Frederick Douglass Academy VI High School

8-21 BAY 25 STREET
QUEENS NY 11691 Map
Phone: (718) 471-2154
Website: Click here
Admissions: Citywide
unzoned
Principal: Carlston Gray
Neighborhood: Far Rockaway
District: 27
Grade range: 09 thru 12
Parent coordinator: TONIE ROBERTS

What's special:

A proactive and outspoken student congress.

The downside:

An influx of students from closing schools has had an impact on safety and order.

The InsideStats

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Our review

Frederick Douglass Academy VI High School follows the principles of its model, Harlem's rigorous and respected Frederick Douglass Academy: a no-nonsense approach to schooling that demands parent involvement, school uniforms and strict adherence to the rules. The day starts with a "scholar's creed" to build pride and underscore high expectations. Students wear black and white uniforms and male teachers wear ties. Students and parents sign contracts agreeing to 12 non-negotiable requirements, including the completion of homework and the maintenance of clean desks. However, these principles have been tested due to an influx of students from closing high schools in the area, some of whom do not buy into the model.

Despite the emphasis on structure, teachers and administrators encourage students to speak up and be proactive about problems. "It's the students who make the school," said a senior, a member of student congress: "All my four years, I've been in congress. That's influenced me, to have a voice; to plan events and ceremonies and luncheons." Student congress has tackled more than luncheons: in 2010 they called the Daily News and picketed in front of the school to demand an English teacher after making do with rotating subs for the first three months. "They don't stop until they get a response," said Ms. Johnson, coordinator of student activities.

From the beginning, a goal at FDA has been to expose students to the world beyond the classroom walls. They take trips to Canada and Disney World. Every year a group travels to Washington D.C. to see the Frederick Douglass home, the National Blacks in Wax Museum and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Teachers have been known to anonymously donate money for deserving students who can't afford the cost.

Although students said they value the small school community, they worry that the school has become increasingly chaotic. An influx of students from Far Rockaway High School, which closed in 2011, and from Beach Channel High School, which is phasing out, has caused strains. Staff at the 2011 high school fair said parent involvement could be better and students said squabbles sometimes break out among students. "A lot of kids got pushed in," said one. According to the 2010-11 Learning Environment Survey, safety and order have slipped. "We have our challenges," said a guidance counselor.

FDA students must go through airport-like screening to enter the school, but the building's other features -- including sports facilities, a beautiful auditorium, and a grassy lawn decorated with flowers -- are incredible. Moreover, FDA's floor is a cozy area painted in an inviting yellow. Framed posters of the school's namesake, abolitionist Fredrick Douglass, hang on the walls along with photographs of the students. Students have access to a swimming pool, a weight-lifting room and two basketball gyms, one with an elevated indoor track. Outside, there are tennis courts, a football field and a track.

Afterschool homework help is available twice a week or at lunchtime during "lunch & learn." Tutoring in math and English take place Monday through Thursday until 4 p.m. Other activities include an annual fashion show, Latin dance, step, choir, band and keyboarding. The school has partnerships with Brooklyn College and the College of Staten Island for kids who want more challenge, as well as Advanced Placement classes in World History and English Literature and Composition.

College Admissions: CUNY schools are a popular choice for many students although some go out of state, from Florida to Alabama and beyond, said the parent coordinator.

Special education: A few students enrolled in general education classes also work with a learning specialist. There is a class with special and general education students mixed together with two teachers, one of whom is trained in special education.

Admissions: Priority to Queens residents. The administration reviews applicants' grades and test scores and requires an interview. The principal stresses, however, that the school does not "cherry pick" its students, and considers motivation, determination, and willingness to abide by FDA rules as important factors in deciding who is admitted. (Lydie Raschka, interviews at the high school fair, December 2011.)

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