Central Park East High School

Phone: (212) 860-5929
Website: Click here
Admissions: Citywide/screened
Noteworthy Special Education
Neighborhood: East Harlem
District: 4
Grade range: 09 thru 12
Parent coordinator: SHERRY LISBON

What's special:

New track field, football team, good college office.

The downside:

No lockers.

The InsideStats



Our review

Central Park East High School offers small classes, an emphasis on writing, and a full-time college counselor who has helped students get into some top colleges. The school has more sports teams than are typically offered at a small school, including a football team made up to students from a number of high schools in northern Manhattan. It has a beautiful outdoor track, part of a $1.8 million renovation of the playground shared by other schools in the building.

The high school, occupying the basement, the ground floor, and part of the third floor of the Jackie Robinson Education Complex, successfully integrates students receiving special education services into regular classes, many of which have two teachers. Classes typically have 23 students, and the small class size allows teachers to focus on improving students' writing. Class trips help bring the curriculum to life. For example, students visited the Cathedral of St. John the Divine as part of their study of the architecture and religion of the Middle Ages.

Principal Bennett Lieberman encourages teachers to plan lessons together, so, for example, all teachers instruct their students how to take notes in the same way. One of the problems students encounter when adjusting to high school, he says, is having "seven different teachers with seven different sets of expectations." The joint planning makes the transition to ninth grade easier, he says.

In 2012, the school won a $250,000 grant to better prepare black and Latino boys for college. Lieberman said the three-year city grant, called the Expanded Success Initiative, will be used to revamp the math and English curriculum using a program called Springboard, designed to better prepare students for Advanced Placement classes.

Central Park East Secondary School was founded by the celebrated progressive educator, Debbie Meier in 1985, but after Meier left New York for Boston in 1996, the school suffered from rapid teacher turnover, low staff morale and low levels of student achievement. Under Lieberman’s leadership, the school has rebounded but with a traditional bent. The Central Park East Elementary School, also in the building, retains its Meier-era philosophy and tone.

The school has a full time college counselor and graduates have been admitted to Syracuse University, Barnard, New York University and Cornell, Lieberman said. A downside: no lockers.

After school: Sports teams include boys and girls basketball, boys and girls volleyball, coed track and field, girls softball, boys baseball and boys football. There is also a golf club and a cheerleading team. The PSAL teams, known as East Harlem Pride, include students from two other East Harlem high schools, Park East and Heritage. That's why we are able to offer so many more sports than most small schools," says Lieberman. The football team also includes students from other schools in northern Manhattan, he said.

Special education: The school is committed to integrating students with special needs in general education classes. Classroom teachers have different expectations (and different homework assignments) depending on different children's strengths and weaknesses. Teachers strive to support children who struggle while challenging those who are more able. "The teachers are really, really flexible," Lieberman said. There are collaborative team-teaching (CTT) classes, with two teachers, one a special education specialist, for all grades and all subjects. At-risk students are assigned to a "mentor teacher" who makes sure they receive all the services to which they are entitled. "We've really embraced special education," Lieberman said.

Admissions: Open houses are scheduled every fall. Students may apply from anywhere in New York City. Admission is screened, and preference is given to children with a good attendance record and grades above 75. "One of our big goals has been to recruit student athletes," Lieberman said. (Clara Hemphill, February 2010, updated June 2012)

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