Institute for Collaborative Education (ICE)
Manhattan NY 10003
School promotes love of learning--not test prep
Limited upper level course offerings, especially in high school
The Institute for Collaborative Education (ICE) is a small, progressive secondary school that strives to teach children to love learning, not just to take standardized tests. Children may act out scenes from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar as part of their study of Ancient Rome, use earthquake data to map fault lines on their computers, or even travel to Europe with the middle school's award winning jazz band.
ICE belongs to a consortium of 30 New York state high schools whose students are exempt from taking most state-mandated Regents exams. (Middle school students must take the state English and math tests, and high school student must take the English Regents.) Children are evaluated based on their written essays and oral presentations called portfolios.
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 can be boisterous during class changes. But there is real learning going on, and kids seem happy and engaged. There are some non-traditional activitieslike testing the water quality of the Bronx River in a biology class--as well as tried-and-true reading assignments like Macbeth or The Great Gatsby. Teachers stay after school to help kids with their homework and often eat lunch with them.
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.
Peter Karp, a former science teacher at the school who most recently was a curriculum designer at New Visions for Public Schools, became principal in January 2012, replacing founding principal John Pettinato who retired after 20 years at ICE.
Karp introduced an integrated math/science curriculum in the 7th grade called "smath," where kids build models of roller coasters and catapults; 11th graders may take statistics and an introduction to neuroscience course that's so popular that a few graduates have gone on to study neuroscience in college. Students have won awards from the NYC Science and Engineering Fair for projects such as one on the effect of transracial adoptions.
"We've really ramped up our math and science," a teacher told us on one of our visits.
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.
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 architects' offices, law firms, art galleries and a science research labs at local universities.
Parents say that the college counselor, Jennifer Wells, is unusually helpful and accessible. 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 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. Tours are held in October and November. The school typically has a handful of open seats in the 9th grade and occasionally has seats in other grades, although space was tight in 2014. In keeping with its philosophy, the school does not consider standardized test scores in admission. Children submit a writing sample and visit the school for a day. (Clara Hemphill, February 2014)
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Programs and Admissions
Humanities (History & Literature), Mathematics, Applied Sciences, Spanish, Arts & Electives.
Boys PSAL teams
Baseball, Basketball, Soccer
Girls PSAL teams
Basketball, Soccer, Softball, Volleyball