|The Beacon School|
|227 West 61st Street
New York, NY 10023
|School district||Community School District: 03|
|Number of students||1144|
|Color(s)||Blue and white|
|Athletics||Baseball, Basketball, Bowling, Cross Country, Fencing, Indoor track, Outdoor track, Soccer, Softball, Tennis, Ultimate Frisbee, Wrestling|
|Website||The Beacon School|
The Beacon School is a college-preparatory public high school on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in New York City, near Lincoln Center and Columbus Circle. Beacon offers a dynamic inquiry-based education program with technology and arts infused throughout the curriculum. Beacon emphasizes a rigorous well-rounded liberal arts education based on the principle of shared exploration and problem-solving. The curriculum exceeds standards set by the New York State Regents. In assessments for graduation, students present performance-based projects to panels of teachers. Beacon offers extensive opportunities to participate in student organizations, varsity athletics, community service, and international travel.
Beacon features a Debate Club, Math Club, Drama Program, Film Making Club, Model UN, Photo Club, Arts Committee, Yearbook, Literary Magazine, and additional student clubs and activities. Beacon Ink is the student-run literary magazine that publishes exceptional creative writing and artwork. The literary magazine celebrates exceptional student work that might not otherwise be widely noticed, and provides students the opportunity to create a truly professional-quality publication.
The initial founding of Beacon in 1993 was intended as an alternative to the Regents Exam-based testing system in favor of portfolio-based assessment. The school's purpose was also purportedly to keep class sizes down and total student population at, or just above, one thousand students. The total population, for example, was once listed in a 1998 high school selection guide as "less than 600 students", though now has approximately 1,150 students. Over time, Beacon was forced to accept certain aspects of the Regents-based testing curriculum, and to abandon its portfolio-assessment system as the sole method of graduation, which it had been up until mid-1999. Beacon now utilizes, in its own words, "traditional testing ... [but] our students' progress is largely assessed through performance-based projects, completed individually and in groups. To graduate, students must present their best work to panels of teachers."
System of classes
The class schedule at the Beacon School is organized in bands, designated by letters A through H. In the first, or freshman, year a specific grade is usually organized into streams. A stream consists of about 25 to 30 students who travel to at least two classes together. With the system as it is, the classes for each band letter in a stream are often the same for each member of the stream, providing continuity in core subjects such as History, 9th grade electives and English. However, some band letters are cross-stream and even cross-grade level, leading to a diverse class with multiple age groups and grade levels.
The band system is intended to instill a sense of stability in first-year students who have just emerged from junior high school, where most, if not all, classes contain the members of a single grade level and do not switch around from class to class. As a Beacon student advances in grade level, s/he is gradually given more opportunity to choose classes of his or her choice in the subject area of the band in question, rather than relying on his or her stream to do the selecting. This is both a preparatory measure for the university system of class selection, where students are permitted to select all their classes themselves on an individual basis, as well as a means of allowing students the ability to find what interests them among the course offerings.
Beacon also offers several Advanced Placement courses for those that have shown merit for them. These courses can count for up to six college credit hours at any university, depending on the subject(s) taken. AP courses are available currently in the math, language, and science departments. The history department is notable for its stand against offering such courses, preferring to offer challenging, but heterogeneously grouped classes in the twelfth grade.
Beacon's in-school requirements have been significantly more stringent than those of comparable New York City public high schools since well before its forced acceptance of the Regents Exam system. There are still critics who complain that Beacon's acceptance of that system hindered, not helped, its overall college-preparatory initiatives. Some argue that the Regents Exams are standardized tests that do not tailor themselves to the particular academic performance strategies and attitudes of each student the way portfolio-based systems do.
Though the yearly schedule is officially broken up into two semesters, these are not standard United States college semesters; rather, after one is over, students return to their previous classes with the same teachers for the second semester if it is a yearlong class or if they are freshmen or sophomores. Electives such as art or drama change each semester as long as the student has chosen to take one different than the one they were previously taking. In junior year, there are science courses, such as immunology, that last only one semester. The student has the opportunity to take another science the next semester. Chemistry is a year-long course, known as Advanced Chemistry, and is taken as a precursor to AP Chemistry.
Internships and community service
The school does not require its students to do internships, but internship opportunities are available for those that want to pursue them. A minimum of 50 hours of community service hours is a strictly enforced graduation requirement, and can be fulfilled however a student likes, as long as s/he clears the work with a community service leader in writing before beginning it. The community service program is led by a faculty advisor but taught by a group of dedicated 11th and 12th graders called "The Community Service Leadership Team". This group of students plan lessons and activities to get lowerclassmen excited about community service placements across the city at non-profits such as the Added Value Farm in Redhook, Brooklyn and Community Voices Heard in East Harlem.
Every tenth grader (15-16 year old) at the Beacon School takes the Community Service class in either the Fall or Spring semester. We try to provide internships that are educational for students and at the same time meaningful for the community. Beacon students reflect on their experience in written journals and in a weekly classroom seminar. Beacon students are expected to work five hours per week over a semester (about 4 months) in a site that they select" but they may complete the hours through the course of 1 year. They may negotiate any work schedule that is convenient to themselves and their community service site. A total of 50 hours is required for passing credit in the course. Students who complete 75 hours are eligible for "honors" credit. Students in Community Service meet weekly in a seminar to reflect on their community service work and to explore related social issues. Some students are responsible for writing a weekly guided journal entry that is submitted to their community service seminar teacher.
The Beacon School offers many extracurricular activities such as after school theater and studio stage crew, book club, a biking club, a rock climbing club, a dance club, a Live Poets Society, art club, music performance, a photo club, a Senior Committee (populated by seniors who are responsible for helping with plans for graduation and the annual senior trip), and a Model United Nations club that has won awards at every conference it attended over the past few years, including several at the UNA-USA Conference, hosting students from around the world. The Beacon School has a very strong debate team. In the past two years, Beacon has consistently won multiple levels of the state tournament. On March 2010, Beacon gained its first bid to the Tournament of Champions and won the Lexington Winter Invitational. Another prominent club within the school is SMAC (Student Movement Against Cancer) where students unite in an effort to find a cure for cancer by raising funds for research. There is currently no student government or council, and SOS and other activists club have largely been disbanded.
In 2007 the school made front page news after David Andreatta confirmed that the school took illegal trips to the communist island of Cuba. At the end of the school year the teacher involved, Nathan Turner, resigned. In 2005, then Lt. Governor Paterson sent his daughter on one such trip. Alumni reaction to the trips and the political nature is mixed, with some alumni continuing to be involved in liberal activism, while others have expressed frustration with the liberal leanings of their teachers and peers.
Educational travel has become, in more recent years, an important part of the educational culture. Class trip destinations include India, Cuba, Spain, England, Ireland, Venezuela, France, Sweden, Costa Rica, Mexico, Mozambique, South Africa, and New Orleans. However, the school no longer sanctions trips to New Orleans for undisclosed reasons.
The Beacon School offers a wide array of athletic teams for its students. Sports like tennis, softball, track, wrestling boys and girls bowling, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls Ultimate, boys and girls soccer, girls cross country, and the fencing team form an integral part of the culture at Beacon. The boys' baseball team won the B Division PSAL championship in 2002 and 2003. Despite its size, these sports programs have been some of the most competitive in the city, most notably with the school's soccer program. The boys' and girls' soccer teams are consistently ranked amongst the highest in the State, and in 2010, both the boys' and girls' teams won the PSAL A Division Championship, making Beacon the first school in the history of the PSAL to win both the boys' and girls' championships in the same year. Because the school does not have a practice space of its own, the school uses many of the city's public access facilities.
- "Beacon’s Curriculum Aims". The Beacon School. Retrieved 2011-04-30.
- Andreatta, David (April 16, 2007). "HS Spurs Furor with Cuba Trip". New York Post. Retrieved 2011-04-30.
- Andreatta, David (April 17, 2007). "Pol in Cuban ‘Pass’". New York Post. Retrieved 2011-04-30.
- Andreatta, David (April 19, 2007). "Alumni Seethe at Club Red". New York Post. Retrieved 2011-04-30.