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High School for Environmental Studies

Grades: 9-12
Staff Pick
444 West 56th Street
Manhattan NY 10019
Phone: 212-262-8113

Our Insights

What’s Special

Strong enviromental studies curriculum; lots of internships and honors and college-level courses

The Downside

Graduation rate for students with special needs has a ways to go

The High School for Environmental Studies (HSES) is changing for the better thanks to a renewed commitment to its environmental theme, more support for struggling students, and a nice array of elective, honors and college-level courses. The school has an impressive range of partnerships, and many students participate in internships throughout the city.

Though the highly selective Honors Academy only admits a small group of students, there are plenty of honors classes and college-level courses open to all who qualify. We met several 11th-graders in an Advanced Placement (AP) biology class who were taking a challenging load of AP and honors classes even though they weren't in the Honors Academy.

During our visit, we saw lots of engaging instruction. Many classrooms were nicely decorated and lined with student projects; students seemed relaxed and attentive. Students write essays in all subjects, not just English and history; hands-on work is commonplace too. The school received mainly top marks for instruction and environment in its most recent Quality Review.

“Teachers go out of their way to make the lessons relatable,” said a senior.

The school overhauled its guidance strategy to address complaints that there was not enough support for students who were falling behind. Guidance counselors now work with the same group of students for all four years, which helps the counselors get to know them better. Teachers serve as mentors to struggling students to ensure that they don’t slip through the cracks; the staff also identifies the lowest-performing third of all incoming freshman and assigns each one of them a mentor as well.

HSES still has a ways to go for students with special needs, whose graduation rate is below the citywide average. Teachers and administrators we spoke with said the changes they made are relatively new and are geared to help students with special needs too. 

Amber Najmi became principal in the middle of the 2015-16 school year, after serving for two years as the principal of the High School for Language of Diplomacy. Najmi taught English at HSES years prior, and among her first initiatives when she returned to the school was to reinvigorate its focus on environmental studies, which by that point had dwindled to a few elective classes and activities.

Now, all freshman take an Intro to Environment course that was developed in partnership with the University of Vermont and Shelbourne Farms—a nonprofit that helps schools educate about sustainable farming. All 10th-graders take an ethics course, where they examine issues from both outcome-based (what’s the best or most efficient) and duty-based (what’s the most moral) perspectives. With support from Cornell University, the school is overhauling its rooftop garden to create hydroponic and aquaponic labs.

A new video and audio production studio is being built with support from CBS. Students will develop films that focus on environmental storytelling using a curriculum developed by the Kanbar Institute of Film & Television at New York University.

There’s a range of AP courses offered, including multiple sections of AP Environmental Science and BC Calculus. Students may earn college credit for taking courses in advanced ethics and economics, which were developed by the University of Vermont and SUNY College of Environment Science and Forestry, respectively.

An internship program targets mainly 10th-graders, though students in all grades may participate. Each year students fan out across the city, interning at places such as the New York Botanical Gardens, New York Hall of Science, the Manhattan Borough President’s office and the City Parks Foundation.

Foreign language instruction is offered in Spanish, Italian, Mandarin and French. There is a nice range of electives, sports and extracurricular activities. In a culinary arts class we observed, students were creating “mindful meals,” using food grown from sustainable farms.

Students may study theater, music and visual arts. Gym electives include yoga, weight training and dance, the latter taught by an instructor from the nearby Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.

There is also a nice variety of boys and girls sports teams, as well as plenty of student-run clubs.

A full-time college counselor along with guidance counselors meet with 11th-graders multiple times during their scheduled English class to walk them through the application and financial aid process. Tenth-graders are introduced to the college process through an introductory seminar. Many graduates attend CUNY and SUNY schools, and some attend private and out-of-state colleges.

SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school has ICT (integrated co-teaching) classes and SETSS.

ADMISSIONS: The Honors Academy admits roughly 30 students based on a review of their grades, test scores, and records of attendance and punctuality. It typically has many more applicants than available seats. Admission to the Environmental Studies programs, which is most of the school, is based on the educational option formula, designed to ensure a mix of students of different abilities. (Laura Zingmond, May 2018)



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School Stats

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

Is this school safe and well-run?

From 2018-19 NYC School Survey

How many teachers say order and discipline are maintained at this school?
75% Citywide Average
How many students say they feel safe in the hallways, bathrooms and locker rooms?
86% Citywide Average
How many students think bullying happens most or all of the time at this school?
37% Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?
79% Citywide Average
How many teachers say they would recommend this school to other families?
80% Citywide Average

From 2017-18 NY State Report Card

How many students were suspended?
2% Citywide Average

From this school's most recent Quality Review Report

Are teachers effective?

From 2018-19 School Quality Guide

How many teachers have 3 or more years of experience teaching?
76% Citywide Average
Years of principal experience at this school

How do students perform academically?

From 2018-19 School Quality Guide

How many students graduate in 4 years?
82% Citywide Average
How many students graduate with test scores high enough to enroll at CUNY without remedial help?
48% Citywide Average
How many students take a college-level course or earn a professional certificate?
41% Citywide Average
How many graduates stay enrolled in college for at least 3 semesters?
67% Citywide Average

Who does this school serve?

From 2019-20 Demographic Snapshot

Free or reduced priced lunch
Students with disabilities
English language learners

From 2018-19 School Quality Guide

How many students miss 18 or more days of school?
38% Citywide Average

From 2020 School Directories

Uniforms required?

How does this school serve special populations?

From 2018-19 School Quality Guide

How many students with disabilities graduate in 4 years?
66% Citywide Average
How many English language learners graduate in 4 years?
68% Citywide Average

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

Environmental Studies
Admissions Method: Ed. Opt.
Program Description:

Interdisciplinary program emphasizing environmental studies: the natural environment, the urban environment, and environmental ethics. Students are expected to engage in research, environmental projects and internships, and complete a senior thesis.

Honors Academy
Admissions Method: Screened
Program Description:

Mathematics and science research, work in university laboratories.


Language Courses

French, Italian, Mandarin, Spanish

Advanced Placement (AP) courses

AP World History: Modern, AP Psychology, AP Calculus AB, AP Statistics, AP Environmental Science, AP English Literature and Composition, AP Chemistry, AP Computer Science Principles, AP United States History, AP U.S. Government and Politics, AP Biology


Boys PSAL teams

Baseball, Basketball, Cross Country, Handball, Soccer, Tennis, Volleyball

Girls PSAL teams

Basketball, Handball, Soccer, Softball, Tennis, Volleyball

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

Contact & Location


Hell's Kitchen (District 2)
Trains: 1 Line, A Line, C Line, B Line, D Line to 59th St-Columbus Circle; E Line to 50th St; N Line, Q Line, R Line, W Line to 57th St
Buses: BxM2, M10, M104, M11, M12, M20, M31, M5, M50, M57, M66, M7, X1, X12, X14, X30, X42, X7, X9


Amber Najmi
Parent Coordinator
Guillermo Pena Matos

Other Details

Shared campus?
This school shares a building with Independence HS
Uniforms required?
Metal detectors?

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