Navigating the post-COVID high school scene is messy, but the schools we profile here are ready with strategy and innovation.
While most public schools are still trying to figure out how to socially distance and getting teachers vaccinated, our Top High Schools are focused on getting their students to top colleges.
This year is encouraging for students entering the ninth grade. New innovations stemming from schools having to deal with new learning programs because of the COVID restrictions are making for more dynamic classrooms.
It is crucial you visit the schools on our list. If you are sending your student to high school for the next four years, it’s imperative you get a feel for what is going on there. You won’t be disappointed.
If you have been reading our weekly newspapers and following our Top High Schools Issue, now in its 15th year, it makes sense that the high quality of education, extracurricular activities, and ability to be nimble led to increases in enrollment at these schools last year.
“Enrollment is up, and we have a full schedule of academics and activities,” said Nick Melito, president of Msgr. McClancy High School in East Elmhurst. “Parents see that we have a learning environment that is about communication and transparency.”
Catholic and private schools are thriving with a mix of virtual learning and in-classroom work.
“Students want to be here every day,” said Tiffany D. Trotter, head of middle and upper-school at The Kew-Forest School in Forest Hills. “The environment is what we expected. Students and faculty are tested weekly and we are masking indoors at all times.”
Through a set of standards and criteria each school was willing to share, we have chosen the Top High Schools for you to explore. After a series of discussions with teachers, administrators, parents and students, we have assembled the information you need to focus on the institution that best fits your student’s needs.
Holy Cross High School, which boasts an average SAT score of 1260, and St. Vincent Ferrer, where the student-to-faculty ratio is low, are examples of how private, faith-based schools differ from public high schools.
Dominican Academy, an all-girls school in Manhattan, offers AP Italian, and during the open house at Archbishop Molloy in Briarwood you will hear about graduates attending Yale, Cornell, Fordham and NYU.
High achievement, special attention and challenging curriculum is the norm at these schools.
Project-based learning is a core of curriculum at The Kew-Forest School. The desired learning objectives dictate the project.
“Project-based learning is quickly becoming pedagogy that faculty is seeing as highly effective, because it puts students in drivers seat and encourages discovery rather than memorization,” said Trotter.
We continue to see a trend of students transferring from public schools to the top schools we profile here. Public school’s COVID handling aside, parents are looking for their students to get organized attention in academics, as well as highly organized extracurricular activities.
We suggest you think about a more personalized education at one of these private high schools based on the extensive information we have compiled over a decade of coverage, questioning and investigation.
Learn from this guide and explore what these high schools have to offer in the way of helping their students get into top colleges across the nation. Advanced placement classes, after-school clubs and organized athletics, as well as the ultimate goal of sending your child to a great college or university, are just part of everyday life in these schools.
Faith and moral character are paramount to the experience at most of these schools, so if that’s not for you then just stop here and go to the entertainment section of our newspaper. However, we find the schools are culturally and religiously diverse.
After doing the research, we can assure parents that our Top High Schools are worth the investment in your child. If you want specialized attention, public schools just won’t cut it.
Visit a school’s website, and you will see that there might be as many as five sports teams in action on a given day, as well as something for the student body to do every weekend.
Some schools offer niche programs which are consistent with their brand.
We continually tell you about St. John’s Prep in Astoria, where they continue to expand their Black Box Theatre program, which has inspired many students to go into the arts.
Archbishop Molloy continues to offer a video broadcast club, while Msgr. McClancy offers scholarships to students with a talent and interest in the performing arts.
Getting students involved in the community outside the school walls is also a hallmark. This year has been tough, but we are sure they will be right back to that mission when the pandemic ends.
Martin Luther School in Maspeth is increasingly emphasizing digital literacy, partnering with Apple to put their students ahead of the curve. In recent years each student received a new iPad and uses them in a broad range of classroom learning situations.
Robotics and technology headline the course load for 10th, 11th and 12th grade students at Cathedral Prep in Manhattan, while entrepreneurship and business law continue to be popular interests according to students there.
Another attraction to an education at our Top High Schools is the culture and connection that exists after graduation. “Once a Stanner, Always a Stanner” is the motto at Archbishop Molloy.
It’s the time of year for high schools to host open houses for prospective students. So clear your schedules to visit these schools with a mask or take a virtual tour.
You will not be disappointed in the friendship, mentorship and passion you witness while taking a tour. Their number one focus is making sure your child has a wonderful experience for four years.
Talking to teachers and current students is a must. Even if your child is in sixth or seventh grade, we suggest you go online and check out the tours.
Even though these schools have had double-digit increases in enrollment, we see that most have met – and even exceeded – the necessary measures to provide a safe environment for your student.
Choosing the Schools
We sent questionnaires to dozens of private high schools in Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan for our 2021 issue.
In order to make the cut, 95 percent of the student body must go to college, schools must answer 90 percent of our detailed questions, and they have to boast a full roster of extracurricular activities.
We speak to parents, students, alumni, teachers and administrators. We are able to obtain information that might not typically be shared with the outside world. The questions we ask are intended to compare the academic, spiritual and social environment of each school.
Schools shared scholarship opportunities for eighth graders, and we suggest parents speak to admissions directors about those programs. Have your student prepared for an interview, as scholarships are not given haphazardly.
Scholarship money that graduating seniors were offered by colleges is crucial in our evaluations. Most bragged about the average SAT scores of their students.
Some schools wouldn’t share enough information for us to make a determination on quality of curriculum, program or student body, so they were not included on our list. We’ve been on this beat for a decade-and-a-half now, so the schools know why we are calling each fall.
Public high schools do not share information with us. Many are now small, and that gives your child a shot at making it out of there in one piece. Themed public high schools have been getting good marks from parents, and if they would give us credible information, we could evaluate them.
From where we sit, we have determined that it’s hit or miss with those schools. There is very little consistency.
At our Top High Schools, a larger percentage of students who score in the middle of the class in academics tend to get accepted and get scholarship money when its time for college.
The trend in education is that high-achieving eighth graders who might have attended one of the city’s specialized high schools in the past are now opting for a top private high school, often receiving some kind of academic aid.
The reason is obvious when you see what these private schools are doing to compete for the top-notch students. They each have their own way to motivate their students for four years, but they have a few things in common we should point out.
They work fairly hard at getting all their students into top colleges, and they treat every student like they are important. For example, the Baccalaureate Program at St. John’s Prep, in partnership with St. John’s University, enables students to get college credit early on.
Our Top High Schools have the flexibility to reach out to institutions of higher education and learning facilities to develop partnerships. They include college credit courses and the opportunity for seniors to visit the college campus to get a feel for the next level.
Call a school on our list and ask about college interaction programs. Ask to talk to one of the seniors involved.
Take the Extra Step
If price is keeping you from considering one of these schools, we find that these schools typically want your child if your child wants them. Contacting the financial aid department at one of the schools does not raise a red flag about your child. In fact it helps.
You will have to pay something, but if your student shows that he or she is willing to work and contribute something positive to the school community, they will get you in.
After exploring the options in this special issue, attend open houses over the next few weeks and talk to an admissions director. If they find your child is likely to succeed, you should qualify for scholarships or aid.