Stuyvesant High School

Phone: (212) 312-4800
Website: Click here
Admissions: exam
Wheelchair accessible
Principal: JIE ZHANG
Neighborhood: Lower Manhattan
District: 2
Grade range: 09 thru 12
Parent coordinator: HARVEY BLUMM

What's special:

Amazingly talented student body and a vast array of courses

The downside:

Students don't get a lot of sleep

The InsideStats


Our review

UPDATE 2012: Longtime Principal Stanley Teitel retired on Sept. 1, 2012. Replacing him is veteran educator Jie Zhang, who was formerly principal of another specialized high school, Queens High School for the Sciences at York College.  Most recently Zhang was the leader of a network of schools that includes all the specialized high schools. She is also a parent at Stuvyesant, with one child who has graduated and another who is still a student. Zhang takes the helm after a scandal in which students were caught cheating on Regents exams.  She plans to uphold the ban of cell phones in the school, expand math, science and technology course offerings and increase the number of Advanced Placement courses. She also said she will work toward increasing the enrollment of under-represented minorities in the school. Only about four percent of the students are black or Hispanic.

2011 REVIEW: The most sought after of the city's selective schools, Stuyvesant High School has an amazingly talented student body and an array of course offerings that rival those of a small college. It has a sparkling, 10-story building with views of New York harbor and amenities such as a regulation-size swimming pool. Stuyvesant has long been known as a math-science school, but its English and social studies departments are among the school's strongest.

More than 28,000 students vie for 935 seats in the freshman class. Roughly one-quarter of Stuyvesant's top graduates go to Ivy League or other highly selective colleges such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Students may conduct research with senior scientists, take part in national math competitions or study music at a high level. Immigrants and children of immigrants make up a large proportion of the student body.

The excitement of being enrolled at Stuyvesant comes from being in the company of very bright, engaged students. The school has long been known for its talented students rather than a uniformly strong teaching staff, and kids say the quality of teaching ranges from memorably great to mediocre or worse. The stronger teachers tend to be assigned to the more advanced classes, one mother said. The course selection is vast, including organic chemistry, neurobiology, multivariate and differential calculus, New York City history, video editing and creative nonfiction. The school gives more Advanced Placement exams than any other school in the city.

Stuyvesant has a reputation as an ultra-competitive pressure cooker. But, as other New York City public high schools such as Bard High School Early College and Beacon High School have become more competitive, Stuyvesant has taken steps to lower the pressure, at least for 9th-graders. While Stuyvesant students still complain of sleep deprivation, their homework load of about three hours a night now seems in line with other highly selective high schools.

Each class typically has 30 to 34 students and, since teachers are assigned five classes each, they don’t have time to offer detailed comments on student papers. At the same time, students who seek out teachers seem to get lots of individual attention. The English department office, in particular, is a place where student teachers and faculty offer students informal help.  

There are five bands, a jazz combo, a symphony orchestra, many theatrical productions, and a strong debate team. There are dozens of sports offered, including rollerblading, cricket, coed wrestling and kickboxing. After-school clubs serve students’ interests ranging from Chinese chess to film appreciation.

Some classes are taught as seminars, with desks arranged in a circle and plenty of class discussion. Others are traditional, with desks in rows and the teacher at the front doing most of the talking. The school works best for kids who are self-starters, self-confident and not afraid to seek out help from adults and other students. One mother said Stuyvesant is not equipped to help students who are struggling academically.

Enrollment increased by more than 300 students, to 3,300, between 2007 and 2011 as the Department of Education expanded the number of seats available in the specialized schools. To accommodate the extra students, starting times are staggered from 8 a.m. to 9:20 a.m. and lunch is served over five periods from 10:20 a.m. to 2:04 p.m. Principal Stan Teitel says the overcrowding means he can’t schedule common planning time for teachers in each department or a meeting with, say, all the freshmen English teachers.

Special education: In recent years, the school has become more sensitive to students with special needs. At the time of our visit, there was one student who was visually impaired and a number with ADD. “Now we realize that kids who are very, very strong academically may have learning differences and it is our job to support them,” said parent coordinator Harvey Blumm. The administration has assigned a guidance counselor to focus on special education; a psychologist and a social worker are available for counseling.

College admissions: The school has 12 full-time guidance counselors and three full-time college counselors. Top students are accepted by the Ivy League as well as by highly competitive universities such as the University of Chicago and small liberal-arts colleges such as Swarthmore, Haverford, Kenyon and Macalester.   

Admissions: Students are selected according to their score on the Specialized High School Admissions Test. The school offers open houses for prospective students and their parents in the fall. Check the Stuyvesant website for the dates or a virtual tour. (Clara Hemphill, May 2011)

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