Townsend Harris High School
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Huge array of courses and activities, top-notch instruction all-around
Far from the nearest subway station
One of the most sought-after schools in the city, Townsend Harris High School combines rigorous academics with a well-rounded high school experience. The school is housed in a spacious building on the campus of Queens College, where all seniors take courses and can eat in the college cafeteria. Though located far from the nearest subway, the school draws students from all over Queens and other boroughs who are eager to benefit from the challenging work, nice array of courses and activities and the daily company of very bright and motivated peers.
The schools vibe is friendly and calm. Classical music pipes into the hallways during change of classes. Students seem at ease chatting with teachers and staff who open their offices, classrooms and labs to kids eager to spend their free time working on projects, research or getting extra help. The school takes pride in promoting civic duty. Students must complete community service each year; incoming students recite the Ephebic Oath, a pledge borrowed from ancient Greece to leave their city greater than they found it.
Though known for its strength in the humanities, math and science instruction at Townsend Harris is also top-notch. It goes well beyond the standard Regents curriculum. "We teach biology, not living environment, here," an assistant principal said, referencing the inclusion of extra chemistry and other topics not covered in a typical 9th-grade science class.
Upper-grade students can choose from a nice range of Advanced Placement courses and elective classes such as robotics, organic chemistry, forensics and anatomy. We met a senior interested in bioengineering who was taking a demanding load of courses including AP physics and calculus, organic chemistry and a class in discrete mathematics at Queens College. Dedicated research classes groom students for competitions such as Siemens and the Regeneron Science Talent Search. Students in all grades can participate in the Science Olympiad program and take advanced classes in a range of scientific areas.
In the humanities, English, history and social sciences opportunities abound. In classes, students read challenging books, engage in lively discussions and are expected to write a lot. An impressive range of elective and advanced classes cover topics such as creative expression, constitutional law, criminal law, psychology of fairy tales, adapting novels for film, forensics, the Holocaust and social science research. All freshmen take a year-long writing course in addition to their regular English class.
Students take two years of either Greek or Latin and at least one year of Spanish, French or Japanese.
Queens College professors conduct monthly lectures at the school and help develop the curriculum for some high school classes. Students from the colleges Aaron Copland School of Music provide private and small group instruction. Each fall, the entire school is immersed in an election simulation, a program designed by the Queens College faculty. Students study and role-play candidates and members of special interest groups; they stay in character during the school day, campaign for votes and participate in debates. Broadcast news-style interviews with candidates are filmed in the school's professional-grade television production facilities.
Students who do best here find ways to manage the heavy workload while taking advantage of all the extras the school has to offer. There are over 30 PSAL sports teams, many student-run clubs, and several bands. Academic teams include model UN, mock trial, math, robotics, and Science Olympiad. Students have full editorial control over The Classic, the school's award-winning newspaper.
Principal Anthony Barbetta left the school in 2016. His successor, interim-acting principal Rosemarie Jahoda lasted only one year after not being appointed as principal. Jahoda clashed with students and staff over her management of the school. The Classic was awarded the 2017 Courage in Student Journalism Award from the national Student Press Law Center for its extensive investigative reporting on Jahoda's troubled tenure.
Brian Condon was appointed principal in May 2017. Prior to his arrival at Townsend Harris, Condon was principal of the the School for Tourism and Hospitality in the Bronx.
Virtually all graduates go on to four-year colleges. In addition to CUNY and SUNY schools, many recent graduates have attended Ivy League and other highly competitive colleges.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: There are few students with special needs requiring services under an IEP (individualized education program). Students receive supports such as testing accommodations, but there are no ICT or self-contained classes.
ADMISSIONS: Students must have good attendance, scores of level 3 or 4 on standardized tests, and grades of at least 90 in core academic subjects. Although admission is citywide, most students come from Queens. (Laura Zingmond, October 2014; updated November 2017)Read more
Is this school safe and well-run?
From 2018-19 NYC School Survey
From 2017-18 NY State Report Card
From 2018-19 School Quality Guide
How do students perform academically?
From 2018-19 School Quality Guide
Who does this school serve?
From 2019-20 Demographic Snapshot
From 2018-19 School Quality Guide
Programs & Admissions
From the 2021 High School Directory
Intensive Academic Humanities A humanities-based approach to excellence in all subjects, achieved through extensive literature & writing courses, advanced courses in all subjects including, modern & classical languages, computer science, research, & a required Queens College Humanities Seminar. Special Education THHS offers an inclusive program for eligible students with disabilities. IEP supports for qualified students in a rigorous academic environment where all courses are AP & honors level.
French, Greek, Japanese, Latin, Spanish
Advanced Placement (AP) courses
AP Biology, AP Spanish Language and Culture, AP Macroeconomics, AP Research, AP U.S. Government and Politics, AP United States History, AP English Literature and Composition, AP Statistics, AP Latin, AP Physics 1, AP French Language and Culture, AP Environmental Science, AP Computer Science A, AP World History: Modern, AP English Language and Composition, AP Calculus BC, AP Japanese Language and Culture, AP Psychology, AP Seminar, AP Calculus AB, AP Spanish Literature and Culture
Boys PSAL teams
Badminton, Baseball, Basketball, Bowling, Cross Country, Fencing, Handball, Indoor Track, Outdoor Track, Soccer, Tennis, Volleyball, Wrestling
Girls PSAL teams
Badminton, Basketball, Bowling, Cross Country, Fencing, Flag Football, Handball, Indoor Track, Outdoor Track, Soccer, Softball, Swimming, Table Tennis, Tennis, Volleyball, Wrestling