QUEENS NY 11694 Map
JANUARY 2013 UPDATE: Scholars' Academy was temporarily relocated due to Hurricane Sandy but students and staff moved back into its building on Jan. 11, 2013. Students in grades 6-8 had been attending PS 13 at 557 Pennsylvania Avenue, and students in grades 9-12 were at at W. H. Maxwell Career and Technical Education High School at 145 Pennsylvania Avenue. Principal Brian O'Connell wrote In SchoolBook about the experience and the support the school received here and here.
On the racially polarized Rockaway Penninsula, Scholars Academy brings together high-achieving students from across District 27 to form a diverse middle and high school community. The school has an excellent attendance rate, a high graduation rate, and very good record of preparing students for college. It has a strong college office with a super-dedicated staff.
It uses technology in interesting ways—middle school kids get iPads and Kindle readers, and older students make videos of their classes so their teachers can review them and reflect on tehir own teaching.
“Good teaching, smart kids,” said Kathy Pelles, an official with New Visions for Public Schools, the non-profit school support organization. “Parents gnash their teeth to get their children into this school.”
There are lots of interesting projects and class discussions. Sixth graders might be asked to write essays on questions like “Would you rather live in Sparta or Athens” while older students might do a statistical analysis of flight patterns from nearby JFK airport, Pelles said.
Scholars Academy, in an isolated location, is housed in a recently renovated three story building with new ceilings, lights and windows, central air-conditioning, and two state-of-the-art science labs. Outside the auditorium, an undersea mural adorns the hall, one of the building's original features.
One student told us, “I love this school because I don't have to pretend I'm not smart.” Scholars who are honored for excellent classwork or good citizenship eat pizza with founding Principal Brian O’Connell, a Peninsula native, in the teachers' dining room.
All students wear uniforms daily: a light-blue polo with the school's logo and navy or khaki slacks; shirts must be tucked in and students must wear a belt. On gym days, students wear the school’s gym uniform; we saw students in light-blue school t-shirts and logo navy-blue sweatpants.
The program at Scholars is highly accelerated, and Regents-level courses begin with biology in the 7th grade. Ninth-graders have a courseload typical of juniors in most high schools, taking the English, Geometry, Physics, Spanish, and US History & Government Regents. Global studies, a two-year course, is covered in its entirety in the 10th grade. Juniors and seniors at Scholars take classes at two partner colleges in Brooklyn, graduating with between 12 and 22 college credits. Scholars offers AP Calculus and AP Art History.
Scholars has a strong arts curriculum for all students with a full cadre of specialized arts teachers. They offer visual arts, film and media, instrumental and vocal music. All sophomores also take the Visual Arts Regents, which is an uncommon requirement. There is a full band, and we saw impressive three-dimensional architecture projects on display outside the auditorium.
Special education: The school has extremely limited special education services.
After school: Scholars has an abundance of student clubs, including a pep band, step team, literary magazine, and student government. Scholars boasts many student teams, including non-traditional sports, such as golf, fencing, and girls’ crew. Scholars offers a Beat the Streets wrestling program
Admissions: Scholars has a selective and competitive admissions process, accepting 186 incoming 6th-graders from roughly 600 applicants. Scholars reviews applicants' report cards, looking for 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. Scholars' application also asks students about their extracurricular talents and requires a teacher recommendation. Geography also plays a part in the admissions process to ensure that, in each class, 50 percent of students live on the Peninsula; another 40 percent live in District 27, and 10 percent live elsewhere in the city.
For high school, priority is given to continuing 8th-graders. In 2008, 665 applicant vied for 108 9th-grade seats. (Cristin Strining, March 2009, updated by Clara Hemphill August 2012)