University Neighborhood High School
Manhattan NY 10002
Founded in collaboration with NYU, school works to create college-bound graduates.
School is trying to find a way to offer internships and college courses to more students.
At University Neighborhood High School, spreadsheets cover one wall of principal Elizabeth Collins' office. The sheets contain the names of every University Neighborhood student, and blank boxes reveal what credits and Regents exams each student still needs to graduate.
The spreadsheets underscore Collins' determination to improve the school's graduation rate, which once was a dismal 48 percent but by 2011 had risen to 71 percent. Collins also points to her school's most recent Department of Education Progress Report grades, which have gone from a "D" to a "C-plus" since she took over in January 2010. The numbers quantify the general sense that University Neighborhood, once officially categorized as a school in need of improvement (or "SINI"), is making necessary fixes and heading in the right direction.
"When I came, I just put everything in order," Collins said. Fights were common when she arrived in 2010, and often half her day was spent dishing out discipline. At the faculty level, teachers were free to create courses that interested them; as a result, students were enjoying a variety of electives but often hadn't mastered the math, English and science required for diplomas. Collins retooled the curriculum to focus on core subjects, remedial courses and Regents prep. "People didn't like this," she said. More than a dozen teachers left.
The faculty had stabilized by the time we visited in March 2012, but University Neighborhood High School is still working to improve its image. In the classrooms we observed, many longtime teachers kept kids engaged (students eagerly listened to one history teacher's description of gangster Al Capone), but young teachers often had little control over rowdy students clearly uninterested in their lessons. Students we spoke to praised teachers' caring attitudes and willingness to share advice, but in the classrooms teachers often had to raise their voices to be heard over the background din.
University Neighborhood High School opened in September 1999 in what had originally been Manhattan's PS 31, a Lower East Side landmark built in 1902. (It has no connection to University Neighborhood Middle School, despite the similar names.) The five-story Beaux Arts building features high ceilings, large window and ample natural light, but also narrow hallways, a tiny library and no gym (although it does have an indoor weight room and dance studio). A nearby park provides an athletic field.
The name "University Neighborhood" reflects the school's founding collaboration with New York University, a relationship that fed many NYU student teachers to the high school but sent relatively few graduating seniors to NYU. The high school has three full-time employees who help students apply to colleges and prepare for pre-college tests (which the school requires all students take in their junior and senior years). Seniors meet weekly to get advice on their post-graduation options. Recent graduates have been accepted to private schools such as Pace University, St. John's and Penn State, as well as SUNY colleges in Binghamton, Stony Brook, Buffalo and Albany.
The school offers few advanced-placement courses, but one-third of the seniors take business, economics or English classes at Baruch College. Collins said she wants students "to have a sense of being a college student" and experience the rigors of college coursework. She also tries to tailor courses to fit each student's individual needs "to make sure that the students will get as much as possible and be ready for college."
The school offers a number of options for students struggling to master English, particularly recent immigrants from China, including Spanish and Mandarin classes. There are few courses outside of required classes such as math, science and English, but the options are slowly growing.
Special education: The school has six special education teachers who work with other teachers in integrated co-teaching (ICT) classrooms. The school has no self-contained special ed classes, because Collins wants all students held to the same standards. "I want all kids to be treated the same," she said.
Admissions: The school accepts students from throughout New York City, but priority is given to students living in Districts 1 and 2. Applicants must tour the high school during an open house. (Reviewed by Skip Card, March 2012)
About the students
About the school
Is this school safe?
About the leadership
About the teachers
How many graduate?
Are students prepared for college?
How does this school serve English Language Learners?
How does this school serve students with disabilities?
Programs and Admissions
An interdisciplinary, project-based program, with advisories, art and music electives, community service requirements and learning centers.
Students with limited English are taught by bilingual Mandarin speaking teachers in all core subjects and get extra support during Academic Intervention Services (AIS).
University Neighborhood Early College (UNEC) is designed for students interested in pursuing a career in business. UNEC provides rigorous curriculum with individualized academic supports, enabling students to earn a High School diploma and up to 24 college credits through City University of New York (CUNY) Baruch College within 4 years.
Chinese (Mandarin), Spanish
Advanced Placement (AP) courses
AP Calculus, AP Chinese, AP English, AP Spanish, AP Studio Art, AP US Government and Politics
Boys PSAL teams
Basketball, Bowling, Handball
Girls PSAL teams