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Beacon High School

Grades: 9-12
Staff Pick

Our Insights

What’s Special

Engaging and rigorous instruction; lots of arts; new, modern building

The Downside

Some kids may need more structure

Beacon is among the most sought-after high schools in the city. It's a vibrant place with challenging academics and a huge array of activities. In September 2015 the school relocated to a spacious, new home in Manhattan's Hells Kitchen neighborhood. Designed with input from some teachers and staff, the new building features wide corridors, light-filled common areas such as the cafeteria and library, and plenty of rooms dedicated to music and art classes.

In September 2020, Brady Smith became the principal, replacing the Beacon's founding leader, Ruth Lacey who retired in June 2020.  Prior to taking the helm at Beacon, Smith was the principal and co-director of The James Baldwin School.

Beacon belongs to a consortium of New York State schools that are exempt from administering all but the English Regents exam. Instead students demonstrate mastery of coursework through challenging projects that involve oral and written presentations.

Teachers are given wide latitude to develop their coursework as well as teach classes that reflect their interests such the Science of Sound and The History of New York City. Lessons typically delve deeper into fewer topics than a standard Regents course and are often framed around a theme or question. In a chemistry class we observed, students donning safety goggles spent the bulk of the period creating and assessing chemical reactions to understand how the idea of calculating mole ratios differs from calculating for molecular mass.

Students read challenging literature and write a lot in all grades. In English and history classes it's common to see students taking copious notes and flipping through books lined with post-it stickers. Teachers give open-ended assignments that require considerable research to complete. For instance, in global history the study of World War I culminates with students reading through as many as 15 books to identify differing explanations for the origins of that war and then preparing and presenting their own case for its origin. By the 11th grade students write research papers on weighty topics of their choosing such as President John Adams's support for the Alien and Sedition Act or the reasons for the "switch in time that saved nine" on the Supreme Court during the Roosevelt administration in the 1930's.

Beacon has a relaxed vibe and in many ways feels more like a small college than a high school. Bulletin boards display signs for clubs and social causes; teachers don't shy away from discussing sensitive or political topics in class. Students also have full run of the place when they're not in a class. They socialize and do work in the hallways and are welcome to eat lunch in staff offices and open classrooms as well as the expansive cafeteria. If they really want to concentrate on work, they head to the library.

For many students the school's dynamics are liberating. However, there are students, especially freshmen, who become overwhelmed. Some can't find their niche among Beacon's many students and activities. Others struggle with what one parent described as "college-level expectations with assignments that require more maturity than most 14-year-olds have," such as "trace the rise of Christianity in the Roman Empire using primary source materials and taking into account the importance of syncretism."

To help students with the transition to high school, rising freshmen attend a summer bridge program that focuses on community building and trips around the city. All students attend small advisory groups, each led by a teacher who advises the same group of students for all four years.

Students who do best here learn to speak up, ask questions, ask for help and find ways to manage the workload while taking advantage of all that Beacon has to offer. There are many clubs, lots of elective classes in the arts and technology, competitive sports teams, and a music program that features 16 bands and an impressive inventory of instruments and production equipment. During school breaks students have the opportunity to travel abroad.

Foreign languages taught include French, Italian and Spanish.

Nearly all graduates go on to four-year colleges. In addition to CUNY and SUNY, many graduates attend schools out of state; some go on to Ivy League and other highly competitive colleges.

SPECIAL EDUCATION: Beacon offers special education teacher support services (SETSS) and small group support classes that students attend in addition to their regular subject classes. The building is also one of several instructional sites for Manhattan High School (P35M), which is part of District 75,  the citywide district for students with severe disabilities. Manhattan High School shares one floor with Beacon.

ADMISSIONS: See Beacon's website for admissions information.  (Laura Zingmond, November 2015; updated October 2020)

School Stats


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


Number of students
624 Citywide Average


Low-income students
Students with disabilities
Multilingual learners
From the 2020-21 Demographic Snapshot

Safety & Vibe

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

Faculty & Staff

How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?
Years of principal experience at this school
7 Citywide Average
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?
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



Computer Science




Advanced Foreign Language


AP/IB Arts, English, History or Social Science


AP/IB Math or Science



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

College Readiness

How many students graduate with test scores high enough to enroll at CUNY without remedial help?
How many students take a college-level course or earn a professional certificate?
From the 2020-21 School Quality Guide
How many students filled out a FAFSA form by the end of their senior year?
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?
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

The Beacon School

Admissions Method: Screened

Program Description:

We offer an inquiry-based college-preparatory program. Beacon fosters a nurturing, collaborative work environment that promotes students' appreciation for intellectual diversity, preparation for the rigors of college, and active engagement in their larger communities. Our humanities and science courses encourage students to search through multiple perspectives and to scour research and experimental data for the answers to difficult questions.


From the 2021 High School Directory

Language Courses

French, German, Spanish

Advanced Placement (AP) courses

AP Calculus AB, AP Biology, AP Physics 1, AP Spanish Language and Culture

Boys PSAL teams

Baseball, Basketball, Bowling, Fencing, Soccer, Tennis, Wrestling

Girls PSAL teams

Basketball, Bowling, Cross Country, Fencing, Indoor Track, Outdoor Track, Soccer, Softball, Tennis, Volleyball

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

NYC Department of Education: MySchools

Contact & Location


522 West 44th Street
New York NY 10036

Trains: 1 Line, 2 Line, 3 Line, 7 Line, A Line, C Line, E Line, N Line, Q Line, R Line, W Line, S Line to Times Square-42nd St

Buses: M104, M11, M12, M20, M34-SBS, M34A-SBS, M42, M50, X17J, X21, X22, X22A, X30, X31


Principal: Brady Smith

Parent Coordinator: Erdene Greene


Other Details

Shared campus? No

This school is in its own building.

Uniforms required? No
Metal detectors? No

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