School of the Future
MANHATTAN NY 10010 Map
School of the Future
The School of the Future is a warm and creative place that welcomes kids who don't fit the mold; students with special needs are accommodated in a way that's not stigmatizing. The administration has worked to make academics more challenging for top students and to tighten discipline while keeping the inclusive, nurturing atmosphere for which the school is loved.
Kids seem engaged, and there is a relaxed but respectful rapport between grownups and students. From 6th- 10th grade, students stay with the same group, moving from subject to subject together, so they come to know each other well. Teachers are passionate about their work, and teach unusual courses like “Normal is Weird,” “Labels and the Making of the American Teenager,” or “Yale for Beginners.”
The school attracts teachers with a “fiery, social justice bent” according to high school director John Fanning. We heard kids discussing the repercussions of Osama bin Laden’s death and funeral practices in America. A 10th grader said the range of academic abilities in her class is large and that each teacher’s skill in accommodating them varies. In math, students sit at tables with kids of like ability. The teacher has a list of equations that get progressively harder and kids are plugged in along the continuum so each feels appropriately challenged. Faster learners may also opt to get honors credit by taking on extra assignments and delving deeper into a subject. No matter what level of ability, with class size from 23 to 26, students get an unusual amount of attention from grownups.
A mentor school for the Coalition of Essential Schools, the national network of progressive schools, the School of the Future requires students in the Senior Institute, as the 11th and 12th grades are called to complete “exhibitions,” which are 15- 20 page research papers they must defend orally. Topics have included “Post-communist Cambodian politics,” “Mathematical strategies in pool,” and “A feminist analysis of Arthur Miller’s work.” Similarly, 8th-graders pick a topic they have covered, such as Greek Myths or the Big Bang theory, and present the information to 6th and 7th graders.
The school is arrayed on six floors of an aging building, and students and staff must negotiate crowded stairways (or a slowpoke elevator) to get to class. The kids' lockers are inconveniently located in the basement, but the building has a nice gym and an adequate cafeteria. The roof has been transformed into a garden, with a greenhouse and picnic tables.
The school offers only one foreign language, Spanish, and no instrumental or choral music. It has an unusually strong after school program for middle school students every day until 6 p.m., as well as special activities during school vacations. Students participate in basketball, baseball, salsa, robotics, drama, movie making and martial arts. High school sports include girls’ volleyball, soccer and baseball. There is a debate team.
About 92 percent of graduates go on to 4-year colleges, the rest to two-year colleges. Recent graduates have been admitted to Bard, Skidmore, Wheaton and Middlebury.
Special education: About 25% of the students receive special education services. They are assigned to regular classes, and a special education teacher gives extra help both in and out of class. This teacher helps the regular classroom teacher modify lessons if, for example, the special needs students needs help with organization.
Admissions: Students from District 2 have preference. The school occasionally has room for students from outside the district. Most students enter in 6th grade and approximately 65-70% stay for high school. Middle schoolers join a “mock” class in small groups of 10-12 students for their interview. Emphasis for admission is placed on elementary school report cards and the interview. About 25-30 new students are accepted for high school yearly. Applicants must submit a portfolio that includes a letter saying why they want to come, samples of their best schoolwork, and a teacher's recommendation. The school offers weekly tours in October and November. Email email@example.com to reserve a spot. (This school is featured in New York City's Best Public Middle Schools and New York City's Best Public High Schools. (Lydie Raschka, June 2011)