Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics

Phone: (212) 876-4639
Website: Click here
Admissions: Citywide
Neighborhood: East Harlem
District: 4
Grade range: 09 thru 12
Parent coordinator: JULIA VALENTIN

What's special:

It’s cool to be smart, college-level math and science courses

The downside:

No outdoor fields, far from subway

The InsideStats


Our review

Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics offers an impressive selection of college-level courses that’s on a par with the specialized schools. It attracts motivated students from low-income families, including many Latino and Asian immigrants who learned English as a second language. Some students turn down seats at specialized high schools because they feel they will fit in better and get more support. Top graduates attend highly selective colleges like Princeton University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The school does a good job with students who are strong in math and science but who might need extra help in English. Principal David Jimenez says there is a big push to improve writing and literacy skills. All 9th-graders attend small group literacy classes in addition to their regular English class. All students attend weekly advisories that help teachers keep tabs on social and academic concerns. Foreign languages taught include French, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese. Latin is offered as an elective.

Manhattan Center is large enough to offer “big school” benefits such as expansive facilities and lots of extra-curricular activities. Students told us they get lots of support from their teachers and that high achievers set the bar for all kids without creating a cut-throat environment. “It’s super cool to get good grades here, but we are competitive with the rest of the world, not each other,” said a 12th grader.

A tiny, elite group of students take part in the Advanced Science Research (ASR) program that grooms students for participation in science competitions. Participants work one-on-one with research scientists from colleges and hospitals such as NYU, Columbia, Memorial Sloan-Kettering and Mount Sinai. They collaborate with students from Singapore and Hong Kong on research such as a Columbia University-led study on Thailand’s rain forest. Students apply in the 9th grade and must commit to a heavy work-load that includes after-school and summer research on top of a daily ASR class that meets at 7:30 a.m. Roughly 10 students are admitted each year.

Students may choose from electives such as astronomy, environmental science, robotics and computer programming (C++ and Java). Advanced Placement (AP) classes are offered in biology, chemistry, computer science, environmental science and statistics. Manhattan Center is one of the few city high schools that offers two years of AP calculus (AB and BC), and two years of AP physics (B and C). There are fewer humanities electives offered, but typical options include creative writing, journalism and psychology as well as AP English, US History, World History and Spanish.

This orderly school has a pretty traditional feel. Hallways are not very decorated and in lots of classes student sit in rows facing the teacher at the head of the room, though we observed group work in some. Teachers are starting to assign more projects, according to Jimenez.

Overall, students give high marks to the school in the 2011-12 Learning Environment Survey (LES). However, there has been some friction between the administration and staff in recent years as Jimenez has sought to remove teachers that he considered inadequate. The Learning Environment Survey suggests the faculty is divided, with half supporting the principal and half saying they mistrust him.

Manhattan Center shares space with the Isaac Newton Middle School inside a stately, 1930’s-era building that once housed Benjamin Franklin High School. Both schools have access to an onsite health center and share use of the cafeteria, gymnasium, library and auditorium. There are no outdoor fields. The school is next to the East River, a long walk from the nearest subway.

Students may leave the building for lunch and school safety officials patrol East 116th Street during arrival and dismissal times, when students walk to and from the Lexington Avenue subway station.

There are many PSAL sports teams and a large selection of clubs and activities such as astronomy, Gay/Straight Alliance, glee club, math team, Model UN, Muslim Students Association, and tae kwon-do. Students can also work in the school’s roof-top green house. The Mount Sinai Scholars Program provides internship and summer research opportunities at the medical center.

College: There is a full time college counselor. Every year the school sends graduates to CUNY and SUNY schools as well as private colleges including highly competitive schools such as the Ivy Leagues and MIT.

Special education: The school has ICT (Integrated Collaborative Teaching) classes and a few self-contained for English and history instruction. For Regents math and science, there are “tech” classes: small group instruction for special needs students. They provide immediate reinforcement of math and science lessons. For instance, special needs students in a 2nd period geometry class will spend 3rd period in geometry tech.  

Admissions: The school attracts students from across the city. Priority goes to Isaac Newton 8th graders and then students from District 4. Typically around 80 percent of incoming students come from outside District 4, according to Jiminez. Strong candidates have solid grades, a good record of attendance and punctuality, and earned at least a "3" or on their 7th-grade English Language Arts (ELA) and math state exams. (Laura Zingmond, October, 2012)

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