Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School

Grades 9-12
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What’s Special

Nuturing Community, safe space and dedicated staff.

The Downside

College readiness is very low.

Our Review

Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School is a refreshing surprise, an oasis in a bleak section of the South Bronx. Most students live in the neighborhood, and a shocking 90 percent of entering 9th graders fail to meet standards on state reading and math tests. (An offshoot of the high school, the new Fannie Lou Hamer Middle School, attempts to address this problem.) The school helps these struggling students to feel comfortable in an educational setting, to catch up quickly, and to strive for goals including going to college. Some kids are savoring the experience of academic success for the first time; during our visit, one student proudly showed off her progress report to a counselor. Apparently, the efforts of this small school are paying off: Fannie Lou Hamer's four-year graduation rate is more than 15 percentage points higher than the city average.

This is a school where the faculty believes in the school's mission, and students understand what the expectations are. There is a good rapport among the teachers, who meet as a group daily. Many of them are young and upbeat, and because the school enjoys a low faculty turnover rate, the more experienced staff members move into leadership and administrative roles. Ninth graders are grouped with 10th graders in one of three small "houses," where teachers work closely together and get to know their students well. Eleventh and 12th graders, housed on a different floor, enjoy the same close bonds to their teachers, whom they have for two years. Students call teachers and administrators by their first names.

A member of the Coalition of Essential Schools, a national network of small progressive schools, Fannie Lou Hamer places greater emphasis on oral reports and student "portfolios" of written work than on standardized tests. For this reason, it is also part of the New York Performance Standards Consortium, a group of schools opposed to high stakes testing and whose students are exempt from having to take the majority of Regents exams. The curriculum is project-based, so students spend a lot of time working in groups, and the school operates on the idea that it's better for students to learn a few subjects in depth than to be exposed to a smattering of knowledge on many topics. Students in a small senior math class we saw were creating a blueprint of the oddly shaped school courtyard, as part of a project to propose ideas to renovate the space. A buzz came from another classroom where students, who had been introduced to playwriting by reading A Raisin in the Sun, were busy tweaking their own original scripts, which explored the theme of family. Students we spoke to said they preferred portfolios to tests, and when we asked them about their assignments, they described in detail what they were learning.

Some teachers use worksheets to help guide students through their work and writing; we saw one example in the form of lab reports on the walls of the science classroom. The day we visited, students in the science room were examining thin slices of fruit through the microscope, then illustrating the cells they had seen. In an English class, students were learning about Greek mythology and, in preparation for their year-end projects, answering worksheet questions about their readings.

While the building is safe, the neighborhood is not -- theft is common -- and the school takes no chances. Safety officers keep a close watch both within and outside the building. The dispiriting metal detectors seen in so many city high schools are, thankfully, absent here, but security cameras are everywhere. All the windows are protected by wire, and from the outside, this makes the building look caged.

The picture inside is quite another matter. The building is bright and clean, featuring a well-equipped library and technology lab. The school is wheelchair accessible, and, unlike most public schools, has an excellent ventilation and air conditioning system. The lunchroom has the feel of a college cafeteria, with round burgundy tables and student art murals on the walls.

The staff encourages students to think about college early on, but administrators say it is sometimes a challenge to get everyone to apply. One evening in the school, the college advisor hosted students and their parents at a session to fill out CUNY applications. Freshman and sophomores prepare for the PSATs and take college trips to the SUNY colleges at New Paltz, Oneonta, and Old Westbury. The administration estimates that 50 percent of graduates go on to four-year colleges, and an additional 30 percent go to two-year programs.

Students also take part in community service programs and internships.

Special education: The high school has both "self-contained"--special needs students only--and collaborative team teaching (CTT) classes. These classes mix students with special needs and general education students, and are headed by two teachers, one a specialist in special education. The school hopes to add more CTT classes. (Catherine Man, October 2005)

About the students

Free or reduced priced lunch
Students with disabilities
English language learners

About the school

Shared campus?
This school is in its own building.
Uniforms required?
Metal detectors?
How crowded? (Full is 100%)
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average


Average daily attendance
85% Citywide Average
How many students are chronically absent?
42% Citywide Average

Is this school safe?

How many teachers say order and discipline are maintained at this school?
76% Citywide Average
How many students think bullying happens most or all of the time at this school?
18% Citywide Average
How many students say they feel safe in the hallways, bathrooms and locker rooms?
84% Citywide Average
How many students say most students treat each other with respect?
56% Citywide Average

About the leadership

Years of principal experience at this school
5.3 Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?
77% Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal has a clear vision for this school?
83% Citywide Average
How many teachers trust the principal?
78% Citywide Average

About the teachers

How many teachers have 3 or more years of experience teaching?
73% Citywide Average
Teacher attendance
97% Citywide Average
How many teachers say they would recommend this school to other families?
79% Citywide Average
How many teachers think the staff collaborate to make this school run effectively?
84% Citywide Average
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

Arts offerings

This school has 1 dedicated space for Visual arts
This school has 2 licensed arts teachers in Visual arts (part-time) and Music

Engaging curriculum?

How many students say this school offers enough programs, classes and activities to keep them interested?
71% Citywide Average
How many students say they are challenged in most or all of their classes?
49% Citywide Average
How many students say the programs, classes and activities here encourage them to develop talent outside academics?
70% Citywide Average
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

How many graduate?

How many students graduate in 4 years?
77% Citywide Average
How many graduates earn Advanced Regents diplomas?
11% Citywide Average
How many students drop out?
10% Citywide Average

Are students prepared for college?

How many students graduate with test scores high enough to enroll at CUNY without remedial help?
32% Citywide Average
How many students take a college-level course or earn a professional certificate?
41% Citywide Average
How many graduate and enter college within 18 months?
63% Citywide Average
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

How does this school serve English Language Learners?

How many former English language learners score 3-4 on the State ELA exam?
0% Citywide Average
How many English language learners graduate in 4 years?
65% Citywide Average

How does this school serve students with disabilities?

How many students say that students with disabilities are included in all activities?
64% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school offers enough activities and services for their children's needs?
87% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school works to achive the goals of their students' IEPs?
90% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say they are satisfied with the IEP development process at this school?
89% Citywide Average
How many special ed students graduate in 4 years?
60% Citywide Average
For more information about our data sources, see About Our Data

Programs and Admissions

Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School
Admissions Method: Limited Unscreened
Program Description


Language Courses


Advanced Placement (AP) courses

AP English


Boys PSAL teams

Baseball, Basketball, Volleyball, Wrestling

Girls PSAL teams

Basketball, Outdoor Track, Softball, Volleyball

Read about admissions, academics, and more at this school on the NYCDOE’s School Finder
NYC Department of Education: School Finder

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