Essex Street Academy

Grades 9-12
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What’s Special

Offbeat courses, relaxed environment, college advisory.

The Downside

Limited course offerings

Our Review

DECEMBER 2009 UPDATE: Housed in the former Seward Park High School, Essex Street Academy is one of the most successful of the 200 small schools created by Chancellor Joel Klein since 2003. The 2009 progress reports released by the Department of Education ranked Essex Street Academy higher than 98 percent of the city\'s high schools, largely because of its success in graduating students who enter high school reading below grade level. The school\'s progress report showed that 84 percent of students graduate on time.

Although Essex Street Academy does not screen students for academic achievement, it has begun to attract stronger students as its reputation has grown in recent years, Principal Alex Shub says. \"I believe our rigorous and engaging curriculum prepares students of all levels for success at college.\"

A 2009 report by the Center for New York City Affairs at the New School singled out Essex Street Academy as a place where students who might otherwise drop out finish high school and go on to college. Small classes, attentive teachers, and a laser focus on what each student needs make the difference between success and failure, the report said. It described a girl, Taisha Jimenez, who, by her own account, had a foul mouth and nasty behavior for most of her freshman year. \"But she said her teachers never gave up on her and were unfailingly respectful to her even as she was rude to them,\" the report said, adding that Taisha went on to college and successfully finished her first year.

Teachers say they find the work satisfying, even though they work longer hours than at a traditional school. Amy Basile, a math teacher, said she has classes of 20 at Essex Street Academy, compared to 34 at her previous school. \"We have fewer students and more autonomy in the classroom,\" she said. \"We all have ownership in this school.\"

The school has received a waiver from the state requirement that all students take five Regents exams, allowing it to have more leeway in its curriculum. Like a lot of small schools, the course offerings are limited. There are no Advanced Placement courses. However the school does offer art and music to 9th, 10th, and 11th graders and it has a drama program for 11th graders.

Shub said 95 percent of the school\'s first graduating class went on to college. Some graduates have been admitted to selective four-year liberal arts schools like Smith, Hampshire, Bates, and Bard. (Clara Hemphill December 2009)

2005 REVIEW: Formerly known as the High School for History and Communication, Essex Street Academy was founded in September 2004 as part of the small school initiative in the city. Each grade has fewer than 100 students, and class sizes are kept small. Students have daily \"advisory\" periods, group meetings to discuss school and personal issues with a faculty member. They also attend school-wide \"town hall\" meetings, where they are briefed on the latest events and participate in activities so that teachers and kids stay connected to each other. On our visit, students were surprisedand amusedto learn that one of their teachers had once sported a purple Mohawk, while another had danced with singer Irene Cara at the Academy Awards.

Essex Street Academy is a member of the Coalition for Essential Schools network, which advocates for small schools where students concentrate on learning a few subjects in detail. Principal Alex Shub, formerly a teacher at the Institute for Collaborative Education (ICE), studied under Theodore Sizer, the Brown University emeritus professor and education reformer who organized the coalition. Subscribing to the same philosophy as the group, the school centers its classes around themes so students can follow a common thread through their studies in a course. We visited one history class, \"Trauma in Society and How We Heal,\" where students began the period by discussing why countries go to war; they then moved on to group work exploring the specifics of World War II. In \"Truth or Fiction? Fantastic Realism in Fiction, \" English students worked in groups to create a fantasy vignette and mulled over possible obstacles a hero might face.

In a mandatory food chemistry class, kids were experimenting with sugar and water, trying to make rock candy. The science teacher told us that she gives her students mini-lessons on how to conduct an experiment, but stressed that the kids learn to find answers to their own questions. Students work their way up to performing self-designed experiments that they present to a panel of parents.

Students will be assessed for graduation with projects and presentations to exhibit their in-depth work and research. Shub hopes the school will gain a waiver from the New York state requirement that graduates must pass 5 Regents exams, which tests students on a wide range of content.

Teachers seemed to be happy that they get to design the curriculum. Although history is no longer featured in the school\'s name, (partly because the school\'s lead partner is no longer South Street Seaport), the subject will continue to be a spotlight of the program; educational consultants from Facing History, an international organization that promotes the study of history to equip students to combat modern-day problems, are working with teachers to strengthen the history component of the curriculum.

Essex Street Academy is one of five new small high schools sharing the Seward Park campus. Although there will be movement and change in the coming years as the schools grow to full capacity, they are bringing a fresh sense of diversity and integration into the building, a longtime neighborhood high school whose student population once was divided among ethnic groups.

The school gets students with a range of abilities and backgrounds. As in most unscreened schools, some kids come with challenging and troubling problems. Social workers from the school\'s lead community partner, Greenwich Village Youth Council, visit the school to work with students.

Admissions: Applicants should attend an information session and according to Shub, want to rank the school #1 on the high school application. (Catherine Man, October 2005)

About the students

Free or reduced priced lunch
Students with disabilities
English language learners

About the school

Shared campus?
This school shares the Seward Park Educational Campus with four other schools
Uniforms required?
Metal detectors?
How crowded? (Full is 100%)
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average


Average daily attendance
85% Citywide Average
How many students are chronically absent?
42% Citywide Average

Is this school safe?

How many teachers say order and discipline are maintained at this school?
76% Citywide Average
How many students think bullying happens most or all of the time at this school?
18% Citywide Average
How many students say they feel safe in the hallways, bathrooms and locker rooms?
84% Citywide Average
How many students say most students treat each other with respect?
56% Citywide Average

About the leadership

Years of principal experience at this school
5.3 Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?
77% Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal has a clear vision for this school?
83% Citywide Average
How many teachers trust the principal?
78% Citywide Average

About the teachers

How many teachers have 3 or more years of experience teaching?
73% Citywide Average
Teacher attendance
97% Citywide Average
How many teachers say they would recommend this school to other families?
79% Citywide Average
How many teachers think the staff collaborate to make this school run effectively?
84% Citywide Average
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

Arts offerings

This school has 4 dedicated spaces for Dance, Music, Visual arts, and an Auditorium
This school has 1 licensed arts teacher in Music

Engaging curriculum?

How many students say this school offers enough programs, classes and activities to keep them interested?
71% Citywide Average
How many students say they are challenged in most or all of their classes?
49% Citywide Average
How many students say the programs, classes and activities here encourage them to develop talent outside academics?
70% Citywide Average
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

How many graduate?

How many students graduate in 4 years?
77% Citywide Average
How many graduates earn Advanced Regents diplomas?
11% Citywide Average
How many students drop out?
10% Citywide Average

Are students prepared for college?

How many students graduate with test scores high enough to enroll at CUNY without remedial help?
32% Citywide Average
How many students take a college-level course or earn a professional certificate?
41% Citywide Average
How many graduate and enter college within 18 months?
63% Citywide Average
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

How does this school serve English Language Learners?

How many former English language learners score 3-4 on the State ELA exam?
0% Citywide Average
How many English language learners graduate in 4 years?
65% Citywide Average

How does this school serve students with disabilities?

This school offers self-contained classes
This school offers team teaching (ICT)
How many students say that students with disabilities are included in all activities?
64% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school offers enough activities and services for their children's needs?
87% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school works to achive the goals of their students' IEPs?
90% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say they are satisfied with the IEP development process at this school?
89% Citywide Average
How many special ed students graduate in 4 years?
60% Citywide Average
For more information about our data sources, see About Our Data

Programs and Admissions

Essex Street Academy
Admissions Method: Limited Unscreened
Program Description


Language Courses

French, German, Spanish

Advanced Placement (AP) courses

AP Calculus, AP Spanish


Boys PSAL teams

Badminton, Baseball, Basketball, Bowling, Handball, Volleyball, Wrestling

Girls PSAL teams

Badminton, Basketball, Bowling, Softball, Table Tennis, Tennis, Volleyball

Read about admissions, academics, and more at this school on the NYCDOE’s School Finder
NYC Department of Education: School Finder

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