Williamsburg Preparatory School
High standards and built-in time for reading, writing and projects
No lockers; metal detectors
Williamsburg Prep is a cohesive school that continues to set higher goals. Students have good passing rates on Regent's exams, and the staff is determined to see that they succeed in college.
By many measures, Williamsburg is a successful school. It has a solid attendance rate, a Progress Report with all "As," and high marks on the Learning Environment Survey. Fortunately, the administration is not content to stop there. Rather than have kids end up in remedial classes in college the school requires them to take a small senior seminar devoted to writing 5- and 10-page research papers on topics like the Vietnam War.
A full-time community outreach person recruits heavily from the Williamsburg neighborhood, keeping in close contact with middle school principals who funnel brainy kids to Williamsburg Prep because of its reputation for rigor. More than half the students come from IS 318. Incoming students can take two periods of math and all students have double periods of English in their first and second years, one of which includes 20 minutes of quiet reading. Teachers also assign reading outside of class and we saw teens using simple logical worksheets to break long writing assignments into do-able chunks.
Students said there is not a lot of homework,instead they complete projects in class. We saw teachers lecturing, but mostly they roamed around supervising kids working on computers or in small groups. Physics students made roller coasters out of cardboard and K'Nex and planned to travel to Six Flags Great Adventure to experience physics firsthand.
Parents can stay on top of their child's progress online at a site where teachers post homework and grades. With this regular communication, "There is never an excuse," said a teacher. Although staff used to make lots of calls to follow-up on attendance they now put more energy into raising expectations and helping kids feel supported in their work so they want to come to school. There are advisory classes once a week which offer more personal attention to the teens.
The staff is committed to mixing kids of all abilities together including special needs students. And they have Patrick Drislane, a special education teacher who is reportedly "a whiz" at helping low scorers pass Regent's exams. "Almost all our kids with IEPs [Individualized Education Programs] are graduating with Regent's Diplomas," said Assistant Principal Greg Dutton.
Williamsburg Prep is located in the Harry Van Arsdale building, shared with Brooklyn Prep and Williamsburg High School for Architecture and Design. Williamsburg Prep has more students but the same amount of space, a minor sore spot in otherwise good relations. Students must pass through metal detectors. Although few seemed to feel they were needed anymore, no one seemed inclined to expend the energy to get them removed.
Because there are no lockers, kids lug backpacks and coats from room to room although some have an arrangement with a teacher who will allow them to keep their belongings in a classroom.
Sports are campus-wide. Psychology, acting, and literature and counterculture are among the few electives. Yoga or weight lifting are offered in addition to gym class and we saw a refreshing number of boys in the yoga class.
A full-time college counselor helps kids apply to college. Parents get one-on-one assistance with financial aid forms. Students attend colleges like Cornell, Brandeis, CUNY Hunter, Gettysburg and SUNY Albany, with an occasional student getting a scholarship to attend a school like Middlebury or the University of Wisconsin.
Admissions: Limited unscreened. Priority to students who attend an information session. About 1800 apply for fewer than 200 seats. (Lydie Raschka, April 2012)
About the students
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Programs and Admissions
American Sign Language, Spanish
Advanced Placement (AP) courses
AP English Language and Composition, AP English Literature and Composition, AP Environmental Science, AP Spanish, AP U.S. History
Boys PSAL teams
Baseball, Basketball, Cross Country, Handball, Indoor Track, Outdoor Track, Volleyball
Girls PSAL teams
Basketball, Flag Football, Softball, Tennis, Volleyball
Brooklyn NY 11211