Essex Street Academy

Grades 9-12
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What’s Special

Offbeat courses, relaxed environment, college advisory.

The Downside

Limited course offerings

Our Review

AUGUST 2017 UPDATE: Wallace Simpson, a former assisntant principal at the school became principal in September 2016.

2011 REVIEW: Essex Street Academy is a small, artsy school with a progressive approach to education. Its small class sizes, untraditional courses and supportive staff keep students engaged in classes, involved in extracurricular activities, and for the most part, on track for college.

Essex is part of the Coalition of Essential Schools (CES) a national network of schools founded by Theodore Sizer, who believed that small schools that concentrate on teaching a few subjects well are more effective than large schools that teach a wide array of subjects.

Our strength is our school culture and how we take care of our students, said Principal Erin Carstensen. A member of the schools founding faculty, Carstensen was a teacher and assistant principal at the school before taking the helm in June, 2010.

The vibe throughout the school is calm and informal. During free periods, seniors can work on college applications in the principals office, a comfy space decorated with wood paneling and a faux fireplace. In classes, teachers deliver lessons in conversational tones; students are at ease speaking up in class and chatting with teachers in the hallways.

Many Essex students begin high school performing below grade level. To move kids forward, class sizes are kept small and serve multiple grades, typically combining students in grades 9 with 10 and grades 11 with 12. Small-group advisories give all students a forum to address social and academic issues.

Most classes are structured around themes. For instance, social studies offerings include Conflict and Religion, U.S. in the Cold War, and Understanding the Holocaust. Some have unconventional names like Write for Your Life, Drosophilia Love (intro to genetics) and the senior chemistry class, Fun with Fleshy Fruit. Math classes are more traditional and run from algebra through calculus.

Lessons are designed to get students to be more reflective and independent in their work. In the Fleshy Fruit class, students wrap up a two-week study of enzymes by designing and conducting experiments that test enzyme reactions and recording their findings in a research paper. In literature class, students examine parallelism in writing, the use of similar word patterns to express similar ideas, while reading James McBrides, The Color of Water.

Essex received a state waiver from administering all but the English Regents exam. In place of high-stakes exams, the teachers use portfolio-based assessments, which require students to demonstrate mastery of their coursework though oral and written presentations.

Like most small schools, Essexs course offerings are limited. There are no Advanced Placement exams, but in foreign languages, students have a choice of studying Spanish or French. Studio art and music are offered to students in all grades. Theater is offered to 11th and 12th graders only.

Located on Manhattans Lower East Side, Essex is one of five small high schools housed in the Seward Park Educational Complex.

The school invests a lot in its college office, funding two counselors, onsite SAT courses and overnight trips to visit college campuses. Roughly 95 percent of graduates from the class of 2011 were accepted to two- or four-year colleges, including Hamilton, Hobart and William Smith, Ithaca, Smith, Syracuse and the University of Rochester.

Special education: Roughly 23 percent of students have special needs. Essex has ICT (Integrated Collaborative Teaching) classes in math and literature, each lead by two teachers. In science and history classes, special education teachers and para-professionals push in support services. Literacy support classes are offered to struggling readers.

After school: Theres a range of after school clubs and activities including film, fitness, mock trial, newspaper, student government, community service and theater. A full list is available on the schools website. Students can apply to ESA Abroad, the schools summer travel program, which funds overseas trips for select students. Past trips have been to Peru, Brazil and Japan. (Laura Zingmond, October, 2011; updated August 2011 with foreign language offerings and new principal)

About the students

Free or reduced priced lunch
Students with disabilities
English language learners

About the school

Shared campus?
This school shares the Seward Park Educational Campus with four other schools
Uniforms required?
Metal detectors?
How crowded? (Full is 100%)
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average


Average daily attendance
85% Citywide Average
How many students are chronically absent?
42% Citywide Average

Is this school safe?

How many teachers say order and discipline are maintained at this school?
77% Citywide Average
How many students think bullying happens most or all of the time at this school?
37% Citywide Average
How many students say they feel safe in the hallways, bathrooms and locker rooms?
85% Citywide Average
How many students say most students treat each other with respect?
57% Citywide Average

About the leadership

Years of principal experience at this school
5.3 Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?
80% Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal has a clear vision for this school?
85% Citywide Average
How many teachers trust the principal?
80% Citywide Average

About the teachers

How many teachers have 3 or more years of experience teaching?
73% Citywide Average
Teacher attendance
97% Citywide Average
How many teachers say they would recommend this school to other families?
81% Citywide Average
How many teachers think the staff collaborate to make this school run effectively?
86% Citywide Average
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

Arts offerings

This school has 2 dedicated spaces for Music and Visual arts
This school has 1 licensed art teacher in Music

Engaging curriculum?

How many students say this school offers enough programs, classes and activities to keep them interested?
72% Citywide Average
How many students say they are challenged in most or all of their classes?
54% Citywide Average
How many students say the programs, classes and activities here encourage them to develop talent outside academics?
71% Citywide Average
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

How many graduate?

How many students graduate in 4 years?
77% Citywide Average
How many graduates earn Advanced Regents diplomas?
11% Citywide Average
How many students drop out?
10% Citywide Average

Are students prepared for college?

How many students graduate with test scores high enough to enroll at CUNY without remedial help?
32% Citywide Average
How many students take a college-level course or earn a professional certificate?
41% Citywide Average
How many graduate and enter college within 18 months?
63% Citywide Average
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

How does this school serve English Language Learners?

How many English language learners graduate in 4 years?
65% Citywide Average

How does this school serve students with disabilities?

This school offers self-contained classes
This school offers team teaching (ICT)
How many students say that students with disabilities are included in all activities?
68% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school offers enough activities and services for their children's needs?
87% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school works to achive the goals of their students' IEPs?
91% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say they are satisfied with the IEP development process at this school?
90% Citywide Average
How many special ed students graduate in 4 years?
60% Citywide Average
For more information about our data sources, see About Our Data

Programs and Admissions

Essex Street Academy
Admissions Method: Limited Unscreened
Program Description

Essex Street Academy provides a supportive, performance-based, college-preparatory program for all students. Please visit our school website for tour and open house dates.


Language Courses

French, Spanish

Advanced Placement (AP) courses

AP Computer Science, AP Spanish


Boys PSAL teams

Badminton, Baseball, Basketball, Bowling, Handball, Volleyball, Wrestling

Girls PSAL teams

Badminton, Basketball, Bowling, Softball, Table Tennis, Tennis, Volleyball

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

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350 Grand Street
Manhattan NY 10002
Lower East Side (District 2)
Trains: B, D to Grand St; F, J, M, Z to Delancey St-Essex St
Buses: B39, M103, M14A, M14D, M15, M15-SBS, M21, M22, M9


Wallace Simpson
Parent Coordinator
Gabriel Fermin

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