Young Women's Leadership School
MANHATTAN NY 10029 Map
Young Women's Leadership School
The Young Women's Leadership School (TYWLS) in East Harlem is a calm and cheery place where students get a lot of support from teachers and top-notch college counseling. Opened in 1996, TYWLS is the flagship program of the Young Women’s Leadership Network, a system of all-girls public schools that aims to give students from poor neighborhoods a high quality, rigorous education. The school boasts near-perfect graduation and college attendance rates.
TYWLS occupies five floors of an office building in East Harlem. Facilities include renovated science labs, a dining hall, music room, media center, and a small common space that functions as both a gymnasium and auditorium.
Most students start in sixth grade and stay on for high school. TYWLS admits a range of students, but targets those with weak-to-average skills and does a good job helping them catch up. By the eighth grade, half the students are taking algebra, typically a ninth-grade course. By the time they graduate high school, roughly half the students have taken at least one Advanced Placement class.
A key part of TYWLS’s mission is to nurture the social and emotional development of their all-female student population. Girls we met said that attending a single-sex school helps with their confidence. Without boys around, some said, there is less drama and peer pressure, though some instances of bullying occur according to students’ responses to the 2011-12 Learning Environment Survey. On our visit girls were well-mannered and engaged in their work. They called their teachers by their first names and addressed them in calm and respectful voices. All students attend daily, small-group advisories, which helps staff address academic and social problems before they escalate.
Teachers pay keen attention to their students’ needs. When lecturing they pause frequently to pose questions. When their students are working in groups or independently, teachers are on hand to field questions and keep tabs on students' progress. Instruction in most subjects is a mix of teacher-led lessons and independent or group work. In some high school classes, teachers use a more seminar-style of instruction. For instance, in Advanced Placement English, the teacher and students push the tables aside and gather in a circle to discuss the lesson of the day.
All students study art and music, but Spanish is the only foreign language taught. Students may take Advanced Placement courses in U.S. government, U.S. history, Spanish Language, Spanish literature and English. Preparation for the SATs is built into the 11th-grade English curriculum.
The high school does not offer advanced science or math courses, but students are grouped according to skill level in these subjects starting in the 11th grade. All high school students take a technology class as well as a traditional four-year sequence of science: earth science, living environment, chemistry, and physics. Students eager to study more science are encouraged to participate in science competitions and science-themed extracurricular activities such as the engineering and robotics club.
Pre-calculus is the highest-level math class offered. However, the school plans to introduce calculus now that many eighth graders are studying algebra and are on track to take calculus in the 12th grade, according to Assistant Principal Andrew Higginbotham.
There are few electives, but students get enrichment through clubs such as dance and model U.N., and internships at advertising and law firms as well as corporations such as IBM and The Food Network. An afterschool film class is offered at NEP Metropolis Studios, located in the same building. The Young Women’s Leadership Network also sponsors overseas trips and a summer camp. TYWLS fields a PSAL indoor track team and intramural teams in volleyball and running.
Students wear uniforms of collared shirts, a vest or sweater with the school emblem, and slacks or skirts. Sweats are mandatory attire on gym days. Sneakers are the only shoes permitted so students don’t scuff the floors or stumble in the stairwells.
Special education: There are Integrated Co Teaching (ICT) classes. English language learners get individual and small group support in their regular classes and on a pull-out basis.
College: Most graduates attend four-year colleges, including CUNY and SUNY schools and private institutions including Ivy League schools, Barnard, Haverford, Wesleyan and Williams Colleges. The school has a full-time college counselor and an advisory program sponsored by Young Women’s Leadership College Bound Initiative program. The college office organizes trips to colleges and provides a lot of individual support to students and parents in completing college and financial aid applications.
Admissions: For middle school, priority is given to District 4 students or residents. The school will only consider middle school applications from students who attend an open house where they will be asked to complete a short writing assignment and participate in a group interview. For high school, priority is given to continuing eighth graders and then to District 4 students or residents who meet the other admission criteria. There are roughly 30 spots for incoming ninth graders from other middle schools. Strong high school candidates will have solid grades, a good record of attendance and punctuality, and earned at least a “2” on their seventh-grade English Language Arts (ELA) and math state exams. (Laura Zingmond, October 2012)