Young Womens Leadership School (TYWLS)
Manhattan NY 10029
Near-perfect graduation and college attendance rates
Only access is via elevator; small gymnasium
The Young Women's Leadership School (TYWLS) in East Harlem is a safe and cheery school, where students get a lot of support from teachers and top-notch college counseling. Opened in 1996, TYWLS is the flagship program of the Young Women's Leadership Network, a system of all-girls public schools that aims to give students from poor neighborhoods a high quality education. The school boasts near-perfect graduation and college attendance rates.
The former Masonic Temple in which the school is housed is located on a wide, quiet street. Girls arrive on foot from the subway or emerge from cars after goodbye hugs from parents. They take an elevator to the 9th floor and then climb up and down five floors throughout the day as they attend classes.
Teachers are happy to be at TYWLS and work harmoniously with Principal Andrew Higginbotham. Many have been at the school for a decade or more, including the principal, who taught English and history there for 18 years. The rapport between students and teachers is respectful and warm; some teachers go by their first names, like the principal, “Drew,” and others prefer surnames, but lots of kids use affectionate shortcuts like “Ms. C” or “Mr. B” instead.
Most students start in 6th grade and stay on for high school. TYWLS admits a range of students, but serves mostly those with weak-to-average skills and does a good job helping them catch up. By the 8th grade, half the students are taking algebra, typically a 9th-grade course. By the time they graduate, roughly half the students have taken at least one Advanced Placement class. English language arts performance has improved in recent years but math has been up and down due to the loss of a couple of teachers, said co-director Colleen McGeehan.
Teachers strive to make lessons interesting and interactive. In a 6th grade English class students roamed the room responding in writing to quotes from a science fiction novel. In a 12th grade economics class, girls created games to demonstrate concepts such as inflation and structural unemployment. “They learn a lot more when they are talking to each other than when I’m talking to them,” said a 6th grade teacher.
One surprising feature of the school is the menagerie of more than 30 animals living in the science labs, including six guinea pigs (five born at school), six red-eared sliders, a variety of fish and a rat. The animals help the girls “learn tolerance of other species,” the teacher said.
All students study art and music, but Spanish is the only foreign language taught. Students may take Advanced Placement courses in Statistics, Biology, U.S. government, U.S. history, Spanish Language and English literature. Preparation for the SATs is built into the 11th grade English curriculum.
All high school students take a technology class as well as a traditional four-year sequence of science: earth science, living environment, chemistry, and physics. One girl said if she could change anything about TYWLS she would add more technology offerings. After school options include a program that meets twice a week called ScriptEd, in which pros from the industry teach classes. Columbia University works with students in a summer science field research program.
An afterschool film class is offered at NEP Metropolis Studios, located in the same building. TYWLS girls take part in flag football, track, volleyball, basketball and more in the East Harlem Pride sports league.
Most graduates attend four-year colleges, including CUNY and SUNY schools, as well as private schools like Columbia, Brown and Williams College. A full-time college counselor organizes college trips and helps students and parents complete financial aid applications.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: Team-teaching classes on every grade. English language learners receive individual and small group support in their regular classes and on a pull-out basis.
ADMISSIONS: District 4 priority. Girls are encouraged to attend an open house at which they will be asked to do a short writing assignment and participate in a group interview. Priority goes to continuing 8th graders in high school and then to District 4 students for the remaining 45 spots or so. Strong candidates will have solid grades, good attendance and earned at least a “2” on their 7th grade English Language Arts (ELA) and math state exams. (Lydie Raschka, April 2017)
About the students
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Programs and Admissions
TYWLS offers an academically rigorous college prep program to all our students.
Advanced Placement (AP) courses
AP English, AP Spanish, AP US Government and Politics
Girls PSAL teams
Basketball, Flag Football, Golf, Outdoor Track, Soccer, Softball, Volleyball