gamestar Mechanic, Mindcraft, Playforce-Video Game Playtesting.

BOYS PSAL SPORTS: Baseball, Basketball, Outdoor Track, Soccer, Swimming, Wrestling

GIRLS PSAL SPORTS: Basketball, Bowling, Softball, Volleyball & JV Volleyball, Wrestling

Other schools sports: Campus Cheerleading Squad, Swimming, Fencing, Parkour, Soccer, Ping-pong

Source: High school directory

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