Frederick Douglass Academy
Manhattan NY 10039
A plethora of AP courses, electives, sports and arts
Some silliness and crude language in classes
Few public schools in New York City offer the range of academics, arts and enrichment programs that Frederick Douglass Academy does. Students may study Japanese and Latin, grow plants in a roof garden, travel abroad, and take a significant number of Advanced Placement classes. Coursework is accelerated, and students may take as many as four Regents exams by the time they finish 8th grade. There are also strong electives in the arts and internships in engineering. Some graduates go on to Ivy League schools, often with substantial scholarships.
Longtime Principal Gregory Hodges retired in December 2013. His replacement, Joseph Gates, comes from IS 238 in Queens where he was principal for 12 years. Gates has brought many new initiatives to the school and has the support of the staff and students.
Photographs of student trips to diverse destinations around the world - from South Africa to Greece - bedeck bulletin boards of the school hallways. The school sends kids to other countries every year, with trips to Japan sponsored by Jet Blue and a Japanese airline that was impressed that African American students were learning Japanese. Many students are able to go for free.
On our visit, we saw students engaged in lively class discussions and teachers who seemed to be passionate and committed. In middle school English, the teacher prepping students for state tests said, "Don't think ELA exam. Think that you are in a room with college professors. How would you apply supportive features with sophisticated language?" We saw 6th-graders using words like myriad, vast and copious.
Seventh-grade living environment students hypothesized about what the children of an orange-skinned mother and blue-skinned father would look like.
In high school, history lessons spanned the globe, from failed Marxist revolts to the Sepoy Mutiny in India. Teachers took the time to break down terminology, such as Pan-Slavic, and offered interesting anecdotes to make the lessons more relevant. In AP calculus, the veteran teacher asked students to put up their hands if they knew the answer before saying, "Great, now I will call on the ones with their hands down." One student told us, "You can't hide here. Participation is part of the grade."
In aviation class, the teacher asked, "What does airplane engine have that car engine doesn't?" A young lady responded, "Dual engine ignition." Most students were engaged, a few lost.
FDA students are expected to be more independent as they progress through high school. There is more teacher-directed content in regular high school classes, while in AP classes students are encouraged to take the lead. Most AP courses are a mix of juniors and seniors with some sophomores. Homework averages about two hours a night, but some seniors in AP courses say they study between three and five hours a night. More than 50 percent of students do well enough on their AP exams to receive college credit.
FDA excels in college counseling. The Posse Foundation, which sends young people to top universities like Harvard and Stanford, regularly picks FDA students for scholarships. There are three full-time college counselors and guidance counselors. Students say the office is often jam-packed with kids who aspire to college, and that it is relatively common for students to apply to more than a dozen institutions.
Uniforms (blue shirts for middle school and white for high school) have been a sensitive issue for parents who complain that the code is too strict. Deans do class rotations twice a period to check whether students uniforms are in compliance.
The school has a zero tolerance policy regarding fights, meaning that if you fight, youre out. Occasionally, fights occur after school between students at FDA and neighboring schools. To avoid this, deans and school officers keep an eye out on campus and on the walk to trains and buses that students use for travel to make sure there are no altercations.
The hallways are generally orderly, even as students move from class to class. Horseplay, while not entirely absent, appears limited. We saw a boy throw a young lady's shoe into the hall and heard a few students use poor language in robotics. However, most classes are well managed. Participating in student government has helped middle schoolers in particular take more responsibility for their actions on campus by giving them a voice in school affairs.
Offerings in art, music and dance are available after school and on Saturdays. Sports include taekwondo, lacrosse, fencing and Aviation club, just to name a few. There is a newly constructed radio station in collaboration with WBLS. The school has a fully staffed medical and dental office.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: FDA offers co-teaching classes and "self-contained" classes. Specific Regents prep for special needs and one-on-one tutoring are offered. The school goes to great lengths to ensure that all students have the skills they need to succeed by the time they graduate. Middle school years are spent paying close attention to specific areas of concern. By 9th-grade, the hope is that all special ed students can be integrated into team-teaching classes in the four major subjects, with the goal of being fully mainstreamed with resource room time for senior year.
ADMISSIONS: District 5 only for middle school. For high school, preference is for District 5 students with 3s or 4s on standardized tests and for current middle school students who placed the school on their application. Students with lower scores and those outside the district may still get in. (Jamaal Abdul-Alim and Jacquie Wayans, February 2014)
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Programs and Admissions
This Academy will prepare students for their choice of college studies and careers. Students are expected to take a minimum of two AP or CUNY College Now courses for which they are eligible which may include AP United States History, AP Microeconomics, AP European History, AP English, AP Spanish, AP French and AP Latin.
This Academy will prepare students for college studies and careers in Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Medicine. Students will have access to elective courses such as Robotics, Aeronautics/Aviation, Anatomy & Physiology and Forensic Science. Students are expected to take a minimum of two AP or CUNY College Now courses for which they are eligible and may include AP Calculus, AP Statistics, AP Biology, AP Chemistry and AP Physics.
French, Japanese, Spanish
Advanced Placement (AP) courses
AP Biology, AP Calculus, AP Chemistry, AP Computer Science, AP Economics, AP English, AP European History, AP Physics, AP Spanish, AP Statistics
Boys PSAL teams
Baseball, Basketball, Fencing, Football, Indoor Track, Lacrosse, Outdoor Track, Soccer, Tennis, Volleyball
Girls PSAL teams
Basketball, Fencing, Lacrosse, Soccer, Softball, Tennis, Volleyball, Wrestling
Coed PSAL teams