Vanguard High School
MANHATTAN NY 10065 Map
Vanguard High School
Vanguard High School is a small, open-minded school where kids are taught respect and empathy for others by investigating different viewpoints and making connections with their own lives. Students do not receive grades or take the typical array of high school tests. Instead, they present portfolios of work that are designed to meet a set of goals.
At Vanguard, students can wear hats in class, be openly gay or an enthusiastic chemistry whiz, and nobody judges. Teachers devote themselves to their work. Students who crave learning their own way will enjoy the school's open, liberal approach to learning.
Classes are taught in 70-minute blocks and students cover themes like "American Social Protest" that span both history and literature classes. On our visit, light jazz played in the background as an 11th grade history class explored landmark cases studies like Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision on abortion. Students were engaged and showed a good grasp of the material they were learning.
William Klann, a former humanities teacher at Vanguard, became principal in 2011 after being mentored by founding principal Louis Delgado. Class size is small – around 20. Teachers act as advisors meeting with small groups to set goals and monitor progress. Staff members make themselves available before school, during lunch, and as late as 8 p.m.
Students who read below 5th grade standards take a small class where they get extra help, and struggling math students take a basic math skills course. Students who take these remedial courses (for elective credit) also enroll in regular grade-level courses, such as a workshop in reading and writing, which is required for all freshmen and sophomores.
In an effort to provide more variety, especially for faster learners, Vanguard offers an internship program. Three or four times a week seniors work in settings related to their interests, including anesthesiology, fashion, business or teaching. Advanced Placement calculus is also offered, as are college-level courses through CUNY's College Now program.
While the school's four-year graduation rate is mediocre, its six-year rate is much better and a result of the commitment by staff to help all students, especially those who come in performing at a low level. "I have a student right now who is in her fifth year, only because I cajoled and coaxed and begged her not to drop out but to give a diploma one more chance," said assistant principal Erica Doyle. "If students want to stay with us, we will help them. "
Vanguard belongs to the New York Performance Standards Consortium, a network of schools that use portfolio assessments to determine student promotion. While most other New York state high schools require passing scores on four Regents exams to earn a high school diploma, students at Vanguard must take and pass only one: English Language Arts. Juniors and seniors present portfolios of their work and make a 1½-hour oral presentation in each content area: humanities, math, science, and autobiography. They must also submit an essay and provide a "visual" such as a PowerPoint or video.
The administration is making an effort to improve attendance. A number of classrooms were locked as classes began to encourage kids to be on time. Parents get a message when kids are late or absent and once a week an assistant principal makes personal phone calls to families of the absentees.
Extra classes include gym, furniture design, digital photography, painting, drawing and sculpture. Sports include basketball, soccer and volleyball.
Special education: Some children are pulled out twice a week to work in "learning labs" (resource rooms) with a special education teacher. On each grade level there is one classroom where general and special needs children are mixed together with two teachers, one of whom is certified to teach special education.
College admissions: Students get a lot of support, regardless of how long it takes them to graduate and when they decide to go. Mercy College, Virginia State, Alabama State and CUNY and SUNY schools are popular choices. Students have the opportunity to participate in about ten college tours. A handful have gotten offers from elite schools such as Princeton, Brown and the McCauley Honors program at Hunter.
Admissions: Preference is given to students who attend an open house. (Lydie Raschka, January 2012)