A. Philip Randolph Campus High School
MANHATTAN NY 10031 Map
A. Philip Randolph Campus High School
A. Philip Randolph Campus High School offers a college-prep curriculum with opportunities for in-depth study in medicine, engineering or the humanities. The high school earned a black eye in 2010 following accusations that students were illicitly earning credits, but the spirits of teachers and students have been steadily improving since a new principal came in. Administrators are dedicated to restoring the school's reputation, improving its academic focus and rebuilding ties with City College.
"It's an exciting time for this school, in that we're getting back to what we were meant to be doing," said Randolph Principal David Fanning, a jovial educator who arrived in December 2011 and is earning praise for overseeing Randolph's rebound. Today, Randolph represents a "safe, rigorous choice for a college preparatory school, and I'm proud of that," Fanning said.
Randolph opened in 1979 inside what had long been home to the High School of Music and Art (now named LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and the Performing Arts). The tower-topped gothic structure, built in 1924 as a teachers college, features classrooms with high ceilings and ample natural light. The gym, auditorium, library and top-floor music room retain original ornate touches, but the school also has a health clinic, computer labs, a modern cafeteria and other updates. Randolph has no outdoor space, but it sits across the street from leafy St. Nicholas Park and is within the boundaries of City College of New York, which partners with the high school to offer seminars and college-level courses. "Everything you need for success is here," Fanning boasts, including a location where students can "really get a pre-college experience."
Eighth-graders hoping to enroll at Randolph apply to one of three academies. The Academy of Medicine, designed to let students explore careers in health care, requires students to take courses such as anatomy and physiology, sports medicine and science research. Top graduates in the Academy of Medicine "have a really good shot" at going to medical school, Fanning said, although most steer toward nursing, radiology or other medical fields. The Academy of Engineering offers courses in mechanical drawing, robotics and other technical subjects. The Academy of the Humanities offers liberal arts courses with a focus on writing, literature and history. Randolph's graduates typically go on to SUNY and CUNY colleges.
During our visit, we observed examples of typical adolescent antipathy: Shuffling students had to be hurried along to class or told to remove caps or hoodies, and one raucous bunch of freshmen paid little heed to their music teacher's calls for quiet. But the mood in most classrooms was generally positive. Teachers typically kept order, and students' hands shot up to answer questions. Once-bare hallways were starting to get colorful murals or informational displays, and extra-curriculars like student government were increasing in popularity. Several teachers who had quit were asking to return.
"Problems that take a long time to create take a long time to go away," Fanning said. In 2010, students at Randolph were found to be illicitly earning recovery credits, which artificially boosted the school's graduation rate. When we visited in 2012, many juniors and seniors were still deficient in credits, a fact that forced Fanning to limit electives in favor of expanding core subjects. Class size averaged 34 students.
Still, Fanning's refreshing openness and accessibility ("I make a point of being out and about," he said) and his back-to-fundamentals approach have earned him wide praise. "The overall tone is much better. The faculty and student morale is much better," said Nicole McShall, the teachers' union rep and also the dean of the Academy of Medicine.
Students we spoke to agreed they were seeing improvements. "The nerds have taken over the building," said Rebecca, a 17-year-old standout senior in the Academy of Medicine. Disinterested students used to disrespect smart kids, Rebecca said, "but now, they ask for help from the nerds," and student-to-student tutoring is popular. Likewise, teachers used to resist students' requests for extra help, but "the amount of help we get is so much better now," she said.
After school: Randolph features 22 varsity and junior varsity sports teams, including basketball, baseball, track, volleyball, swimming, lacrosse, wrestling and bowling. Teams often play or practice at nearby parks.
Special education: Self-contained "portfolio assessment" classes are available for students with severe disabilities. Most students with special needs get extra assistance through Special Education Teacher Support Services, or SETTS.
Admissions: The school considers test scores, grades, attendance and discipline records. Admission to the Academy of Medicine requires the best grades. "If a student really wants to come to Randolph, list us first and focus on doing well on those math and English tests," Fanning advised. (Skip Card, November 2012)