47 The American Sign Language and English Secondary School

Grades 9-12
223 East 23rd Street
Manhattan NY 10010
Phone: 917-326-6668
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Our Insights

What’s Special

Deaf and hearing students learn sign language

The Downside

Below average graduation rate

At The American Sign Language (ASL) and English Secondary School, hearing and deaf students learn alongside each other in classes staffed with professional sign interpreters. The school draws students come from all over the city, including Staten Island and Far Rockaway. Roughly 25 percent of the students are deaf or hard-of-hearing and most others are hearing kids with deaf siblings or parents. The school also attracts hearing students interested in learning sign language.

The school is housed in a 1920s-era building it shares with the American Sign Language and English Lower School, which has a separate administration and teaching staff. The high school’s facilities include large classrooms, a gym and weight room, computer lab, renovated science lab and a cozy library with couches and colorful rugs.

Students enjoy a calm and close-knit environment that embraces deaf culture, which Principal Wafta Shama describes as a culture of communication. “Hand gestures, feet stomping and touching people to get their attention are essential. In ASL it’s not rude to point,”said Shama.

About 25 percent of the teachers are deaf and roughly half of the staff knows sign language. Students and staff are given sign names by their deaf peers. “Only a deaf person can give you a sign name and it’s based on a personal trait,” said Shama whose sign name is three fingers forming a “W” swiped across the forehead. It represents leadership.

Parents and students feel welcome and safe in the school and give high marks to teachers based on their responses to the 2011-12 Learning Environment Survey (LES). Teachers, however, offer a more mixed review on the LES, with at least a third responding that the school does not set high enough standards for student learning or prepares students to achieve goals after graduation. The school’s graduation rate is below the citywide average.

Students have daily instruction in American Sign Language (ASL) and are grouped according to skill level. Teachers encourage students to practice their signing by scheduling “voice off” days where kids are expected to sign in all their classes. Students also hone their skills in the ASL computer lab where they prepare video presentations and record signing exercises for teachers to review.  

All other courses are taught in English with the assistance of sign language interpreters. Class sizes are capped at 18 so students have plenty of open space to communicate with each other. One downside to the school’s size is its limited selection of courses. It does not offer chemistry or physics, and trigonometry is the highest level of math taught. For more advanced instruction, students may take classes at Baruch College and La Guardia Community College.

Elective classes include art, creative writing, drumming, film and food nutrition. African Dance is offered through a program sponsored by the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Students also serve as reading and ASL buddies with students in the lower school. Tenth-graders and advanced 9th-grade students take a course in writing and reading sponsored by Baruch College.

The school fields a PSAL team in boys basketball and offers intra-mural options in basketball, volleyball, track and cross-country. Students can participate in after-school clubs such as knitting, academic bowl, chess, and comic books.

Special education: There are self-contained and ICT (Integrated Collaborative Teaching) classes. The school has classes for deaf students with severe disabilities.

College: Each year some graduates attend Gallaudet University, the only college in the world designed to serve deaf and hard-of-hearing students. Other popular choices include La Guardia Community College which has a sign language interpretation program, SUNY at Stony Brook and Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island.

Admissions: Priority to American Sign Language & English Lower School Students and then to students citywide. Admissions is based on an interview, review of a writing sample as well as the applicant’s grades, test scores and attendance. (Laura Zingmond, November 2012)

Read more

School Stats

Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

Is this school safe and well-run?

From 2016-17 NYC School Survey

How many teachers say order and discipline are maintained at this school?
77% Citywide Average
How many students say they feel safe in the hallways, bathrooms and locker rooms?
85% Citywide Average
How many students think bullying happens most or all of the time at this school?
36% Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?
80% Citywide Average
How many teachers say they would recommend this school to other families?
81% Citywide Average

From 2015-16 NY State Report Card

How many students were suspended?
3% Citywide Average

From this school's most recent Quality Review Report

Are teachers effective?

From 2016-17 School Quality Guide

How many teachers have 3 or more years of experience teaching?
74% Citywide Average
Years of principal experience at this school

How do students perform academically?

From 2016-17 School Quality Guide

How many students graduate in 4 years?
77% Citywide Average
How many students graduate with test scores high enough to enroll at CUNY without remedial help?
37% Citywide Average
How many students take a college-level course or earn a professional certificate?
38% Citywide Average
How many graduates stay enrolled in college for at least 3 semesters?
64% Citywide Average

From 2017 NY State Graduation Outcomes

How many graduates earn Advanced Regents diplomas?
13% Citywide Average

Who does this school serve?

From 2017-18 Demographic Snapshot

Free or reduced priced lunch
Students with disabilities
English language learners

From 2016-17 School Quality Guide

Average daily attendance
87% Citywide Average
How many students miss 18 or more days of school?
37% Citywide Average

How does this school serve special populations?

From 2016-17 School Quality Guide

How many students with disabilities graduate in 4 years?
59% Citywide Average

For more information about our data sources, see About Our Data · More DOE statistics for this school

Directory Details

Programs and Admissions

American Sign Language Studies Program
Admissions Method: Screened
Program Description

Students partake in a four-year ASL program graduating with a proficiency in American Sign Language. Graduates can expect to obtain the knowledge and skills necessary to work with the Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities. In addition to learning American Sign Language, students are exposed to the culture and social perspective of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities.


Language Courses

American Sign Language

Advanced Placement (AP) courses

AP Biology, AP English Language and Composition, AP English Literature and Composition


Coed PSAL teams


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

Contact & Location


Gramercy (District 2)
Trains: 6 Line, R Line, W Line to 23rd St; L Line to 3rd Ave; 4 Line, 5 Line, N Line, Q Line to 14th St-Union Square
Buses: M1, M101, M102, M103, M14A, M14D, M15, M15-SBS, M2, M23-SBS, M3, M34-SBS, M34A-SBS, M55, M9


Watfa Shama
Parent Coordinator

Other Details

Shared campus?
This school shares the building with its Lower School
Metal detectors?


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