The Anderson School
MANHATTAN NY 10024 Map
The Anderson School
Exceptionally smart kids lucky enough to earn a seat in The Anderson School will find a challenging, fast-paced academic environment that prepares them for New York’s most sought-after high schools. The school accepts children from all five boroughs.
Accelerated learning begins early. On our visit, kindergartners were learning chess. First-graders were drawing Doric, Ionic and Corinthian columns. Second-graders reading My Name Is Maria Isabel had written supportive letters to the fictional girl. Third-graders were adding chapters to their humorous autobiographies titled Diary of a Funny Kid.
Fifth-graders wrote essays discussing whether author John Christopher plagiarized War of the Worlds in his 1967 novel The White Mountains. Sixth-graders walk the neighborhood seeking grammatical errors on signs, and administrators admit they carefully proofread school memos because even tiny mistakes will be caught. “It’s cool to be intellectual and to be curious here,” said Aimee Terosky, the assistant principal. “There’s this energy.”
The difficult part is getting in: In 2010, Anderson typically admitted only those kindergartners who scored in the 99th percentile on gifted and talented tests, and yet the school still had roughly 600 qualified applicants for just two kindergarten classes. This means many parents of exceptionally bright 4- and 5-year-olds who aced the OLSAT and have their hearts set on Anderson will be disappointed.
The math program is particularly strong, with students working a year above their grade level. Jodi Hyde, who became Anderson’s principal in 2009 after serving as assistant principal of NEST+M, has created a math curriculum that combines the progressive Everyday Math (used by most of the city’s schools) with the traditional Singapore Math (used by NEST) and other methods.
Hyde said she hopes to enrich Anderson’s arts programs, which lack a strong drama component. The school has three music teachers, and students typically begin learning to play instruments by fourth grade. Students also begin learning Spanish in kindergarten, and nearly 30 percent pass the Regents Spanish test by eighth grade. Anderson’s middle-schoolers participate in 17 sports.
Anderson’s small size sets it apart from larger citywide G&T schools such as NEST+M. The school admitted three classes of kindergartners in 2008 and 2009, but in 2010 went back to two classes, and that’s likely where future enrollment will remain. The school is small enough that the arrival of a few new faces causes a stir. “I know every single person in this grade and the grade below me,” said one sixth-grade girl. Such intimacy can breed not-so-friendly rivalries, so Anderson’s K-5 curriculum has what Hyde called a “social-emotional” component designed to foster empathy. When we visited, a fifth-grade class was having “compliments time,” in which students took turns praising each other.
Some Anderson sixth-graders we spoke to had few complaints. Teachers assigned lots of homework, they said, but rarely an overwhelming amount, and extra help was readily available if they found themselves struggling. Other kids in their classes were smart, they said, but the atmosphere wasn’t overly competitive. Most said they felt comfortable at the close-knit school.
In 2009, Anderson moved from PS 9 to the William O’Shea Middle School campus, an undistinguished, utilitarian building. Anderson’s classrooms for kindergarten through 4th grade are on the first floor, while grades 5 through 8 are on the ground floor. Sharing the O’Shea building with Anderson is the new and growing K-5 elementary PS 452 (which opened in 2010 with three kindergarten classes) and two middle schools: the Computer School (MS 245) and West Prep Academy (MS 421).
The shared building creates minor drawbacks: Toilets and sinks built for middle-schoolers can be too tall for younger students, and impressionable ears sometimes overhear rough language spoken by adolescents. More ominous is the uncertainty (and potential acrimony) created as PS 452 grows and looks to take over more rooms. Hyde said she is confident the schools’ administrators will solve space issues. Still, the crunch dims hopes that Anderson might expand as it briefly did in 2008 and 2009 – and some Anderson parents worry their school could be forced to pack up and move in the foreseeable future.
Anderson parents have a reputation for being passionately involved in the school. “We get a lot of opinions here,” Hyde said diplomatically. “We welcome them.” Some are put off by the Type A crowd, but many appreciate such intense participation. Parents quickly rushed in to remove piles of garbage from the building’s unused basement before Anderson’s arrival in 2009, and Hyde praises parents for donating close to 10,000 books for the school’s new library (set to open in 2011).
Special education: Very few Anderson students have IEPs. Extra help such as specialized tutoring is often available to students upon request.
Admissions: Anderson accepts two kindergarten classes, plus students in grades 1 through 3 as space permits (a rare event). Students apply to Anderson after scoring high marks on the Department of Education’s gifted and talented tests. Officially, students need to score at least in the 97th percentile on the G&T tests to qualify for Anderson and other citywide G&T schools, but in 2010 students needed a 99. Younger siblings of Anderson students can qualify with a 97.) Anderson typically has 20 additional openings for sixth grade. DOE controls admissions. Tours are offered in the fall. Spring tours, conducted after G&T results are announced, can be crowded, hectic and (some parents say) rather off-putting. In accordance with DOE transportation policy, bus service is available for Manhattan students living within five miles of campus. Students outside Manhattan arrange their own transportation. (Skip Card, November 2010)