Westchester Square Academy
BRONX NY 10461 Map
Westchester Square Academy
Westchester Square Academy, opened in fall 2012 on the Herbert H. Lehman campus, is a good fit for students who want uniforms and structure and a demanding liberal arts education.
Founder Sara Dingledy came from one of the city's most selective schools, Brooklyn Latin, where she was assistant principal. Dingledy, [pictured with partnership manager Matthew McSorley] designed Westchester Square to bring some of the teaching methods of the specialized high school to a wider group of students.
Westchester Square Academy doesn't teach Latin, but it does offer student-led discussions, called Socratic Seminars. Students learn to defend their ideas logically, to draw key ideas from their reading and to state and write their ideas clearly. Students take quarterly assessments and teachers offer in-depth feedback.
Most 9th grade classes have two adults in the classroom with the addition of either a special education teacher or a humanities teacher.
An honors program for students who scored 3 or 4 on state English Language Arts and math exams opens in 2013. Coursework is accelerated and Advanced Placement classes begin sophomore year. Students have the opportunity to take an additional science course such as physics or Earth Science.
Students in the unscreened program who want to push themselves may also take pre-AP and AP classes. This "open honors" approach allows students to take just one or two AP classes if they "show a willingness to engage and demonstrate motivation," Dingledy said. Teachers get pre-AP training where they will learn how to build skills to make AP level classes accessible to all. Native Spanish and World History will be the first AP classes offered with more to be added as the school grows.
An avid traveler, Dingledy believes travel can be a "life-changing experience" and plans to offer opportunities such as a trip to Costa Rica for students who study Spanish.
Through a collaboration with DreamYard, students take weekly electives in the arts, humanities or technology/science. At the end of sophomore year students choose one area of focus.
McSorley said some students prefer to stay within the close-knit WSA community while others make use of Lehman campus-wide clubs and sports. WSA has a Model United Nations club and a Student Leadership Council. It shares a cafeteria with Renaissance, another small school in the building.
Students wear a uniforum of maroon and white polo shirts and button-down shirts with collars paired with black pants. McSorley said that some students hide their uniforms under hoodies to avoid unwanted attention from co-located schools, but added that this should be less of an issue now that four of the new schools will require uniforms.
College: A college advisor works with classroom teachers on skills such as vocabulary development, test-taking and essay writing.
Special Education: Special education teacher Lacey Vargas said some students with special needs are pulled out for small group instruction as needed, but whenever possible they are mixed in classes with their general education peers, and two teachers, one of whom is trained to teach special education.
Admissions: Priority to Bronx students or residents who attend an information session, fair or open house. Over 700 applied for 135 seats in the school's second year. Students must score level 3 or 4 on state math and ELA exams for the honors program. All interested students must interview with a faculty member as part of the application process. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org. (Lydie Raschka, interviews at the high school fair, April 2013)