Harvest Collegiate High School
Innovative classes, experienced staff
Some rooms don't have windows, no gym or auditorium
The scene-stealing graphics of Party City on busy West 14th Street make it easy to overlook the small entrance next door to Harvest Collegiate. Located on the upper floors of a late 19th-century dry-goods store, Harvest is, however, spacious, bright and inviting in every way. Opened in 2012, this innovative school holds promise forstudents who want class discussions, lots of reading and writing, hands-on projects and class trips around the city.
The college-style course catalogue has thought-provoking titles: "Heroes and Villains "(history), "Looking for an Argument" (social studies), and "Prove You're Ready" (math), to name a few. In a course called "Identity Quest," students read authors ranging from feminist writer bell hooks to The Hobbit's J.R.R. Tolkien. Every studentis encouraged to pursue a special interest or talent after school."We want students to love what they're doing," said Principal Kate Burch.
Burch designed the school as her master's thesis at Teachers College, Columbia University. A Manhattan native, she graduated from Harvard College with high honors in history and literature, and taught at an alternative school, Humanities Prep, upon which Harvest is modeled.
Harvest is a member of the Coalition of Essential Schools (CES), a national network founded by renowned educator 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. Harvest students take the same range of courses as those offered at most city schools and they sit for the English Regents exam, as required by state law. Instead of taking the other Regents exams, however, students demonstrate mastery of coursework through oral and written presentations. When they graduate they receive a regular Regents diploma.
At the end of each semester, students present their work for review with a teacher and a few classmates. In order to move from "lower house" (9th/10th grades), to "upper house" (11th/12th grades), they must master key skills in English, math, science and social studies.
Like at many new schools, teaching and discipline were uneven at first, but as it's grown Harvest has been able to attract and retain an impressive roster of educators; four are licensed to be principals and several are paid extra to mentor other staff. Burch points to the mix of age, gender, experience and ethnicity on her staff, and believes it benefits students. A social worker who fled Iran and has written a memoir, for example, has shared her experience with students.
One strength here is that teachers place an emphasis on reading and writing in school, which is especially beneficial for teens who don't read at home. "I didn't used to like to read," said a 9th-grader, who said she loves it now. Students read books of their own choice for up to half an hour during school hours. And teachers have found that students' writing abilities accelerated the most when they were required to write 16 essays during 9th grade.
Every week, teens spend half a day exploring the city beyond school walls, and there is a two-week "intensive" in January when students pursue activities like winter camping, computer animation or drama. There are about two dozen after-school activities, including Model United Nations, robotics, sailing and soccer. Visual art is only offered after school, but music, band, chorus, dance, French and Spanish are part of the regular school day.Everyone learns to play piano or guitar.
A little over one-fourth of all students take on extra work in regular classes in the "open honors" program. "It gives you a challenge, which is what I look for in a school," said a student. Students receive an honors designation on their transcript for each class in which they complete the additional work.
There are several Advanced Placement courses (history, biology, calculus, English, science, Spanish and statistics). Seventy-five percent of students follow the typical sequence for high school math, but there is the option of skipping algebra 1 for geometry, culminating in AP calculus senior year. About 15 percent participate in Hunter's "College Now" program.
There is no gym or auditorium but several PSAL sports are listed on the school website.
ADMISSIONS: Limited unscreened. In 2014 there were 1440 on the waitlist for 108 seats. "Student interest is the number one factor," the principal said. "Know you'll be challenged here." (Lydie Raschka, December 2014)
About the students
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Programs and Admissions
Priority is given to applicants eligible for Free Lunch for up to 63% of seats.
American Sign Language, French, Japanese, Spanish
Advanced Placement (AP) courses
AP English Literature and Composition, AP Macroeconomics, AP U.S. History
Boys PSAL teams
Baseball, Basketball, Handball, Soccer, Volleyball
Girls PSAL teams
Basketball, Softball, Volleyball
Manhattan NY 10011