Bronx High School of Science
BRONX NY 10468 Map
Bronx High School of Science
The Bronx High School of Science, one of the most famous schools in the country, has a proud history of training not only scientists but also authors, business executives, and academic leaders. Its graduates have won seven Nobel prizesmore than any other school in the country. Many of the faculty members are Bronx Science alumni.
With an average class size of 34 and a demanding, traditional curriculum, Bronx Science can be a stressful place. Kids are chronically sleep-deprived from hours of homework and long commutes. At the same time, the administration in recent years has taken steps to give students more individual attention. For example, freshman take an introductory seminar called research literacy, capped at 25 students, in which they learn to write about scientific topics, develop their own questions and design their own experiments. In addition, the school now offers special seminar-style after-school classes called “small group instruction” or “SGI” to give students the chance to review material with their teachers.
However fast-paced the school may be, Bronx Science partisans say they are more “chill”—that is, more collegial and less competitivethan students at their famous downtown rival, Stuyvesant High School. While Bronx Science the homework load is heavy for the many students who take multiple Advanced Placement classes their junior and senior years, freshmen, at least, say they have a manageable 1 ½ to 2 hours of homework a night. Freshmen reading lists include classics like Of Mice and Men and The Catcher in the Rye—important but not overly difficult books. Papers for history and English tend to be five to seven paragraphs long. Freshmen take a writing seminar in addition to an English class.
The enrollment has ballooned to more than 3,000, an increase of nearly 600 students since 2006 and well over the 2,300 the building was designed to accommodate. Hallways are jammed packed during class changes. On our visit, we saw a physical education aerobics class of 50 students held in a converted woodshop.
On the positive side, the large size mean the school can offer a wide array of courses. Students may choose from eight foreign languages, including Latin, and may take electives such as Spanish narrative and film. Science courses include electromagnetic theory, organic chemistry, optics, quantitative analysis, astronomy, animal behavior, and horticulture. There are dozens of clubs and afterschool activities, including one of the top debate teams in the country.
Principal Valerie Reidy has sought to provide consistency with departments and from grade to grade, encouraging all teachers of a particular course to give the same exam, for example. But there has been resistance from faculty members who find her management style overbearing. Some talented teachers have left. Fewer than one-third of teachers responding to the 2011 learning Environment Survey said the administration invites them to take part in decision-making. For their part, students complain that some rules, such as detention for lateness, are arbitrary or unfair. But overall students are enthusiastic about the school.
College admissions: The administration increased the number of guidance counselors from four in 2006 to 11 in 2011. In addition, the school has two full-time college counselors. Students attend a range of top-tier private colleges—Yale, Haverford, Tufts, Wesleyan, and Barnard, to name a fewas well as CUNY and SUNY schools.
Special education: The building is wheelchair accessible. At the time of our visit, 21 students had IEPs and 19 received 504 accommodations for conditions such as ADHD or limited vision.
Admissions: There is one open house in the fall. It's crowded, but well worth attending. Students offer tours of the building in the evening, and both students and staff are available to answer questions. Admission is based on the Specialized Science High School Admissions test (SSHAT) given in the fall. (Clara Hemphill May 2011)