Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics
BRONX NY 10456 Map
Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics
A small, orderly school with high academic expectations and a culture of respect, Bronx Center for Science and Mathematics has quickly become one of the top high schools in the Bronx. It accepts students with a range of abilities—including some with special education needs—and pushes to take demanding courses that prepare them well for college.
Founding principal Edward Tom, who taught math at Manhattan Center for Math and Science, wanted to replicate the success of that East Harlem school in in the neediest community in the Bronx—even though, unlike Manhattan Center, his school has no admissions requirements. “I want to compete in the top 1 percent of all schools.” With 84 percent of his students earning Regents diplomas—and 32 percent earning the more difficult Advanced Regents diplomas—the school appears to be well on its way.
The tone of the school is formal. Students must wear a blue blazer, tie and grey slacks or skirt (even in the summer when students swelter without air conditioning). On our visit, students were expected to shake our hands and introduce themselves. Students are encouraged to take four years of math and science; both Japanese and Spanish are offered. Standards are high. At most schools, 65 is considered a passing grade; at Bronx Center, it’s 80. Not all students make it to senior year: while there are more than 100 new 9th graders each year, by 12th grade there are only about 80 students in each class.
The day of our visit, a 12th grade government class discussed a current article on Occupy Wall Street. “As a student, we don’t look at the news so much, so here we can know what’s going on,” commented one student. “I love this school.” Students in this class participate in a civic project, usually a street fair for the neighborhood. Overall, teaching was quite traditional, with students listening to the teacher talk rather than engaging in class discussion. “There needs to be a healthy balance between what they need to be successful in college,” explained Tom. “A lot of that is dry and clear-cut.” The school shares a building with Eximius College Preparatory Academy.
Over 50 percent of students take College Now classes at Lehman College or Advanced Placement courses. The Tucker Foundation funds students to attend a summer robotics program at Dartmouth each year. Three required courses (Assimilation, Personal Finance and College Knowledge) teach students practical life skills like writing a resume and filing taxes. In a College Knowledge course for seniors, all students apply to CUNY.
The school ranked third in the Bronx (after Bronx High School of Science and High School of American Studies) for “college readiness,” the Department of Education’s new measure of how many students get high enough scores on Regents exams to avoid remediation at CUNY.
College recruiters visit the school regularly. Two-thirds of graduates enrolled in a 2-year or 4-year college, according to the school Progress Report.
Many students say they value their relationships with staff. “They give you a lot of support,” said one student. “The only way you’re going to fail is if you let yourself down because they won’t let you fail.” But the rules are tough: if seniors fail more than two class marking periods or if they do not get their payment in on time, they cannot attend the prom. There was no prom in 2010 or 2011 because so few students met the requirements, causing lots of grumbling among students. (Tom plans to have a shared prom with Bronx Leadership Academy 1 and 2 in future years.)
Tuesdays through Thursdays students may attend a variety of activities afterschool, including tutoring, drama, set building and selected sports. In partnership with buildOn, 12 students raised over $70,000 and helped build a school in Mali. In another effort to keep students off the streets afterschool, Tom created a student co-op program where students get paid minimum wage to help with tutoring and as assistants afterschool for a few hours a week.
Special education: About 14 percent of students have IEPs. Most receive Regents diplomas—not the less demanding local diploma that many special needs children receive. Struggling readers have periods of Wilson Reading to catch them up.
Admissions: Limited Unscreened. Preference to students who attend open houses in October and November. (Aryn Bloodworth, October 2011)