Essex Street Academy

Grades: 9-12
Staff Pick Staff Pick for Special Ed

Our Insights

What’s Special

Strong, engaging instruction; inclusive environment; school day starts later than typical

The Downside

Limited course offerings

Essex Street Academy is a friendly place where shy students come out of their shell, outgoing kids have plenty of opportunities to speak up, and all are encouraged to get involved. Small class sizes and engaging academics help students excel and prepare for college.

The small school with a progressive approach to education is part of the New York Performance Standards Consortium, a group of schools exempt from administering all but the English Regents exam. Eleventh- and 12th-graders must complete PBATs (performance based assessment tasks) on topics of their choosing, which involve extensive research and reading as well as writing and presenting papers in English, math, history, science, a foreign language and art.

Most classes are structured around themes. For instance, social studies offerings include classes such as "World Religions" and "Cold War and Constitutional Law"; microbiology and neuroscience are among the science options. Some courses have unconventional names, such as an earth science class that focuses on soil called “Sucio” (it means "dirty" in Spanish), and "Drosophilia Love," where students study genetics through experiments with fruit flies. Math classes follow a more traditional sequence, running from algebra through calculus. Computer science is also offered.

Teachers encourage students to be reflective and independent in their work; all classes emphasize writing, research and discussion. In 9th-grade English, students examine the hero’s journey by reading The Odyssey and watching the film O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and then writing their own hero’s myth. In a calculus class we observed, students sat in a circle discussing the equations and approaches they used to solve a challenging problem.

“I really value that this is not a test-based school. I can learn the way I learn best,” said one student.

The vibe is warm and inclusive. Students come from all over the city, some from highly competitive middle schools and others from neighborhood ones. All students we spoke with said they felt welcomed and challenged in their classes and that they valued having friends from backgrounds different from their own. Frank discussions about race and identity are woven into lessons, and students are encouraged to celebrate their heritage.

Essex Street does a good job of serving a broad range of students—lifting up struggling ones while challenging high achievers. Key to its success are class sizes of about 20, which help teachers get to know their students well and tailor assignments to their skills and interests.

“The strength of our school has always been relationships,” said principal Wallace Simpson, a former assistant principal and teacher at the school who first joined the staff in 2006. “And it’s hard to build relationships in classes of over 30.” Simpson is well-regarded by teachers, based on their responses to the NYC School Survey. Many, like Simpson, have worked at the school for years.

Typical of small schools, Essex Street’s course offerings are limited. Students may take college classes at CUNY schools or NYU. One senior who took an NYU class said all the writing she had to do at Essex Street prepared her to handle the college-level work.

Students may study Spanish or French. Students studying French have the opportunity to travel to France during spring break.

Studio art, music and theater are offered as classes during the day and as activities after school. Swim classes are offered in an on-site pool. All students perform community service.

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

One big perk: The school day starts at 9:25 a.m., which is a boon to tired teens commuting from all over the city. Students may leave the building for lunch if they get to school on time.

There's a range of after-school clubs and activities, such as the feminism, LGBTQIA and video game clubs, mock trial, running, cheerleading, yearbook and yoga. Students may participate in campus-wide sports programs, which include a fledgling swim team.

The school invests a lot in its college office, funding counselors, on-site SAT courses and trips to visit college campuses. Graduates attend a range of schools, including CUNY and SUNY colleges as well as private and out-of-state schools; many earn full or substantial scholarships. 

SPECIAL EDUCATION: There are integrated co-teaching (ICT) classes and Special Education Teacher Support Services (SETSS). Students we spoke with praise their teachers for being adept at tailoring assignments and supports to accommodate their disabilities.

ADMISSIONS: Citywide. The school does not consider grades or test scores in admissions. (Laura Zingmond, May 2018)

 

 

School Stats

Academics

School
Citywide
How many students graduate in 4 years?
 
98%
How many students with disabilities graduate in 4 years?
 
100%
Average daily attendance
 
85%
How many students miss 18 or more days of school?
 
44%
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school offers enough activities and services for their children's needs?
 
80%
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school works to achive the goals of their students' IEPs?
 
85%
From the 2020-21 School Quality Guide and 2020-21 NYC School Survey

Students

353
Number of students
624 Citywide Average

Race/Ethnicity


School
Citywide
Low-income students
 
65%
Students with disabilities
 
26%
Multilingual learners
 
2%
From the 2020-21 Demographic Snapshot

Safety & Vibe

School
Citywide
How many students were suspended?
 
0%
How many students say they feel safe in the hallways, bathrooms and locker rooms?
 
98%
How many students think bullying happens most or all of the time at this school?
 
14%
How many students say that some are bullied at their school because of their gender or sexual orientation?
 
9%
From the 2020-21 NYC School Survey and 2019-20 NY State Report Card

Faculty & Staff

School
Citywide
How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?
 
90%
5.7
Years of principal experience at this school
7 Citywide Average
106
Number of students for each guidance counselor or social worker
157 Citywide Average

Teachers’ Race/Ethnicity


How many teachers have 3 or more years of experience teaching?
 
100%
Are teachers effective?
From the 2020-21 NYC School Survey, 2020-21 School Quality Guide, 2019-20 NY State Report Card, 2021 Guidance Counselor Report and this school's most recent Quality Review Report

Advanced Courses

Which students have access to advanced courses at this school? Learn more

Calculus

 
16%

Computer Science

 
0%

Physics

Not offered in 2019-20

Advanced Foreign Language

 
5%

AP/IB Arts, English, History or Social Science

Not offered in 2019-20

AP/IB Math or Science

Not offered in 2019-20

Music

 
14%
From unpublished, anonymized data from the 2019-20 school year provided by the New York State Education Department, brought to you by

College Readiness

School
Citywide
How many students graduate with test scores high enough to enroll at CUNY without remedial help?
 
81%
How many students take a college-level course or earn a professional certificate?
 
81%
From the 2020-21 School Quality Guide
How many students filled out a FAFSA form by the end of their senior year?
 
86%
From the 2020-21 FAFSA data released by Federal Student Aid, brought you by
How many graduates of this school received Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) funding to attend a NYS college?
 
37%
How many of those TAP recipients made it through college? Learn more
From unpublished, anonymized student-level data for the class of 2014 provided by the New York State Higher Education Services Corporation (HESC) in coordination with the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC), brought to you by
For more information about our data sources, see About Our Data · More DOE statistics for this school

Programs & Admissions

From the 2021 High School Directory

Essex Street Academy

Admissions Method: Open

Program Description:

We provide a supportive, performance-based, college-preparatory program for all students. Please visit our school website for tour and open house dates.

Offerings

From the 2021 High School Directory

Language Courses

French, Spanish

Boys PSAL teams

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

Girls PSAL teams

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

Read about admissions, academics, and more at this school on NYCDOE’s MySchools

NYC Department of Education: MySchools

Contact & Location

Location

350 Grand Street
Manhattan NY 10002

Trains: B Line, D Line to Grand St; F Line, J Line, M Line, Z Line to Delancey St-Essex St

Buses: B39, M103, M14A, M14D, M15, M15-SBS, M21, M22, M9


Contact

Principal: Wallace Simpson

Parent Coordinator: Meghan Gray

Website

Other Details

Shared campus? Yes

This school shares the Seward Park Educational Campus with four other schools

Uniforms required? No
Metal detectors? No

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