Bard High School Early College

525 EAST HOUSTON STREET
MANHATTAN NY 10002 Map
Phone: (212) 995-8479
Website: Click here
Admissions: Citywide, selective
Wheelchair accessible
unzoned
selective
Noteworthy
Principal: Michael Lerner
Neighborhood: Lower East Side/ Chinatown
District: 1
Grade range: 09 thru 12
Parent coordinator: Kristi Powell

What's special:

High school and two years of college in four years

The downside:

Extremely fast pace of academics is not for everyone

The InsideStats

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Our review

Bard High School Early College offers small class size, excellent teaching, and the promise of two years of college credit for free. The demanding, fast-paced curriculum has attracted some of the city's best students. Students complete their high school requirements in two years and then embark on college work. After four years, they receive both a Regents diploma and an associate's degree.

Most of the teachers have PhDs, and classes are organized as college seminars, with lots of opportunities for give and take between the teachers and students. Faculty members are both experts in their field and passionate about sharing their knowledge with their students. Students, too, are passionate about their studies, and may be heard talking about Kant or Machiavelli on the M14 bus that runs near the school. (The nearest subway is a 20-minute walk.)

Bard College contributes more than one-quarter of the school’s budget, enabling it to offer a wider array of courses than other public high schools its size. Course titles include Heidegger, Globalization and Politics, Game Theory, Neurobiology and Biological Statistics. Chinese, Latin and Spanish are offered. Class size is typically 23 or 24. Faculty teach four classes (rather than the typical five), leaving them more time to help students revise their papers. Far more writing is expected of Bard students than of typical high school students, Students can expect three hours of homework, and some students say they regularly work for four or five hours daily.

The pace is too much for some, and about 15 students in each class leave at the end of 10th grade for alternative schools such as Urban Academy and City-As-School. As many as 50 students in the school are on academic probation at any given time because their averages are C- or below.  The administration acknowledges that student attrition is a significant problem. “We’re troubled by that and we are working hard to address it,” said Michael Lerner, a history professor who became principal in 2010. Faculty members now give struggling students extra help in small groups, often in the library. In addition, the school has hired a learning specialist, as their special education teacher is called.

Bard is housed in a pleasant, red brick building constructed as an elementary school in 1915. It has high ceilings, huge windows with views of the East River, and sunny, if spare and basic classrooms equipped with wood-trimmed blackboards and oak cabinets. School begins at the civilized hour of 9 a.m. Students come from all five boroughs. There is a nice mix of students from different races and income levels. About two-thirds of the students are girls.

There is no gym. Students play sports in an adjacent park or at Chelsea Piers. Teams include basketball, tennis, and soccer. Students may play ultimate Frisbee, join the STEP team, or play an improvised game called Bard Ball, but it’s not a school that’s known for its athletics.

Special education: Only a handful of students receive special education services, including counseling, speech, occupational therapy and other services. In addition, about 20 students receive 504 accommodations, such as extra time on tests. The school hired a learning specialist in 2010 to work

College admissions: Bard’s college office gives far more individual attention than is typical in larger New York City public schools. Each counselor serves only 20 students. "We have the time to write really good letters," said Beth Cheikes director of what is called the college transfer office (because the students are already in college.) In 2011, 10 graduates were admitted to Reed College, seven to Swarthmore, three to Middlebury and 27 to Binghamton. Four students were awarded Posse scholarships to Brandeis and Colby. Students have also been admitted to Yale, Brown, Penn State, Haverford, Wesleyan, and the University of Chicago, as well as SUNY and CUNY schools. CUNY and SUNY accept full two years of college credit, allowing students to enter as juniors. Some private colleges (including Bard College) accept the full two years, others accept less than one semester.

Admissions: Students who have grades of 85 or above in their core academic subjects and score Level 3 or 4 on standardized tests may take Bard's entrance exam, which includes math questions and an essay.  Evening open houses are held in the fall and spring. About 3,000 students take the test and 800 are called for interviews for 155 seats. (Clara Hemphill, May 2011)

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