Quest to Learn

Grades 6-12
Staff Pick for Special Ed
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What’s Special

Kids learn in innovative ways

The Downside

Open-ended projects may not suit every child

Our Review

Quest to Learn offers a novel approach to education based on the principles that make video games enjoyable. It's a radical experiment that may sound flaky, but Q2L is not an oasis for students looking to play video games all day. It's a place where kids learn traditional subjects like history, algebra and chemistry, albeit in an untraditional way.

For example, students pretend they are spies in ancient Greece and re-enact the Peloponnesian War, learning about Athens and Sparta and the difference between oligarchy and democracy in the process. They make up a game to save an imaginary town from environmental disaster, learning real science along the way, or plan a food truck business using math skills.

There are lots of weird names and some techie jargon in the middle school: "Codeworlds" is math, "Mission Lab" is a place where teachers meet to plan lessons, and "systems thinking" is—well, we still aren't really sure what that is. (The high school uses traditional course names so as not to confuse colleges.)

In many ways Quest looks like other schools that incorporate group work and projects. We saw kids clustered around laptops chatting about their latest "quest," as their assignments are called, or engrossed in science experiments. We also saw some kids seated at desks in rows, plenty of old-fashioned textbooks, and students' essays posted on the bulletin boards as you might see in a traditional school.

Children enjoy an unusual amount of choice in their activities: a “menu” of options in history includes making a 30-card quiz on important people and events of the Boston Tea Party. Kids and teachers said class time is about half teacher-led discussion and half project work. Some kids sat idly during open-ended tasks; in the game design, technology and arts class called “Sports of the Mind,” we watched a 6th grader hesitate before the 2-D simulation software Algadoo, while the child next to her assembled a car that zoomed across the screen in minutes.

Students take the same standardized tests as other schools, and all 8th graders take Earth Science and algebra Regents exams. This is a significant challenge because one-third of the students at Q2L have special needs. “We have students who can analyze college texts working together with students who are learning to decode [three-letter] words,” said assistant principal Devin Fitzgibbons.

Fortunately, there are two teachers in most classes, and New York University provides a dozen student volunteers. The guidance counselor runs small support groups such as a social interaction group, a girls leadership group and a foster care group. One of the most winning characteristics of Q2L is how friendly and helpful kids are to each other in class.

Q2L opened in 2009, and the first class graduated in 2016, the year Nicholas Jurman took the helm. He and assistant principal Tim Jones immediately worked to “tighten up systems” to combat a downward slide, shown on school surveys, in the areas of discipline, order and leadership under the previous administration.

Jurman addressed complaints of bullying, boredom, and too much test prep in the high school. He added Regents classes for all 8th graders and more Advanced Placement classes. The school’s founding partner, Institute of Play, now works with high school teachers twice a month to plan lessons based on game design. Peer mediation and peer mentoring programs help curb bullying. We saw no rude behavior on our visit except when a child banged loudly on the principal’s office door to retrieve his skateboard. NYC School Surveys have improved under Jurman’s leadership.

Q2L attracts some highly educated teachers from colleges such as Brown, Harvard and Columbia. Twice a year students tackle teacher-designed “boss-level” challenges for a week instead of attending regular classes. These challenges allow self-starters to shine: a 10th grade transfer student wowed everyone with her TED talk on the importance of making feminine hygiene products available to girls and women; a 7th grader designed a foster dog adoption agency. One challenge involves visiting important World War II sites and viewing docudramas to create a World War II museum to teach other students about the war.

About 20 students earn placements at Bronx Science, LaGuardia, Stuyvesant, Beacon and other specialized and sought-after schools. “They show off their work and investigations and those schools want them,” Fitzgibbons said.

In addition to getting support from Parsons The New School, the Institute of Play has some heavy-hitting funders, including the Gates Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation.

Q2L is housed in a wing of the Bayard Rustin Educational Complex, a building with a number of small high schools that share a cafeteria and renovated library.

SPECIAL EDUCATION: Students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) fit right in with the rest of the student body. Many of the special education teachers have more than 10 years experience, Fitzgibbons said.

ADMISSIONS: Priority to District 2 students who attend a tour, fair or open house. Roughly half the continuing 8th graders attend the high school. Seventy-five percent of the 9th grade class came from outside District 2 in 2016—half are from Queens, the Bronx and Brooklyn. (Lydie Raschka, September 2017)



About the students

Free or reduced priced lunch
Students with disabilities
English language learners

About the school

Shared campus?
This school shares the Bayard Rustin Educational Campus with five 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
93% Citywide Average
How many students are chronically absent?
20% Citywide Average

Is this school safe?

How many teachers say order and discipline are maintained at this school?
75% Citywide Average
How many students think bullying happens most or all of the time at this school?
45% Citywide Average
How many students say they feel safe in the hallways, bathrooms and locker rooms?
84% Citywide Average
How many students say most students treat each other with respect?
49% Citywide Average

About the leadership

Years of principal experience at this school
6.2 Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?
79% Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal has a clear vision for this school?
85% Citywide Average
How many teachers trust the principal?
78% Citywide Average

About the teachers

How many teachers have 3 or more years of experience teaching?
74% Citywide Average
Teacher attendance
97% Citywide Average
How many teachers say they would recommend this school to other families?
82% Citywide Average
How many teachers think the staff collaborate to make this school run effectively?
84% Citywide Average
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

Test scores

How many students scored 3-4 on the state math exam?
30% Citywide Average
How many students scored 3-4 on the state ELA exam?
37% Citywide Average

Arts offerings

This school has 3 dedicated spaces for Theater, Visual arts, and Media arts
This school has 2 licensed arts teacher in Music and Visual arts

Engaging curriculum?

How many students say this school offers enough programs, classes and activities to keep them interested?
68% Citywide Average
How many students say they are challenged in most or all of their classes?
56% Citywide Average
How many students say the programs, classes and activities here encourage them to develop talent outside academics?
69% Citywide Average

Are students prepared for high school?

How many 8th graders earn high school credit?
37% Citywide Average
What high schools do most graduates attend?
Quest to Learn, Brooklyn Technical High School, and Art and Design High School
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

How many graduate?

How many students graduate in 4 years?
85% Citywide Average
How many graduates earn Advanced Regents diplomas?
16% Citywide Average
How many students drop out?
4% Citywide Average

Are students prepared for college?

How many students graduate with test scores high enough to enroll at CUNY without remedial help?
49% Citywide Average
How many students take a college-level course or earn a professional certificate?
49% 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 former English language learners score 3-4 on the State ELA exam?
43% Citywide Average

How does this school serve students with disabilities?

This school offers self-contained classes
This school offers team teaching (ICT)
Average math score for ICT students
2.1 Citywide Average
Average ELA score for ICT students
2.3 Citywide Average
Average math score for SETSS students
2.2 Citywide Average
Average ELA score for SETSS students
2.4 Citywide Average
How many students say that students with disabilities are included in all activities?
67% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school offers enough activities and services for their children's needs?
86% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school works to achive the goals of their students' IEPs?
90% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say they are satisfied with the IEP development process at this school?
89% Citywide Average
How many special ed students graduate in 4 years?
73% Citywide Average
For more information about our data sources, see About Our Data

Programs and Admissions

Quest to Learn Upper School
Admissions Method: Ed. Opt.
Program Description

Continuing 8th Grade Program
Admissions Method: For Continuing 8th Graders
Program Description


Language Courses


Advanced Placement (AP) courses

AP English Language and Composition, AP English Literature and Composition, AP Environmental Science, AP U.S. History


Boys PSAL teams

Baseball, Basketball, Bowling, Soccer, Volleyball, Wrestling

Girls PSAL teams

Basketball, Bowling, Softball, 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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351 West 18th Street
Manhattan NY 10011
Chelsea (District 2)
Trains: 1 to 18th St; 2, 3, F, M to 14th St; A, C, E, L to 14th St-8th Ave
Buses: M11, M12, M14A, M14D, M20, M23, M5, M7, X27, X28


Nicholas Jurman
Parent Coordinator
Beaura Ringrose

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