With 100 percent graduation and college-enrollment rates, all honors-level classes and required Advanced Placement courses, Townsend Harris High School on the grounds of Queens College is one of the most sought-after public schools in New York City. Some 5,048 students competed for 270 ninth-grade seats in 2011.
But Townsend Harris – named for the champion of public education who in 1847 founded what’s now known as The City University of New York – is far from the only school that builds CUNY courses into the high school curriculum. The University sponsors 20 public high schools so far, with more to come. Twelve are “early college” high schools; starting in sixth, seventh or ninth grade, their students can earn up to two years of college credit and possibly an associate degree, along with a high school diploma.
Sharon Wu of Flushing, for example, began as a sixth-grader when Queens School of Inquiry (QSI) – a collaboration with Queens College –opened seven years ago and was in its first graduating class in June. After earning 42 college credits in English, math, history, Spanish, art, drama and other subjects, she enters Baruch College’s accounting program this fall as a sophomore.
QSI “was great,” she says, not only for strong relationships with students and faculty, but also for the introduction to college-level learning. Her global history professor “was strict and treated us like college students, and we weren’t used to a teacher talking all the time and having to take notes.” He taught two sections of QSI students, which “came together as a group and compared our notes, since he’d tell each class different things.”
Note-taking, study groups, meeting tough academic demands – these are skills that most students scramble to acquire after they arrive in college.
QSI Principal Meredith Inbal says that almost all of the first graduates applied to college; all 63 were accepted to at least one college; 84 percent chose a CUNY school, with two-thirds going into a bachelor’s-degree program and a third into an associate-degree program.
“Queens College has been an incredible partner,” Inbal says. “They’ve gone beyond providing professors. Every time we have a need, they respond to it. Students know from the moment they choose our school in sixth grade that they’re going to college. When you set expectations high and it’s the norm, students rise to it. There is no alternate track.”
CUNY has gained a national reputation for nurturing public high schools.
“It hasn’t always been easy because budgets have fluctuated, but CUNY is the biggest, most sustained and deepest partnership with a public school system in the country,” says Nancy Hoffman, a member of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education and vice president and senior advisor of Jobs for the Future. That Boston-based nonprofit organization promotes education and workforce strategies nationwide. She said that CUNY “has set the standard for systemic collaboration.”
She cited the leadership of CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein, who since taking the helm in 1999 has worked with the city school system to improve college-readiness and high school completion rates through numerous initiatives.
“Almost 72 percent of CUNY’s first-time freshmen come from the city’s public schools, so the two systems are inextricably linked. CUNY works very closely with Chancellor Dennis Walcott and his team, “ Goldstein says. “Our partnership has only grown in importance as the need for a college degree becomes more compelling and as students face an increasingly competitive – and global – job market.”
The University’s broadest approach is College Now, through which more than 20,000 high school students at nearly 400 high schools took college-readiness and credit-bearing preparatory courses at all 17 CUNY colleges last year.
But, believing that “early preparation is a crucial factor for college success,” as Goldstein puts it, CUNY colleges are working closely with a growing number of public high schools that are on or near their campuses. These colleges help deliver a superior high school education while preparing students for success in college.
This is most evident in the 12 small, early-college high schools, which enroll 5,700 students. Most accept students by lottery from the general population.
At Hostos Lincoln Academy in the South Bronx, for example, 45 percent of the 2011 graduates entered ninth grade below grade-level in math and 45 percent were English-language learners. But after four years, 93.1 percent of them passed college credit courses. That’s the average rate for graduates of CUNY-affiliated high schools and far above the 29.8 percent average of all city high school students.
In addition, about 40 percent of the Hostos Lincoln Academy class earned both a high school diploma and an associate degree from Hostos Community College. Another 20 percent earned between one and two years of transferable college credit.
In the coming years, CUNY intends to open three more early-college high schools with business partners to prepare students for technical careers. Blazing this path is Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH), a collaboration of the city schools, New York City College of Technology (City Tech) and corporate partner IBM.
P-TECH opened in 2011 with grade 9 and will add a grade each year until it is a full high school; students can then earn associate degrees at City Tech in grades 13 and 14. The school focuses on information technology (IT), computers, engineering, math and science. IBM (and other corporations) provide all students with one-on-one mentoring, internships and training opportunities.
In August, P-TECH’s first 16 students – all incoming 10th graders this fall – completed their first college course, logic and problem-solving, the introductory course to the electromechanical engineering associate degree.
Who are these students? “We do not look at averages or tests for admission to this school, but get a wide range of students and abilities,” says Principal Rashid Ferrod Davis. “We take students who may not have seen themselves as college material and are telling them from Day One they are college students. They’re taking a chance on us, and we want to make sure we do right by them and give them the best opportunity we can.”
Sought-After CUNY Affiliated High Schools
- Baruch College Campus High School
- Brooklyn College Academy
- Science, Technology and Research (STAR) Early College High School
- High School for Mathematics, Science and Engineering
- City College Academy of the Arts
- Hostos Lincoln Academy of Science
- Hunter College HS
- Manhattan-Hunter Science High School
- Leon M. Goldstein High School for the Sciences
- Kingsborough Early College Secondary School
- International High School at
- LaGuardia Community College
- Middle College High School at
- LaGuardia Community College
- High School of American Studies
- Medgar Evers College Preparatory High School
- City Polytechnic High School of Engineering, Architecture and Technology
- Pathways in Technology Early College High School (P-TECH)
- Townsend Harris HS
- Queens School of Inquiry
- Queens High School for the Sciences at York College
- York Early College Academy