Scholars' Academy

320 BEACH 104TH STREET
QUEENS NY 11694 Map
Phone: (718) 474-6918
Website: Click here
Admissions: selective
Wheelchair accessible
unzoned
selective
Noteworthy
Principal: Brian O'Connell
Neighborhood: Rockaway Beach
District: 27
Grade range: 06 thru 12
Parent coordinator: MARTA MOSKAL

What's special:

Accelerated academics plus fitness, music, drama, technology, art

The downside:

Isolated location

Middle School Stats

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http://insideschools.org/

High School Stats

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http://insideschools.org/


Our review

On the racially polarized Rockaway peninsula, Scholars' Academy brings together high-achieving students from across District 27 to form a diverse middle and high school community. The school is known for rigorous academics but also offers a wide array of sports and arts classes, as well as cutting-edge technology instruction.

The bustling life inside the three-story building is all the more pronounced given the bleak landscape outside—elevated subway tracks, generic high-rise towers and the desolate sound of seagulls. In every classroom, alert teens work together in small groups on clear-cut tasks.

Principal Brian O'Connell, a native of the peninsula, calls Scholars' a "haven for positive integration," and while it is racially and culturally diverse, we were also impressed by the fact that as many girls as boys told us they planned to pursue male-dominated fields such as civil engineering, electrical engineering and medicine.

Middle school students travel in a group to math, science and humanities classes. We saw 7th-graders immersed in articles about life in Alabama in 1933 in preparation for reading the Depression-era novel To Kill a Mockingbird. In the music technology lab, 8th-graders studied 12-bar blues chords as part of a unit on jazz, informed by their lessons on slavery and segregation in humanities.

By the end of middle school, all students will have completed three high school courses. Ninth-graders have a course load typical of juniors in most high schools, taking the English, geometry, physics, Spanish, U.S. history and government Regents. Global studies, typically a two-year program, is covered in its entirety in 10th grade.

All high school students are expected to complete four years of math, science and English. A partnership through St. Francis College in Brooklyn allows students to complete up to 20 college credits in 11th and 12th grade.

Student dismissal is at 1:12 pm on Fridays to allow teachers to plan for up to two hours. All staff members have web pages and are experimenting with new models of instruction including “blended learning”—which combines face-to-face and online learning in a self-paced format—and "flipped" instruction, where kids watch videos of recorded teacher lessons or "snippets" at home and do "homework" in class, consisting of exercises, projects or lab experiments in small groups while the teacher circulates. Kids can use iPads or one of many computers sprinkled throughout the building to access web pages. Twelfth-graders in the blended economics class were learning how to budget money for college at the time of our visit.

All this is part of a massive effort to be transparent according to O'Connell. "It shouldn't be mystery what your children are learning," he said, adding that self-paced learning is essential to helping bright students make progress and not just coast on their achievements.

The school hosts sporting events, accompanied by their own marching band, which is a draw for parents. Archery, bowling, tennis, lacrosse and swimming are some of the more unusual offerings. The latest is STUNT, a kind of acrobat cheerleading.

All students take visual arts and music classes. Eleventh-graders produce weekly news broadcasts in the media elective, while other students may help produce the school newspaper or join drama or stage crew.

Several graduating seniors revealed their very specific future plans to us, ranging from McCauley Honors (pre-med) and Stonybrook (electrical engineering) to St. Johns (elementary education) and St. Francis (accounting). Students have been accepted to Pratt and Parsons, as well as Cornell and Princeton.

Special education: The school is phasing in classes that mix children with special needs and general education students beginning in September 2014.

Admissions: Scholars' seeks students with good attendance records who have high 3s or 4s on their 4th-grade ELA and math exams. Promising applicants must complete an in-person interview and take on-site math, reading comprehension and writing assessments. The admissions policy ensures that 50 percent of students live on the Peninsula, another 40 percent live in District 27, and 10 percent live elsewhere in the city. Scholars' accepts 264 incoming 6th-graders from roughly 1,000 applicants. Priority in high school is given to middle school students. There is no room for outsiders at the high school level unless the population fluctuates. The school will be admitting a defned number of students with special needs this year. (Lydie Raschka, May 2014)

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