NYC Lab School for Collaborative Studies

Phone: (212) 691-6119
Website: Click here
Admissions: selective/District 2 priority
Wheelchair accessible
Noteworthy Special Education
Neighborhood: Chelsea/ Greenwich Village
District: 2
Grade range: 09 thru 12

What's special:

Challenging academics; collegial environment; stellar college acceptances.

The downside:

Limited course offerings; drab building; school could use more technology.

The InsideStats


Our review

The NYC Lab School for Collaborative Studies is one of the most successful and sought-after small high schools in the city. The academics are challenging, but the atmosphere is laid-back.  Kids who thrive there are high achievers who speak up, get involved and, in the spirit of the school's name, collaborate with others on projects and extra-curricular activities.

Founded as a 6-12 school, in 2007 Lab High School split from the middle school known as the NYC Lab Middle School. Though the two schools maintain a common vision of collaborative and inclusive learning, they are run by separate administrations, with separate admissions policies, teaching, and support staff.

Building and location: Lab is located in the upscale Chelsea neighborhood. The school shares facilities, including the gymnasium, auditorium, and library, with Lab Middle School and the New York City Museum School inside a large, square building that parents have described as drab, fortress-like, and institutional.  The building was in the midst of an upgrade during our visit.

Most of Lab High School is housed on the third floor. Classrooms are cramped, but nicely decorated with student work and stocked with supplies and books.

The school could benefit from more technology.  There are few SmartBoards or laptop computers, though the school is slated to get its own computer lab for the 2010-11 school year.

School environment and culture: The vibe throughout the school is collegial and relaxed. Walk through the hallway at anytime of the day and you're likely to find kids sprawled out on the floor chatting, studying, or working on projects.  "I want the school to feel like a college campus," said Principal Brooke Jackson, who draws inspiration from her own undergraduate experience at Wesleyan University.

Students in all grades can leave the building for lunch, and many do, but plenty also take advantage of the lunchtime clubs - choosing to stay indoors or return to school after grabbing a quick bite nearby. "We're ‘Lab' rats," one student said. "We never leave the building."

Teachers deliver lessons in a conversational tone; students are at ease participating, often speaking up without raising their hands.  In many schools such conduct would be disruptive, but at Lab it's all part of the seminar style of instruction that encourages vigorous give and take between teachers and students.

"The funny thing about the school is that it's very quiet during the day even though everyone is talking in class or doing something in the hallway," a parent said. "It just seems to work well at Lab."

Teaching and curriculum: Academics are very challenging, but students say that the work load isn't oppressive with roughly two to three hours of homework each night.  Teachers encourage students to delve deeply into issues and think critically about their work. In a 9th grade Global History class, students worked in groups to develop board games based on their study of the Silk Road. During a 10th grade English class's reading of Othello, students discussed words such as "venial" and "requite" and the context in which they arose in the play.

Math and science instruction are strong but there is definitely a progressive, liberal arts bent to the school. Seniors take a human rights seminar, studying such topics as the Milgram obedience experiment and the tensions between individual rights and the common good. The school hosts an annual HIV/Aids Action Day; summer reading includes selections like The Laramie Project.

Juniors and seniors undertake independent research projects. In the 11th grade, students complete a college-style research paper. In the 12th grade, students undertake a year-long project that culminates in an "oral defense" before faculty. "Trial by fire" was how a senior described his experience working on his own with support, but "no hand holding," from advisors to create a documentary on how work defines identity.

Lab students register for classes every semester and have the opportunity to tweak their schedule during a traditional drop/add period. Like all small schools, there are limits to what Lab can offer.  Students enjoy a large array of clubs, teams, visual arts electives, and a strong theater program. There is, however, no music instruction, Spanish is the only foreign language taught and there are few advanced math and science classes.

Beginning in September 2010, Lab will participate in an Advanced Placement enrichment program through iZone, a technology-based project that provides students with daily access to individualized on-line lessons. The school offers Advanced Placement classes in Calculus, English Composition and English Literature, Environmental Science, Physics, Spanish, Statistics, and US History.

Special education:  The school is a pioneer in the inclusion model of special education.  Nearly half of its classes use the Collaborative Team Teaching (CTT) model.  The school typically enrolls 80 - 90 students with special needs who are screened for strong academic ability.

Admissions: Selective admissions with priority to District 2 residents.  Lab Middle School students no longer get priority in admissions. Students must have a minimum average of 85 in core subjects English, math, science and social studies and a good record of attendance.  Open houses are conducted during the fall. Check the school's website for dates and times.

After graduation:  Nearly every student attends college.  For the class of 2009, 97 percent attended four-year colleges, including Ivy League and prestigious schools such as Johns Hopkins, Swarthmore, Tulane, Wesleyan, the universities of California (Los Angeles and Berkeley), Chicago, Michigan, and North Carolina (Chapel Hill).

Lab founded the annual Unique College Fair, where representatives from nearly 100 colleges congregate to meet with juniors from participating small, public high schools in Manhattan. All juniors and seniors attend weekly college advisory classes and the college counselor meets with every family individually to discuss options.(Laura Zingmond, May 2010)

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