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High School of American Studies at Lehman College
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The intimacy of a small school and the resources of a large college
Heavy workload for students, though they get lots of support
The High School of American Studies at Lehman College (HSAS), one of three specialized high schools operating on City University of New York campuses, offers the best of both worlds: the intimacy of a small school with the resources of a large college. Students have to manage a heavy load of challenging work, but they do so in a friendly and noncompetitive environment where everyone knows everyone else. All HSAS students enjoy access to Lehman College’s facilities during and after the school day, and starting in the 11th grade, they can take free college courses for credit.
“I think of our school as a junior liberal arts college,” says longtime principal Alessandro Weiss. HSAS students study and do research in Lehman College’s library, eat in its cafeteria, and take physical education classes in the vast college gymnasium, the Olympic-size swimming pool, or the racquetball courts. A majority of students take at least one course at Lehman before graduation; many choose to take more from the varied options open to them, such as Latin, jazz history, history of the Civil War, computer science, statistics, theater and dance.
Each class meets four days a week and runs 55 minutes, longer than the typical 43-minute high school period. This allows time for teachers to delve more deeply into lessons and engage students in rich discussions. A four-day-a-week class cycle also means that for each of their classes, students get a one-night-a-week break from having homework due the following day.
In history classes, teachers spend a lot of time on individual topics rather than moving through the curriculum at breakneck speed. For example, as part of the required three-year sequence in American history, teachers may spend four weeks on the New Deal or devote an entire semester to colonial America. In global history, a class study on early 19th-century Europe will include devoting several days to a mock trial of Napoleon Bonaparte. All students take the respective Advanced Placement (AP) exams at the end of the course sequences in American and global history.
Students in the upper grades can take history electives that focus on key historical eras, such as Europe between the world wars or United States history from the 1960s to date. In addition to reading challenging texts in history, students do engaging research. In the Conspiracy Theories class, students examine and research famous conspiracy theories on topics such as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the alleged death of Paul McCartney of the Beatles, as well as more current examples.
Instruction in all subjects is rigorous, and teachers and staff make sure that English, math and science do not get short shrift. In English, students read challenging works throughout all four years, starting with Beowulf and The Odyssey in the 9th grade. AP English classes are offered in 11th and 12th grade. In math, students can take classes through AP calculus (AB) at the school; very advanced students can take BC calculus at Lehman.
In science, the school offers a number of electives that combine serious treatment of science with history and policy. Class offerings include AP Environmental Science, biosphere, ecosystems and psychobiology, where students learn about brain chemistry and study the science and politics behind medical trends, such as a unit on lobotomies.
The homework load is substantial but manageable. “It’s about three hours a night without texting,” says Weiss. Incoming freshmen get lots of support to help them adjust to the rigors of high school. They are taught how to take structured notes in history classes to ensure that they keep track of everything learned in class and through assignments. Ninth-graders also take a research class co-taught by a HSAS teacher and a Lehman College librarian, as well as a class dedicated to grammar.
All juniors and seniors taking their first course at Lehman are scheduled for a recitation class, which is a study period supervised by an HSAS teacher who keeps tabs on each student’s completion of assignments and overall college course performance. All teachers provide extra help after school.
In addition to PSAL sports teams, students can participate in a broad range of extracurricular activities, including band, dance, drama, documentary film, chess, debate, Model UN, environmental club and Common Sense, the school newspaper.
The administration actively recruits students from Bronx middle schools that have been underrepresented at the city's most selective high schools.
College advisory is very strong at the school. College counselors research and visit schools to identify programs that are a good fit for their students; they meet individually with every student starting in junior year, and teachers volunteer to critique students' college essays. One hundred percent of students are accepted to college. Many attend SUNY and CUNY colleges, and each year graduates attend Ivy League and other highly competitive private colleges such as Duke, Haverford, Northwestern, Tufts, University of Chicago, University of Michigan, Wesleyan and Williams College.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: Students receive supports such as testing accommodations, but there are no ICT or self-contained classes.
ADMISSIONS: Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT). (Laura Zingmond, October 2014; updated via interview, April 2018)Read more
Is this school safe and well-run?
From 2017-18 NYC School Survey
From 2015-16 NY State Report Card
From this school's most recent Quality Review Report
From 2017-18 School Quality Guide
How do students perform academically?
From 2017-18 School Quality Guide
From 2017 NY State Graduation Outcomes
Who does this school serve?
From 2017-18 Demographic Snapshot
From 2017-18 School Quality Guide
Programs & Admissions
Admission to this Specialized High School is based solely on the score obtained on the Specialized High Schools Admission Test (SHSAT). Students should speak to their school counselors in the Fall to register for the SHSAT.
French, Italian, Spanish
Advanced Placement (AP) courses
AP Calculus AB, AP English Language and Composition, AP English Literature and Composition, AP Environmental Science, AP Spanish, AP U.S. History, AP World History
Boys PSAL teams
Baseball, Basketball, Bowling, Cross Country, Outdoor Track, Tennis
Girls PSAL teams
Basketball, Cross Country, Outdoor Track, Softball, Tennis