Ambitious IB program in a laid-back atmosphere
No full-size gymnasium
Serving a diverse population primarily from Queens, the Baccalaureate School for Global Studies combines serious learning with a laid-back atmosphere. Kids whirl through typical high school requirements by the end of 10th grade, then take demanding upper level courses. It is the first public school in New York City in which all students prepare for the International Baccalaureate (IB), a degree widely accepted at universities in more than 100 countries. The school is located in a former pocketbook factory, an inviting space, where light streams in through lofty windows.
Many staff wear jeans and students are trusted to keep cell phones out of sight. Adding to the informal feel, kids carry coats and backpacks from class to class. Music wafts out of the teen-friendly college office filled with posters. Seniors can go out for lunch if they have permission from parents.
In grades 7 through 10 students prepare for the New York State Regents exams and the International Baccalaureate (IB) Program, which includes 100 hours of community service and a creative personal project. On the day of our visit the 10th grade class was off to the main branch of the New York Public Library with their advisors to do research for their projects—past topics of which include "My Ecuadorian Culture," "How to Make a Thermoelectric Cooler" and "Animation: My Future."
Students in grades 11 and 12 study six subject areas: chemistry or biology, math, History of the Americas, visual arts or technology, English and another language (Spanish, Mandarin or French). Other features include a Theory of Knowledge course, 150 hours of Creativity, Action and Service (CAS) and a research essay of up to 4000-words. CAS might involve volunteering in a library or tutoring, exploring the arts and getting involved in a sport.
The school day runs from 8 am to 2:20 pm. Up to one third of the 7th grade class and some upperclassmen stay for another hour for extra help or simply to work away from distractions. Students said they have between one and three hours of homework a night. "You can’t be lazy," said an 8th grader.
In a 7th grade history class we watched students jot down their thoughts after they’d read and discussed primary sources and differing viewpoints on the legacy of Christopher Columbus. The amount of writing they churned out was impressive. Graduate students from Sarah Lawrence teach a creative writing elective and an after school seminar.
In most classrooms, students sat in groups of four at square tables. They love discussions, said Mike Mehan, a math teacher. He and a colleague said they employ mini explorative projects, such as cutting up strips of numbers written in scientific notation and asking kids to order and convert them into standard notation. On the other hand, an 11th and 12th grade math class was entirely on Power Point.
One challenge is bringing incoming 9th graders up to speed, said teachers. “We are a 7th through 12th grade school so those students who came in earlier have all gotten that pre-IB teaching, which is really heavy in reading and writing,” said a staff member in a phone interview.
A number of the staff speak Spanish and try to meet the needs of those who speak no English at home. One former staffer mentioned that the school's small size poses social challenges for some teens.
Gym takes place outside in one of two nearby parks, in the fitness room or in the mirrored studio filled with yoga gear. The school has a band, orchestra and theater. Clubs vary depending on interest but one constant is a service club called Helping Hands and another is the newspaper. Many of these motivated kids pursue talents on their own time.
COLLEGE ADMISSIONS: Peter Wilson, long-time college advisor, works closely with students: "If I don’t see kids for a week I go find them," he said. Rising seniors gather in the summer for six weeks to work on college applications and essays. All graduates in 2017 were accepted to four-year colleges. Acceptances have included the University of Michigan, Yale, Columbia, Brown, Barnard and Sarah Lawrence. About half the seniors receive IB diplomas. More than 90 percent of the graduating class earns the full IB diploma and students have earned more than 20 million in scholarships, according to Wilson.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school has made an effort to increase its special education population in recent years.
ADMISSIONS: There is an open house in mid-December for prospective 7th graders. The school administers a test on reading, writing and math skills in January. Group interviews take place in March. Incoming 9th graders take their test in the fall. Roughly a third of the 9th grade class leaves to attend specialized or private high schools opening up about 25 spaces but that number changes year to year. “We try to keep our school diverse and accessible to all,” said Wilson. (November 2011, Lydie Raschka; updated, phone interview, October 2017)
Safety & Vibe
Faculty & Staff
CalculusNot offered in 2019-20
Advanced Foreign Language
AP/IB Arts, English, History or Social ScienceNot offered in 2019-20
AP/IB Math or Science
Programs & AdmissionsFrom the 2021 High School Directory
International Baccalaureate Program
Pre IB Diploma Programme and Diploma Programme for achievement in math, science, technology, humanities, arts, foreign language, and community service requirement.