City College Academy of the Arts

Phone: (212) 567-3164
Website: Click here
Admissions: Lottery for District 6
Wheelchair accessible
Principal: Bernadette Drysdale
Neighborhood: Washington Heights
District: 6
Grade range: 06 thru 12
Parent coordinator: MANUELLA CEBALLOS

What's special:

The chance to earn up to two years worth of college credit.

The downside:

Limited space in the building, which is shared with other schools.

Middle School Stats


High School Stats


Our review

A traditional school with an accelerated curriculum, City College Academy of the Arts (CCAA) offers students in grades 6 to 12 a supportive environment and the chance to earn two years of college credit at the City College of New York (CCNY.)

Founding principal Bernadette Drysdale patterned the school on those she attended as a child in Jamaica, with small classes, clear expectations and close relationships between adults and children. On our visit Drysdale seemed to know every child by name. One gave her a hug, another gave her a paper airplane as a gift. Her personal connection with the students reflects the school's friendly atmosphere.

Next to Fort Tyron Park in Washington Heights, the school shares a building with IS 218 and IS 322. CCAA occupies the fourth floor and half the second floor of the building. The set-up is a bit awkward, but the kids didn’t seem to mind, and class changes were smooth.

The school is part of the Early College Initiative at the City University of New York (CUNY), which is designed to better prepare students for college by exposing them to higher-level academics starting in middle school. CCAA students take courses at CCNY, 60 blocks to the south. In the 9th grade, they take most of their classes at their high school but take art at CCNY. By senior year, they take all their classes at CCNY. One 10th grader told us he took trigonometry, drawing, and photography at CCNY. Ten students in CCAA’s first senior class earned 70 college credits—more than two years’worth.

CCAA offers five arts classes each week, and students can also participate in an afterschool arts club. While the school is named for its focus on the arts, it was the emphasis on reading and writing that came across during our visit. “Every teacher teaches reading,” said Nancy Byrne, who is both a reading specialist and a certified math teacher.

College admissions: The school has a well-staffed college office. Students are encouraged to visit colleges as early as 6th grade. “It’s never too early to talk about college,” college counselor Rosanna Almanzar said. Most graduates attend CUNY and SUNY colleges, but one was admitted to Fordham and one to Penn State. One graduate won a POSSE scholarship to attend University of Wisconsin.

Special education: CCAA has team-taught classes, where two teachers work in the same classroom with both general education students and those needing special services. The school also has three certified reading specialists to help those students who need extra help with their reading skills.

Admissions: Selection is by a lottery open to all students in District 6. For middle school, preference is given to students who attend an open house. For high school, limited seats are available to new students, and admissions are screened. (Pauline Zaldonis, October 2012)

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