Baccalaureate School for Global Education
Astoria NY 11106
Ambitious IB program in a laid-back atmosphere
No gym and a shortage of computers
Serving a diverse population primarily from Queens, the Baccalaureate School for Global Studies combines serious learning with a laid-back atmosphere. Kids whirl through typical high school requirements by the end of 10th grade, then take demanding upper level courses. It is the first public school in New York City in which all students prepare for the International Baccalaureate (IB), a degree widely accepted at universities in more than 100 countries. The school is located in a former pocketbook factory, an inviting space, where light streams in through lofty windows.
Many staff wear jeans and students are trusted to keep cell phones out of sight. Were not a big rule place, said guidance counselor Timothy David-Lang. Adding to the informal feel, kids carry coats and backpacks from class to class because lockers are located inside rooms so access is only allowed at the beginning, middle and end of the day. Music wafted out of the teen-friendly college office filled with posters and art. Seniors can go out every day for lunch if they wish. Its cozier, said an 8th grade girl, the environment is more friendly.
In grades 7 through 10 students prepare for the New York State Regents exams and the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program, which includes 100 hours of community service and a creative personal project. On the day of our visit the 10th grade class was off to the main branch of the New York Public Library with their advisors to do research for their projects - past topics of which include My Ecuadorian Culture, Writing Fiction Stories, How to Make a Thermoelectric Cooler and Animation - My Future.
Students in grades 11 and 12 study six subject areas: chemistry or biology, math, History of the Americas, visual arts or technology, English and another language (Spanish, Mandarin or French). Other features include a Theory of Knowledge course, 150 hours of Creativity, Action and Service (CAS) and a research essay of up to 4000-words. CAS might involve volunteering in a library or tutoring, exploring the arts and getting involved in a sport.
The school day runs from 8 a.m. to 2:10 p.m. and classes are 70 minutes long. Up to a third of the 7th grade class and some upperclassmen stay for another hour, the 8th period, its called, for extra help or simply to work away from distractions. Students said they have between one and three hours of homework a night. You cant be lazy, said an 8th grader.
In a 7th grade history class we watched students jot down their thoughts after theyd read and discussed primary sources and differing viewpoints on the legacy of Christopher Columbus. The amount of writing they churned out was impressive. Graduate students from Sarah Lawrence teach a creative writing elective and an after school seminar.
In most classrooms, students sat in groups of four at square tables. They love discussions, said Mike Mehan, a math teacher in his first year at the school. He and a colleague said they employ mini explorative projects - like cutting up strips of numbers written in scientific notation and asking kids to order and convert them into standard notation. On the other hand, an 11th and 12th grade math class is entirely on Power Point.
One challenge is bringing incoming 9th graders up to speed. Two teachers expressed a desire for more professional development, which they said has been cut back. Another said more computers would be helpful especially when there is an elective involving computers like one called Game Development.
A number of the staff speak Spanish and try to meet the needs of those who speak no English at home. During the course of the day David-Lang checked in with a students parent, in Spanish, by phone. Later, he mentioned that the schools small size poses social challenges for some teens.
Gym takes place outside in one of two nearby parks, in the fitness room or in the mirrored studio filled with yoga gear. The school has a band but no orchestra or drama. Clubs vary depending on interest but one constant is a service club called Helping Hands and another is the newspaper. Many of these motivated kids pursue talents on their own time.
College admissions: Peter Wilson, long-time college advisor, works closely with students: If I dont see kids for a week I go find them, he said. Rising seniors gather in the summer for six weeks to work on college applications and essays. Nearly all graduates go to four-year colleges. Acceptances have included the University of Michigan, Yale, Columbia, Brown, Barnard and Sarah Lawrence. About half the seniors receive IB diplomas.
Special education: The special education population is small and their needs are met on an individual basis.
Admissions: There is an open house in mid-December for prospective 7th graders. Students must submit report cards and a recommendation. The school administers a test on reading, writing and math skills in January. Group interviews take place in March. Incoming 9th graders take their test in the fall. Roughly a third of the 9th grade class leaves to attend specialized or private high schools opening up about 25 spots. Our admissions process is not designed to only take the top students, said David-Lang. We take very seriously our mission to provide an elite credential to a wide-range of students. (November 2011, Lydie Raschka)
About the students
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Programs and Admissions
Middle Years Programme and Diploma Programme for achievement in math, science, technology, humanities, arts, foreign language, and community service requirement.
Chinese (Mandarin), French, Spanish
Boys PSAL teams
Girls PSAL teams
Basketball, Soccer, Softball