The Renaissance Charter High School for Innovation

Phone: (212) 722-5871
Website: Click here
Admissions: Lottery; priority District 4
Principal: Terence Joseph
Neighborhood: East Harlem
District: 4
Grade range: 09 thru 12

What's special:

Hands-on learning and field trips

The downside:

The progressive approach may not be for everyone

The InsideStats


Our review

Renaissance Charter High School for Innovation is an unapologetically progressive high school run by an idealistic young educator who seeks to instill pride and competence in urban teens.

At some charter schools kids spend the greater part of the day their seats, in uniforms, and silent in the halls. At Innovation there there are no bells, no uniforms and no hallway passes. Teachers helps teens develop year-long projects they are passionate about and take them out and about in the city, exposing them to art, history, politics and ecology.

It is modeled after the popular K-12 Renaissance Charter School in Queens, which values experimentation and "learning by doing." Daily college preparation classes are also a feature of Renaissance schools. In their classes, students may learn about chemistry using Legos or create an educational video. In 2013 Renaissance Innovation won a grant to participate in a software engineering pilot program.

The school opened in 2010 in a building occupied by Manhattan East and the Academy of Environmental Science. The day is from 9 am to 4 pm, but students are invited to stay until 6 pm to receive homework help in the Writing Center. Teachers keep track of student progress, attendance and homework with an online tracking system.

Classes are suspended twice a year for week-long enrichment projects and field trips based on themes like fashion, democracy, urban ecology or journalism. A group called "learning English through social justice" volunteers in a soup kitchen; an engineering group creates Rube Goldberg-like machines and soda-powered rockets.

[In January 2014, school founders Nicholas Tishuk and his wife Rita  left the school. In a Jan. 7, 2014 letter sent to friends and staff, they cited undisclosed actions by the school's board of trustees.]  Mr. Tishuk was only 31 years old when the couple opened this rare stand-alone charter high school in a poorer part of the city, admitting kids with skills as low as 4th or 5th grade level. They recruited and embraced students with a high level of need: over 30 percent are of the students have special needs compared with 11 percent citywide. These students are mixed into general education classes with at least two teachers. 

Tishuk identifies with his East Harlem students because he grew up poor, in Florida, the child of a single mother who was a waitress, according to an article in DNAinfo. He held various roles for six years at the original Renaissance Charter School and prior to that he was 11th grade English teacher at a high school in Bedford-Stuyvesant. 

Feedback from the Innovations community is mixed: parents feel welcome and most students feel challenged and engaged, but some teachers would like more feedback and better management from the administration.

After school offerings include recording arts, poetry club, basketball, and visionaries collective, an art and design class.

Admissions: Lottery with priority to District 4 families. Application must be received by April 1. (Lydie Raschka, web reports, November 2013)

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