Institute for Collaborative Education
MANHATTAN NY 10003 Map
Institute for Collaborative Education
The Institute for Collaborative Education (ICE) is a small, progressive secondary school that prides itself not only on its racial diversity but also on the range of different abilities and income levels represented. Classes are small, which makes it easier for teachers to accommodate children with a range of skills.
ICE is a member of the Coalition of Essential Schools, a national network of schools founded by education professor Theodore Sizer, who believes that small schools that concentrate on teaching a few subjects well are more effective than large schools that attempt to teach a wide array of subjects.
[In January 2012, founding principal John Pettinato retired after 20 years at ICE. On February 1, Peter Karp, a former science teacher at the school who most recently was a curriculum designer at New Visions for Public Schools, became the interim acting principal.]
It's an informal place. Students call teachers by their first names and sometimes use slang when speaking to adults. Blue jeans are the rule, on adults as well as kids. Kids are boisterous and loud during class changes. Although some parents might find the atmosphere too relaxed, others praise the administration's willingness to cater to student interests. Kids seem happy and engaged. ICE has an unusually good music program that includes an award-winning middle school jazz band. A popular art teacher helps students make real stained glass windows. On one of our visits, a 6th-grade humanities class pondered philosophical questions such as "What is reality?" and "What would Socrates and Pythagoras think of each other?" An 8th-grade English class read Fist, Stick, Knife, Gun, Geoffrey Canada's memoir of growing up in the South Bronx, and discussed the statement "violence is a learned behavior." Teachers stay after school to help kids with their homework and often eat lunch with them.
The Institute for Collaborative Education occupies the 5th floor and part of the 4th floor of the former Stuyvesant High School, which it shares with Health Professions and Human Services High School and a District 75 program for autistic children. Large papier-mache sculptures, which the kids made and painted themselves, sit on top of lockers in the hall. Students' science projects are visible everywhere: towers made of straws, bridges made of popsicle sticks to test loads, and posters about earthquakes, avalanches, and pollution in the city's Newtown Creek.
Textbooks are used sparingingly. In one high school English class, students read Nickel and Dimed, Barbara Ehrenreich's best-selling memoir of life as a low-wage worker. They compared Truman's Capote's In Cold Blood to the movie "Capote." In a history class, they re-enacted the Cold War-era trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. One downside: the small size of the school means course offerings are limited. For example, only three years of high school Spanish are offered. There are no Advanced Placement courses. (Students who want to take advanced courses may arrange to take them at nearby colleges.)
Seniors have internships, rather than regular academic coursework, for their entire second semester, working at such diverse place as architects' offices, law firms, and art galleries.
Parents say that the college counselor, Jennifer Wells, is unusually helpful and accessible. Pettinato says that more than 90 percent of graduates go to 4-year colleges. College acceptances include Brown, Colby, Sarah Lawrence, Yale, the University of Chicago, Cornell, Penn State, Middlebury College, Hampshire College, Bard, Bucknell, and College of the Atlantic.
Special education: A full-time special education teacher who offers individual help to children with special needs.
After school: The school has girls and boys basketball, soccer, and track teams.
Admissions: The school accepts children from all five boroughs, and kids travel from Brooklyn and even Staten Island to attend. There are 60 seats in the 6th grade, and the number of applications is far greater than the number of seats. A student must submit an application and a two-page "personal statement" describing "the most important things for someone to know about him or her as a student and as a person outside of school." Tours are held in October and November. Children may apply for "early admission" in the fall. No new 9th graders were admitted in 2012. (Clara Hemphill, March 2008, updated October 2011 & February 2012)