Urban Assembly Gateway School for Technology
A friendly haven for techies
Popularity reduces the odds of getting in
Students at Urban Assembly Gateway School for Technology have unusual access to computers every day, yet human bonds are all-important in this safe, close-knit school, where students greet each other with hugs and high-fives between classes and collaborate on creative projects and lessons.
In addition to the typical array of high school courses, students pick one of three career tracks: Digital Animation and Web Design, Computer and Information Technology, or Health Information Technology. As early as 9th grade, students may earn IC3 certification, a globally recognized and exam-based certification in basic computer and internet literacy.
The school's theme has struck a chordmore than 800 8th-graders applied for 108 spots in 2011, its founding year, and the applicant list topped 1,300 in 2015. Boys outnumber girls about four to one, but girls take a leadership role in the school's Mouse Squad, the team that keeps computers in running order and does random online "history" checks to curb improper internet use. Girls may also participate in an all-female advisory group. Those we spoke to said they are eager to jump into technology careers: "I want to be a part of it," said one.
Principal April McKoy, a former social studies teacher from Brooklyn College Academy, has an eye for good instructional practice and helps maintain a balance between screen-time and face-time. We saw discussion and activities in every classroom rather than long teacher lectures.
The humanities are strong here too and several students said history or English was their favorite subject. Complementary themes in English and social studies help students deepen their understanding. Tenth-graders study Afghanistan in global studies, for example, at the same time that they read The Kite Runner, a novel set in Afghanistan, in English class. Teens read novels such as The Joy Luck Club and Great Expectations, supplementing with poetry or articles that inform the time period or themes.
During our visit we noted kind and friendly relations between students. We also noticed tardiness, particularly among seniors. McKoy tries to help teens solve problems leading to tardiness such as those who must drop a younger sibling at their school first. She often greets students with a cheery, "Good morning, darling!" Teachers like her management style: "We've got the best principal in the DOE," a technology teacher said.
Students who fall behind visit the after-school tutoring program called GOLD (goal-oriented learning development). Teachers set goals with 3 to 5 students who are falling behind each day, so they "don't lose hope," said McKoy. She believes GOLD is a key to students' above-average Regent's exam passing rates in history, math and English. A guidance counselor on each grade level also keeps students on track. Teachers are highly visible and engaged.
Some students do not have computers at home, and they must learn to curb their impulses to get off-track or they lose privileges. "It's flexible but strict, in a good way," said a 9th grader. There isn't time to teach touch-typing so we saw a lot of hunt-and-peck-typing, but students also write the old-fashoned way, especially when composing stories.
The school year begins with an overnight camping trip, and staff visits the home of every incoming 9th-grader. Clubs include martial arts, skateboarding, drama, programming and digital photography. The "gamer haven" club is especially popular.
Community service begins close to home with students assisting in bulletin board design, sprucing up classrooms and improving the atmosphere in the cafeteria. They also take trips to college campuses and may secure internships at the Hospital for Special Surgery, among other locations.
UAG is one of more than 20 schools created and run by the nonprofit Urban Assembly. It shares the Graphics Educational Campus along with the High School of Graphic Communication Arts, the Business of Sports School and Mather Building Arts & Craftsmanship High School. Sports are campus-wide.
COLLEGE: The first graduating class in 2015 included a POSSE scholarship winner, as well as acceptances to Northeastern University, Occidental and St. Lawrence University. A few students planned to join the military.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: Students are integrated in ICT classes with general education students and two teachers.
ADMISSIONS: Priority to Manhattan students or residents who attend an information session or fair. (Lydie Raschka, April 2015)
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Programs and Admissions
Advanced Placement (AP) courses
AP Biology, AP Calculus, AP Chemistry, AP English, AP Statistics, AP US History
Boys PSAL teams
Baseball, Basketball, Bowling, Cross Country, Handball, Outdoor Track, Soccer, Volleyball
Girls PSAL teams
Basketball, Flag Football, Soccer, Softball, Volleyball
Manhattan NY 10019