East Side Community School HS 450
MANHATTAN NY 10009 Map
East Side Community School HS 450
East Side Community is a vibrant and nurturing school with strong leadership, small classes and supportive programs including a well-funded college office.
It’s a neighborhood school where most students live in-district, enter in 6th grade and stay through 12th. It’s a progressive school that’s exempt from administering all but the English Regents exam and requires students to complete lots of projects and presentations. East Side has long-served a predominantly poor student body and does a good job of helping struggling learners stay engaged and on track for college. More high performing students are now choosing the school for its inclusive culture and alternative bent.
The school benefits from the steady leadership of Principal Mark Federman. Federman has worked at East Side for nearly two decades, first as a teacher, and since 2001, as its principal. He is committed to serving a range of students and creating an inclusive environment. “I think it is crucial for families and students considering our school to know how committed we are to making our LGBTQ [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning] students feel safe and at home.”
East Side is a member of the Coalition of Essential Schools (CES), a national network founded by Theodore Sizer who believed that small schools that concentrate on teaching a few subjects well are more effective than large schools that teach a wide array of subjects. Instead of taking Regents exams, students demonstrate mastery of coursework through oral and written presentations. At the end of each semester students participate in roundtable discussions where they reflect on what they learned and present work for in-depth discussion with a teacher and a few classmates.
East Side students take the same range of courses as those offered at most city schools, but teachers delve more deeply into fewer topics and encourage students to be flexible thinkers and connect their work to real life situations. An 8th grade math assignment had students calculating the costs of selling t-shirts for a hypothetical fundraiser. In addition to crunching the numbers in different scenarios, students had to present their work in multiple formats such as equations and graphs.
We saw lots of engaging work. Eighth graders were studying the play Twelve Angry Men. Groups of 10th graders were filming public service announcements on preserving clean water. In a high school law class students were arguing whether stop-and-frisk tactics violate the Fourth Amendment. In trigonometry/intermediate algebra students were learning about corporate responsibility and how math concepts are applied in business. The school partners with Facing History for the 10th grade history curriculum that emphasizes the importance of being upstanders (participants) rather than mere bystanders of societal events.
Students showcase their artwork in East Side’s own gallery. Middle school students take classes in chess and may join the chess team. Students can learn Spanish and French in traditional classes or study other languages online through Rosetta Stone.
Classes are small, with 16-20 students in middle school and 20-24 in high school. In grades 6-10, students start each day with a double period of English, with the first 30 minutes dedicated to independent reading. Daily advisories help teachers keep tabs on students’ social and academic concerns. Teachers offer extra help during free periods, before and after school and some high school students help out in middle school classes.
There are no honors classes, instead, high school students can take Advanced Placement and College Now classes. Middle school students can “contract for honors”, where they take on challenging assignments in addition to their regular coursework. Students receive an honors designation on their transcript for each class that they complete the additional work.
The school occupies four floors of a massive, red brick building in the East Village and shares the facilities with Girls Preparatory Charter School. The building is maintained nicely, but is old with a traditional, outdoor yard and a small gym.
After school: The Beacon Program, a city-run youth service program, and the school, offer activities such as dance, rock band, robotics, chess, skateboarding, journalism, Wall Street Wizards, Model U.N., and gay-straight alliance. Students help maintain a community garden next door. Middle school students can take select high school courses after school. East Side fields both middle and high school sports teams.
Special education: There are both self-contained and ICT (Integrated Collaborative Teaching) classes.
College admissions: The school partners with the Young Women’s Leadership Network’s College Bound Initiative (CBI), which places full-time college counselors in high-needs schools. East Side’s college advisory program sponsors trips to colleges, college awareness programs beginning in 6th grade and offers individual support for students and parents with college and financial aid applications. Graduates attend a range of schools from CUNY and SUNY colleges to private universities.
Admissions: For middle school, priority goes to District 1 students. The school requires an interview and considers each applicant's grades, test scores, attendance and lateness record. For high school, priority to continuing 8th graders. Applicants are screened for solid grades (minimum of 80 in core academic subjects), test scores and good attendance. (Laura Zingmond, May 2012)