Hunter College High School
Brilliant kids and stellar record of college admission
Mountains of homework and lots of stress
Hunter College High School, administered by the City University of New York, is a highly successful, very selective school that prepares its students for the country's most elite colleges. It's known particularly for its strength in the humanities, but it also offers high-level math and science courses. Hunter also has an unusually strong program in music and art. The drama department offers students the chance to write and perform their own plays and musicals.
Classes are smaller than most public high schools, with 25 students in a typical class, compared with 34 in other city high schools. The student body includes students whose parents could afford private school and those from families poor enough to qualify for free lunch. About half the Hunter parents were born outside the United States. Hunter High School accepts children from all five boroughs, and many students come from Queens.
It's a competitive place, and lots of kids are stressed out by mountains of homework and long commutes. But the administration has taken steps to make the place more humane. An all-school hiking trip to Bear Mountain builds school spirit, while community servicewhether tutoring younger children at other schools or planting a community gardenshows students there is more to life than academics. Theres been so much emphasis on academics, said Principal Tony Fisher. We want more emphasis on being a good citizen. We ask them how they are going to use their brains to make the world a better place.
Fisher says he is encouraging the 7th and 8th grade teachers to do "less lecturing, more group work and more hands-on activities" and to spread out due dates for projects and exams so they arent all due on the same day. A survey of seventh graders found they got an average of eight hours of sleep a night. While older students may be sleep-deprived, at least the youngest students are getting a good nights sleep.
Exempt from the states standardized tests and Regents exams, Hunter has the opportunity to shape its own curriculum in a way thats not defined by test prep. There is more emphasis on writing and class discussion than at a typical public high school. Math courses may include topics (like symbolic logic) not covered in Regents-prep class.
Hunter does a particularly good job encouraging girls in science and math. Its not unusual to see plenty of girls in classes typically dominated by boyslike computer science and physics. Female faculty members serve as mentors and are skilled at finding opportunities for both boys and girls outside school--working in a lab at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center or organizing a team to take part in an international math competition like Purple Comet.
College admissions: The guidance department has traditionally offered an unusual level of attention to juniors and seniors as they navigate college admissions. Kids get into top colleges, not only the Ivy League, but also highly selective schools such as Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Rhode Island School of Design. The Wall Street Journal has listed Hunter as one of the top schools in the country (public or private) in terms of admission to highly selective colleges.
Special education: Hunter has a full-time learning specialist who works with students who are "twice exceptional," that is, intellectually gifted with challenges such as autism or hearing loss. Fewer than a dozen students have IEPs, and another dozen or so receive 504 accommodations, such as extra time on tests.
After school: Public School Athletic League (PSAL) teams include volleyball, soccer, swimming, track wrestling and tennis.
Admissions: Children who score in the 90th percentile or above on the standardized reading and math tests given in 5th grade are eligible to take the entrance exam in January of their 6th-grade year. (The cutoff scores have varied in the past.) Well over 2,000 kids take the exam each year; 150 are offered admission. Nearly all 6th graders at Hunter Elementary stay at the school through high school. Call the school for details about admissions procedures for special education and economically disadvantaged students. (Clara Hemphill, May 2011, February 2014)