Columbia Secondary School

Grades 6-12
Staff Pick
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What’s Special

Free Columbia University classes; courses in engineering and philosophy

The Downside

Far more applicants than seats

Our Review

Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science and Engineering (CSS) is an academically challenging and ethnically diverse school founded with the backing of Columbia University. Qualified high school juniors and seniors may take courses at Columbia University for free.

Students in all grades study engineering and philosophy, which offer the opportunity for imaginative projects as well as a solid academic foundation for college, says Principal Miriam Nightengale.

In an engineering project, students built a solar-powered chicken coop in a vacant lot a few blocks from the school. The design problem they solved: how to keep the water used to feed the chickens from freezing in the winter. In philosophy, they read Plato, Aristotle, Adam Smith and John Maynard Keynes; they ponder ethical questions and learn how to construct a logical argument.

Our graduates tell us these are the most useful classes when they get to college, says Nightengale, who taught math at Brooklyn Tech and was the principal of the High School for Law, Advocacy and Community Justice before arriving at CSS.

Most students start in the 6th grade and stay through 12th. Sixth-graders study Latin; 7th-graders begin Spanish. By the end of middle school, students complete high school-level Regents classes in earth science, U.S. history and algebra, which puts them on track to tackle lots of college-level coursework before graduation.

Instruction in middle school blends traditional and progressive teaching methods. Math drills and grammar instruction help shore up basic skills, but theres also a lot of hands-on learning and inventive projects. For example, students incorporated Fibonnaci numbersa sequence of numbers named after the 13th century Italian mathematicianinto art projects depicting spirals in nature. Math becomes not just a tool for problem-solving, but an aesthetically pleasing discipline.

Juniors and seniors may take courses at Columbia University tailored to their skills and interests. Course options, which vary by semester, have included calculus, linear algebra, psychology, sociology, computer science, chemistry, and a history class on the Roman Empire. Students may also take Advanced Placement courses in biology, English, physics and Spanish.

Elective classes and extracurricular activities are varied but low on sports; they include biking, architecture, musical theater, organic gardening, neuroscience, student newspaper and underwater robotics.

The school has an unusually well-staffed college office, with two full-time counselors and one part-time counselor. Graduates have been admitted top-notch private colleges and universities including Columbia, New York University, Yale, MIT, and Rice; large public universities including UCLA, University of Michigan and SUNY schools; and smaller liberal arts colleges such as Middlebury, St. Olafs, Goucher and Clark.

The school occupies the top three floors of a five-story elementary school building, which also houses KIPP STAR Charter Middle School and PS 125. The building is designed for a younger population, so space is a little cramped and the hallways are narrow, although high school students do have lockers. CSS shares the gymnasiums, cafeteria, auditorium, indoor pool and outdoor yard with other schools in the building. Kids wear a uniform of jeans and polo shirts (light blue in middle, dark blue in high school).

SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school has only a few children with special needs. It has Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT) and self-contained classes in select grades, varying from year to year.

ADMISSIONS: The middle school is open to children who live or attend public school north of 96th Street in Manhattan. Most successful candidates score a 4 on at least one of the 4th-grade state exams in math and English. Select applicants are invited to take an entrance exam in February. The principal ranks applicants in a way to ensure a balance of children from districts 3, 4, 5 and 6. See the schools website for details.

The high school is open to students citywide who have grades of at least 90 in core subjects. Select applicants are interviewed and asked to write an essay. There are more than 1,300 applicants for 100 seats in 6th grade and more than 2,000 applicants for 20 seats in 9th grade. (Laura Zingmond, February 2014; Clara Hemphill, May 2017)

About the students

Enrollment
687
Asian
11.5%
Black
22.9%
Hispanic
42.2%
White
20.5%
Other
2.9%
Free or reduced priced lunch
54%
Students with disabilities
12%
English language learners
0%

About the school

Shared campus?
Yes
This school shares its building with PS 125 and KIPP STAR Charter Middle School
Uniforms required?
Yes
Metal detectors?
No
How crowded? (Full is 100%)
100%
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

Attendance

Average daily attendance
96%
90% Citywide Average
How many students are chronically absent?
9%
27% Citywide Average

Is this school safe?

How many teachers say order and discipline are maintained at this school?
93%
75% Citywide Average
How many students think bullying happens most or all of the time at this school?
28%
45% Citywide Average
How many students say they feel safe in the hallways, bathrooms and locker rooms?
91%
84% Citywide Average
How many students say most students treat each other with respect?
72%
49% Citywide Average

About the leadership

Years of principal experience at this school
4.9
5.8 Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal is an effective manager?
86%
79% Citywide Average
How many teachers say the principal has a clear vision for this school?
93%
85% Citywide Average
How many teachers trust the principal?
93%
78% Citywide Average

About the teachers

How many teachers have 3 or more years of experience teaching?
68%
70% Citywide Average
Teacher attendance
97%
97% Citywide Average
How many teachers say they would recommend this school to other families?
100%
82% Citywide Average
How many teachers think the staff collaborate to make this school run effectively?
100%
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?
82%
29% Citywide Average
How many students scored 3-4 on the state ELA exam?
88%
38% Citywide Average

Arts offerings

This school has 0 dedicated spaces for the arts.
This school has 1 licensed art teacher in Theater

Engaging curriculum?

How many students say this school offers enough programs, classes and activities to keep them interested?
77%
68% Citywide Average
How many students say they are challenged in most or all of their classes?
66%
56% Citywide Average
How many students say the programs, classes and activities here encourage them to develop talent outside academics?
76%
69% Citywide Average

Are students prepared for high school?

Accelerated courses offered for high school credit
Spanish, US History, Algebra I, Geometry, Earth Science
How many 8th graders earn high school credit?
94%
38% Citywide Average
How many graduates of this school pass all their classes in 9th grade?
97%
87% Citywide Average
What high schools do most graduates attend?
Columbia Secondary School
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the citywide average

How many graduate?

How many students graduate in 4 years?
98%
83% Citywide Average
How many graduates earn Advanced Regents diplomas?
51%
13% Citywide Average
How many students drop out?
0%
4% Citywide Average

Are students prepared for college?

How many students graduate with test scores high enough to enroll at CUNY without remedial help?
82%
38% Citywide Average
How many students take a college-level course or earn a professional certificate?
88%
48% Citywide Average
How many graduate and enter college within 18 months?
89%
71% Citywide Average
Citywide Average Key
This school is Better Near Worse than the 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
2.36
1.9 Citywide Average
Average math score for self-contained students
2.66
2.1 Citywide Average
Average ELA score for ICT students
2.2
1.9 Citywide Average
Average ELA score for self-contained students
2.49
2.2 Citywide Average
How many students say that students with disabilities are included in all activities?
74%
67% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school offers enough activities and services for their children's needs?
95%
86% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say this school works to achive the goals of their students' IEPs?
84%
90% Citywide Average
How many parents of students with disabilities say they are satisfied with the IEP development process at this school?
83%
89% Citywide Average
For more information about our data sources, see About Our Data

Programs and Admissions

Columbia Secondary School
Admissions Method: Screened
Program Description

Academics

Language Courses

Bengali, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Spanish

Sports

Boys PSAL teams

Basketball, Rugby, Soccer

Girls PSAL teams

Basketball, Cross Country, Rugby, Soccer, 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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Location

425 West 123rd Street
Manhattan NY 10027
Morningside Heights (District 5)
Trains: 1, A, B, C, D to 125th St
Buses: Bx15, M10, M100, M101, M104, M11, M116, M2, M3, M4, M5, M60-SBS, M7

Contact

Phone
212-666-1278
Principal
Miriam Nightengale
Parent Coordinator
Andi Vayda

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