Community Health Academy of the Heights
Manhattan NY 10032
Zone for the 2017-2018 school year. Call school to confirm.
Strong community partnerships, whole-child supports, enrichment and family engagement
Scarcity of upper level courses, many graduates need remedial help at college
The Community Health Academy of the Heights (CHAH) is a welcoming, 6-12 school that was founded to provide local students and families with the support they need to be prepared for college or careers. Local nonprofit CLOTH Community League of the Heights,launched the school in 2006, in partnership with New York Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University Medical Center. CLOTH maintains offices in the basement of CHAH's new six-story building in south Washington Heights, along with a community health center.
CHAH prides itself on its reflective and open-minded student body. "If you've ever been excluded, beat up, marginalized, this is the place where you can be welcome," says Principal Mark House, a former social studies teacher and assistant principal at West Bronx Academy of the Future. He feels that "school should be fun," but first, he believes, students need to feel safe and grounded. CHAH employs a full-time social worker and psychologist and hosts five social work interns from Hunter College and Columbia University; each student gets a mental health diagnostic exam each year, in addition to vision screenings and access to other health resources.
CHAH's health focus pervades the curriculum: Students learn about personal and public health in several classes and older students pursue internships in health careers. Classes are mostly traditionally structured, with desks in rows and teachers directing the discussion. Teachers use interactive SMART boards to guide students through the lessons, and students seem engaged in their work and well-behaved. House is proud of his "amazing teachers," who work together to improve instruction and develop their practice, even over the summer. Test scores for grades 6-8 are well below the city average, but they increased significantly between the first and second years of the new Common Core exams.
Many students enter 6th grade below grade level in reading or math, and some 80 percent are current or former English language learners. Students in the 6th and 7th grades receive an extra period dedicated to math and independent reading each day. This allows teachers to tailor instruction to each reading level, and gives students time to dive into books they enjoy reading. Starting in 8th grade, each student receives four years of Spanish-language instruction, beginning with either a native language arts class for Spanish speakers or a more traditional high school Spanish course.
CHAH has full-time music, art and dance teachers (one of whom, the principal was proud to admit, turned down a position at a prestigious arts school to stay at CHAH). Consistent with its health focus, CHAH prioritizes physical education: Students take four gym classes a week. The cafeteria and gym are clean and bright, but small. PSAL sports include baseball, cross country, volleyball, golf and soccer. Hallways and stairwells are wide and well-lit, with expansive views of Columbia Presbyterian hospital from several windows.
CLOTH helps provide a robust after-school program with activities ranging from homework help to the Grrrl Alliance which discusses gender and LGBTQ issues, bringing in guest speakers from the community. The Food Ambassadors Club put to good use lessons learned from reading Michael Pollen's The Omnivores Dilemma when they lobbied the city department of School Food to serve healthier menu options at CHAH. Working with CLOTH, students are planning to convert an abandoned lot across the street into a community garden, complete with a second-story greenhouse for use as a "living classroom" and a source for a "garden-to-cafeteria" menu at CHAH.
Both CHAH and CLOTH go out of their way to engage parents, bringing them in the building for adult education classes, free evening activities such as Zumba classes and resources including hosting a weekly "farm share" so parents can buy fresh, local produce when they pick their children up from school. The parents we spoke to appreciated these efforts, but were more excited about the growth they witnessed in their children, both academically and socially, since starting at CHAH.
All graduates enroll in two or four-year colleges like CUNY, SUNY, Syracuse and St. Johns. One student won a Posse scholarship to Wheaton College. CHAH provides transition help for graduates. There are few high-level or Advanced Placement courses at CHAH--pre-calculus is the highest math--and many graduates need remedial help when entering college.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: ICT is offered in every core class. Students receiving those supports come in early each morning to get organized and have a period together at the close of the day for extra homework help.
ADMISSIONS: For middle school, priority goes to students from Washington Heights elementary schools and other District 6 residents. Nearly all middle school students stay for high school; other students are accepted randomly with priority going to those who have visited or otherwise shown interest. (Nicole Mader, March 2015)
About the students
About the school
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About the leadership
About the teachers
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How does this school serve English Language Learners?
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Programs and Admissions
Advanced Placement (AP) courses
AP English, AP Spanish, AP Studio Art
Boys PSAL teams
Baseball, Basketball, Soccer
Girls PSAL teams
Basketball, Cross Country, Softball, Volleyball
Coed PSAL teams