Brooklyn Technical High School
Challenging academics and lots of high tech, hands-on learning
Hard to receive individual attention in the sea of 5,000 students
Brooklyn Tech has achieved the rare feat of remaining true to its original goal of forming "a more technically literate workforce," while staying up-to-date with the latest technology and skills. The largest and most diverse of the city's specialized high schools, Tech offers an exciting environment for students who like to design, build and work with their hands.
The school is founded on the belief that students enjoy learning more when they can touch, feel and do things. This was evident in classes across all subject areas, but most obvious in the workshops and labs of the 18 technical or scientific "majors." We saw aerospace engineering majors practicing on flight simulators, watched law and society majors conducting a forensic analysis of hairs left at a "crime scene," and walked through the two-story house the architectural engineering majors were building inside one massive classroom.
The first-floor hallways lined with an alumni Hall of Fame remind students of the school's lauded history and high expectation of success, but Tech lacks the sense of pressure and competition that pervades the other specialized high schools in the city.
"There are a number of kids here whose parents are elected officials or high-powered business executives, as well as a number of kids whose parents work in restaurants," said former principal Randy Asher, who gave us our tour. "Tge cool thing about the kids here is that it just doesn't matter to them." [Asher left the school in January 2017 when he was tapped by the central Department of Education to lead up its effort to reduce the number of teachers in the Absent Teacher Reserve (ATR) pool. David Newman, an assistant principal, was named interim acting principal.]
Asher credits their sense of teamwork and the fact that students all start off together in two core technology classes--design and drafting for production and digital electronics, which teaches them to work together using industry-standard drafting software, reading blueprints, wiring their own compueter "bread boards," and printing prototypes on one of the school's many 3-D printers. These two courses are meant to introduce kids to the problem-solving and design skills they will need in any college major or career they pursue.
In the spring of their sophomore year, students rank all 18 majors according to preference, and those with the highest grade point average are given first choice. Some majors are more demanding than others and cannot be changed or dropped once assigned. Social science research, for example, requires a sequence of six AP courses over two years. Other majors, like software engineering, allow more flexibility because they only require two AP courses and two other computer-related courses. The wide array of Advanced Placement course offerings are open to all students, as are the school's 15 music, dance and drama electives.
Majors require a sequence of four to eight courses that students must complete over two years in addition to fulfilling graduation requirements in math, English language arts and social studies. Tech is generally stronger in math and science than in the humanities.
We observed students working collaboratively in most classes, guiding their own projects, while the teacher walked around to support them. Even the math class we saw was focused on research and students were designing original projects around the concepts they were learning.
Some classrooms are just as they were when the building opened; others have been recently renovated, like the mock courtroom, complete with a judge's booth, jury benches and portraits of Supreme Court justices on the wall.
The school, founded in 1922, moved in 1933 to its current campus adjacent to Fort Greene Park. The massive building has wide hallways, several elevators and many huge classrooms renovated to keep up with new technological demands. The 3,000-seat theater is one of the largest in the city, and is used for school plays as well as public events. Students in the "Stageworks" club manage the lighting, sound and sets for events.
There are 42 sports teams and 140 extracurricular activities, including drama, salsa dancing, quilting, photography and a robotics team which won a national championship in 2014. The robotics team captain proudly told us that the students designed, printed parts and built their entire robot in house, not relying on corporate partners as most school teams do. At a school full of budding engineers, though, it is hard to make the cut amongst the 400 applications for a spot on this 28-member team. A robust alumni network actively supports the school.
Tech's 22 guidance counselors work with individuals or small groups at key transition points, like freshmen year and during the college admissions process. Their offices are located near the cafeteria, so students can drop in and visit during lunch hour. Still, at this biggest of all city high schools, it's hard to provide individual attention to each student.
About one-third of graduates go to private colleges, the rest go mostly to schools in the CUNY or SUNY systems, including the Macaulay Honors College.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: Fewer than 1 percent of students receive special education services.
ADMISSIONS: Students take the SHSAT (Specialized High School Admissions Test) in the fall of their 8th- or 9th-grade year and are admitted solely based on their test scores. Ninth and 10th grades are the only two entry points. (Nicole Mader, March 2015; upated with new principal January, 2017)
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Programs and Admissions
Admission to this Specialized High School is based solely on the score obtained on the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT). Students should speak to their school counselors in the Fall to register for the SHSAT.
French, Italian, Latin, Mandarin, Spanish
Advanced Placement (AP) courses
AP Biology, AP Calculus AB, AP Calculus BC, AP Chemistry, AP Comparative Government and Politics, AP Computer Science, AP English Language and Composition, AP English Literature and Composition, AP Environmental Science, AP European History, AP Human Geography, AP Macroeconomics, AP Microeconomics, AP Physics, AP Psychology, AP Research, AP Seminar, AP Spanish, AP Statistics, AP U.S. History, AP World History
Boys PSAL teams
Badminton, Baseball, Basketball, Bowling, Cross Country, Fencing, Football, Handball, Indoor Track, Lacrosse, Outdoor Track, Soccer, Swimming, Table Tennis, Tennis, Volleyball, Wrestling
Girls PSAL teams
Badminton, Basketball, Bowling, Cross Country, Fencing, Golf, Handball, Indoor Track, Lacrosse, Outdoor Track, Soccer, Softball, Swimming, Table Tennis, Tennis, Volleyball, Wrestling
Coed PSAL teams
Cricket, Golf, Stunt
Brooklyn NY 11217