Newtown High School
QUEENS NY 11373 Map
Newtown High School
Newtown High School opened in 1897 as a small, farm-town school in Elmhurst, Queens. Today it is a large high school with a diverse student population that includes many English language learners and recent immigrants. Like many big, urban schools, Newtown faces tough challenges including overcrowding, spotty attendance and many students arriving ill-prepared for high school work. There are signs of improvement: Its graduation rate, which lagged for many years, has risen above the citywide average.
In 2011, the Department of Education identified Newtown as a low-performing school and decided to reorganize it into small learning communities instead of closing it. A year later the DOE changed course by deciding to close Newtown in June, 2012 and reopen in it September, 2012 with a new name and a majority of new staff. Legal action against the city put those plans on hold, so at least for now, Newtown remains open, keeping its name, much of its faculty and its longtime principal, John Ficalora.
Despite Newtown’s uncertain future, teachers and staff have invested a lot in building up its small learning communities. Each one has its own group of classrooms and a set of teachers. All incoming freshman are enrolled in the Ninth Grade Academy designed to help new students ease into the high school experience and stay on track. Starting in 10th grade students enroll in one of the themed, communities in engineering, math and science, media studies, business, visual and performing arts, and one for English language learners.
Students are responding favorably to the changes based on their answers to the Learning Environment Survey. Notably, they are satisfied with the variety of classes and activities, feel supported by their teachers and safe in school, though some fights and bullying occur. Some students we spoke to at the high school fair said they benefit from the extra help they get through Newtown’s partnership with City Year, which sponsors recent college graduates to commit to one year of fulltime service in a high-needs school. Students said they really like the City Year corps members who assist teachers in classrooms, provide tutoring and help organize and lead student activities.
Advanced Placement courses are offered in biology, calculus (AB and BC), United States history and language studies in English, Spanish and Chinese. Students may also take courses at Queens Borough Community College.
There are many sports teams and a wide array of activities and after-school clubs such as debate team, photography, play production, senior council, school newspapers and math league. The school fields a successful robotics team (which has its own website) and the music program’s guitar ensemble performs at many community events.
Special education: The school offers both team teaching and self-contained special education classes.
College admissions: Most graduates who attend college enroll in CUNY and SUNY schools. Many must take remedial courses at CUNY because of low scores on Regents exams, SATs or college prep course.
Admissions: Zoned students have priority admissions to the school, but not to a specific themed program. Queens residents have priority consideration for the themed programs. Students must meet additional criteria for admissions that vary by program. (Laura Zingmond, statistics and interviews at high school fair, December 2012).