Hunter College Elementary School
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Superior academics for very bright children
Daunting admissions process
Hunter College Elementary School for intellectually gifted children is one of the most sought after schools in the city. Nearly 2,200 families request an application for their children to take an IQ test to be considered for admission (at a cost of about $350, plus $70 for an application fee). Of those, between 250 and 300 meet the cutoff necessary to be interviewed, which has been in the 99th percentile in recent years. A total of 50 are chosen for the kindergarten class.
The school offers lots of intellectual stimulation, a fast-paced curriculum, and a peer group in which very bright children can feel at home no matter how unusual their abilities. Kids can talk about atomic theory or Greek mythology without being labeled a "nerd" and can bounce ideas off other children who are just as bright.
At first glance, the classrooms look much like those in any other elementary school, with piles of blocks, bins of picture books, and children's artwork posted on the walls. But look more closely and you'll see the block structures are more elaborate, the books are more difficult and the level of sophistication is higher than in a typical elementary school. During one of our visits, kindergartners not only played chess, they played an Ancient Egyptian board game. A third grader gave a presentation on Chinese geography and history and taught her classmates a few phrases in Mandarin. Fifth graders discussed the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle as well as the roots of American democracy in the Magna Carta.
Children not only learn complex ideas, they also learn to explain them to others. On another visit, sixth graders created Rube Goldberg machines—elaborate contraptions of cardboard, pulleys, chutes, balls and dominos—designed to perform the simple task of zipping a zipper The children were then asked to use the devices to explain the principles of force and acceleration—Newton's Laws of Motion—to third graders.
Hunter is firmly in the progressive camp, with an emphasis on teaching children to work independently, to discover their own interests, and to develop academic skills through hands-on projects. There is no homework in kindergarten and up to 1 -2 hours a night by 6th grade. Although the work is demanding, the focus is not on acceleration so much as delving into topics in depth.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school has two "learning specialists" for children who have very high IQs but who may have other special needs.
AFTER SCHOOL: Some 40 clubs and activities are available from 3 to 6 p.m. Parents pay a fee for the after-school program.
ADMISSION: New York City residents from all five boroughs may apply. Parents must submit an application online via the Hunter College Elementary School website in September the year before their child starts school. Children who have their 4th birthday before December 31 are eligible. Admission is determined by an IQ test, a written application, and a simulated classroom experience to see how they work in a group. Notifications are sent in February. (Clara Hemphill, May 2011, February 2014; updated by phone, August 2016; admissions update 2021)Read more