Engaging and rigorous instruction; lots of arts; new, modern building
Some kids may need more structure
Beacon is among the most sought-after high schools in the city. Its 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)
Safety & Vibe
Faculty & Staff
Advanced Foreign Language
AP/IB Arts, English, History or Social Science
AP/IB Math or Science
Programs & AdmissionsFrom the 2021 High School Directory
The Beacon School
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.
OfferingsFrom the 2021 High School Directory
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
Contact & Location
522 West 44th Street
New York NY 10036
Trains: , , , , , , , , , , , to Times Square-42nd St
Buses: M104, M11, M12, M20, M34-SBS, M34A-SBS, M42, M50, X17J, X21, X22, X22A, X30, X31
This school is in its own building.