N.Y.C. Lab School for Collaborative Studies
Challenging academics within a supportive environment
Limited course offerings, drab building
Its rare to find a high school as attuned to the peculiar charms and vulnerabilities of teen-dom as the NYC Lab School for Collaborative Studies, one of the most successful small high schools in the city. When students are anxious, depressed, isolated or afraid, we believe theyre hijacked, said principal Brooke Jackson, to an auditorium filled with middle school families embarking on their umpteenth high school tour.
Lab is a relief in so many ways, boasting stellar college acceptances to the likes of Princeton, Yale and the University of Chicago, yet offering a safe port where teens can truly be teens. A parent calls it a mecca for quirky, smart kids who can handle the work.
Inclusion is a centerpiece of Lab. Most classes are team-taught (one member of the team is certified to teach special education), and roughly five students in each have special needs, while other classes incorporate a few kids who receive tutoring from a special education teacher. The ASD Nest program brings in students from a feeder school in East Harlem who are on the autism spectrum. About three of these children are integrated into a given classroom in this growing program.
Students are integral to the workings of the school to an unusual degree, from the student-led clubs, which range from sporty and goofy (ping pong, cereal tasting) to the serious-minded (HIV Action, Model United Nations). They oversee most aspects of Lab Theater Companys three annual performances. Seniors tutor younger peers in math and lead small group advisories to help freshmen adjust to the school. Alumni love to visit and say they entered college ready to speak up, ask questions and work well with others, according to the administration.
Teens who choose Lab will make the most of it if they fully embrace Labbie culture. Some teachers, and the principal, choose to be called by their first names and most staff function more like coaches than lecturers, roaming the classroom and offering advice as teens work on their assigned tasks. It is common to hear the scrape of chairs and tables as students rearrange their classrooms to facilitate conversation. Teachers embrace teens in all their slouchy glory; it is part of the learning, the principal said, to learn how to use things like iPods and skateboards appropriately in school. If a child needs a break from class, she can take a lap around the drab buildingfondly dubbed the concrete donut by students. A senior, who was unhappy in his middle school, said, I have been loved here.
Academics are rigorous and designed to prepare all students for four-year colleges. Yet Lab plans for the fact that children mature at different rates academically, as well as socially. The school offers unusual flexibility in math; if an 8th-grader did not take Regents-level algebra in middle school, for example, its not too late to jump on the track leading to advanced placement calculus by taking both algebra and geometry freshman year.
All teachers have certification in their areas of expertise, and every student is required to take four years of math and four years of science. If a student doesnt feel ready for the rigors of calculus or physics in senior year, however, he can choose forensics or an easier math class instead. Jackson said, We try to find that sweet spot between anxiety and boredom.
Lab keeps in mind that girls are at risk of dropping back in math and science in middle school; several female math teachers provide role models for them. In AP calculus we noticed about two-thirds of the students were female, while a computer coding class had the reverse male-to-female ratio.
Juniors and seniors undertake independent research projects. Juniors complete a college-style research paper and seniors do a year-long project that culminates in an "oral defense" before faculty.
Ninth-graders sample music, art and theater and then may choose a track to follow through all four years. The school offers about 15 sports with an emphasis on give-it-a-try fun, not pure competition.
One downside, according to a senior who has her sights set on an engineering degree in college, is the limited class choice due to the small size of the school. I would have liked more computer science, she said, but it wasnt offered until senior year. Another downside is the fact that Lab is one of three schools sharing a common building, though they seem to make it work. The teen-friendly Chelsea location helps; theres a pizza place right around the corner.
Admissions: Selective admissions with priority to District 2 residents. Lab Middle School students do not get priority in admissions. Open houses are conducted during the fall. Check the school's website for dates and times. (Lydie Raschka, October 2014)
About the students
About the school
Is this school safe?
About the leadership
About the teachers
How many graduate?
Are students prepared for college?
How does this school serve students with disabilities?
Programs and Admissions
Collaborative work and interdisciplinary projects; all courses are Honors or AP.
Advanced Placement (AP) courses
AP Computer Science, AP English Language and Composition, AP English Literature and Composition, AP Environmental Science, AP Psychology, AP Spanish, AP U.S. History
Boys PSAL teams
Baseball, Basketball, Indoor Track, Soccer
Girls PSAL teams
Basketball, Cross Country, Flag Football, Golf, Soccer, Softball, Tennis, Volleyball
Coed PSAL teams
Manhattan NY 10011