High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology
Brooklyn NY 11220
Big school that feels like a small one, a software engineering program
Large class sizes in the upper grades
Every morning, Principal Philip Weinberg and a few assistant principals head out of the gothic-style building housing the High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology and hit the street, stationing themselves in bodega and candy-store doorways along the block between the subway and the school. For students who arrive on time, it's a warm welcome; for stragglers, a gently persuasive deterrent to lingering. This personal, human approach is emblematic of Weinberg's leadership: meet students where they are, respect them as people, and hold them to high, but realistic, standards of behavior.
Telecommunications successfully straddles the divide between large, urban institution and small, intimate school. With about 1,200 students, it's big enough to offer plenty of challenging Advanced Placement courses and technology electives (if rather few fine-art options), along with clubs, athletic teams (many very strong), and activities to engage students after school. But the school is also small enough that kids can get to know their teachers well and easily build relationships with faculty and administrators.
The school lives up to its name as a technology-rich environment, with multiple computer labs, a television studio, photography labs, and online access in the library and in every classroom. Notably, teachers can post homework assignments, grades, class handouts, and other communications online, for easy studentand parentaccess. But in another delicate balance, technology doesn't overshadow inquiry and exploration in the classroom. On the day we visited, one English class discussed the concepts of sacrifice and "karma," based on its reading of a fable from The Mahabharata, an ancient Sanskrit epic poem. A group of sophomores studied Web development, html coding, and Java (required for all students), and in an AP English class, students in tight, small groups were happily arguing the merits of Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, supported by Aristotle's Poetics. In other classes, teaching was fairly traditional, with teachers at the chalkboard and students seated at desks in neat rows. Some rooms were surprisingly barren of books and student work, while others showcased projects, exams, and student writing.
Because many teachers are both young and relatively new to the school, teacher prep periods are used for common planning. All 9th-grade teachers meet regularly with one other and with administrators. The incoming class is divided into two groups with five teachers each; teachers plan together, teach together, and confer easily and often about student progress; and kids have a chance to get to know each other within a fairly small, but not claustrophobic, peer group.
Weinberg has been part of Telecommunications since the 1980s, as a teacher, tennis coach, and administrator, and is well-known to the local community in Sunset Park. His enthusiasm is irrepressible and contagious. Families in Park Slope and other Brooklyn neighborhoods seek out the school as well, as a less-intense alternative to Brooklyn's handful of well-regarded but huge high schools. As a result, Weinberg says, the school receives "many thousands" of applications for about 300 9th-grade seats each year.
The renovated school building is pristine and spacious. When class periods change, teachers and administrators watch noisy but orderly hallways for iPods, cell phones, and other off-limits electronics. Girls in scanty tops are strongly cajoled to cover up, and even offered extra layers if their clothes are too skimpy. Because the upstairs cafeteria is small, the school has six lunch sessions, beginning in midmorning. Kids say they don't love the foodsome opt for double periods of math and skip lunchbut seem content to chat and read.
College: Students meet with college counselors in their junior year, and teachers play an active role in recruiting kids to their alma maters, including Smith, Wellesley, Columbia, Oberlin, the University of Wisconsin, and Weinberg's alma mater, Swarthmore. Other students have gone on to Yale, the University of Chicago, Amherst, and SUNY campuses.
English as a Second Language: ESL support is available for the many students who come from Latino, Chinese, Russian or other immigrant homes.
Special education: There are 12 "collaborative team teaching" (CTT) classes, where two educators teach a class mixing children with special needs and general education students. Special-needs students are strongly encouraged to achieve; we saw a lively Math B class where a few students received extra help. The vibrant teaching engaged all the kids, and it was impossible to distinguish between the general education and the special-needs students. Weinberg says that developing an "exemplary" CTT program at Telecommunications is one of his goals.
After school: The school offers numerous academic, social, and athletic opportunities. Teams practice in the school's gym or on borrowed fields because the school doesn't have its own.
Admissions: The school admits students under the Ed Opt formula designed to ensure a mix of high, average and low-achieving students. (This school is featured in NYC's Best Public High Schools: A Parent's Guide . Helen Zelon, November 2005)
About the students
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Programs and Admissions
A college preparatory institution offering a wide range of challenging academic courses. Computers are used as a tool to enhance the academic lives of our students.
Advanced Placement (AP) courses
AP Biology, AP Calculus, AP Chemistry, AP English, AP Physics, AP Statistics, AP US History, AP World History
Boys PSAL teams
Baseball, Basketball, Bowling, Cross Country, Handball, Outdoor Track, Soccer, Swimming, Volleyball
Girls PSAL teams
Basketball, Bowling, Handball, Soccer, Softball, Swimming, Tennis, Volleyball