The Beacon School
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|The Beacon School|
522 West 44th Street
|Type||Public High School|
|School district||New York City Department of Education|
|NCES School ID||360007800592|
|Faculty||65 (on FTE basis)|
|Grades||9 to 12|
|Number of students||1,470|
|Color(s)||Blue and White|
|Athletics||Baseball, Basketball, Bowling, Cross Country, Fencing, Indoor track, Outdoor track, Soccer, Softball, Tennis, Ultimate Frisbee, Volleyball, Wrestling|
The Beacon School (also called Beacon High School) is a selective college-preparatory public high school in the Hell's Kitchen area of Manhattan in New York City, near Times Square and the Theater District. Beacon's curriculum exceeds the standards set by the New York State Regents, and as a member of the New York Performance Standards Consortium, its students are exempt from taking most Regents exams. Instead, students present performance-based projects at the end of each semester to panels of teachers. Beacon offers opportunities to participate in student organizations, varsity athletics, community service, and international travel.
Beacon has a Stock Market Club, Debate Team, Model Congress, Model UN, Math Club, Beacon Drama Arts Theater (B'DAT), Film Club, Photo Club, Arts Committee, Senior Committee, Yearbook, Beacon Ink Literary Magazine, Live Poet's Society, Student Leadership Team, and Student Government, as well as a wide variety of additional student clubs and activities such as "Beacon Ink," the student-run literary magazine that publishes creative writing and artwork.
Beacon was founded in 1993 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 [sic] than 600 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 had been the case 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."
The class schedule at the Beacon School is organized in bands, designated by letters A through H. 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. AP courses are currently available for biology, calculus, chemistry, and Spanish. Students take the Advanced Placement exam at the end of the course, and have an opportunity to attain college credits.
Though the yearly schedule is broken into two semesters, these are not standard United States college semesters. Most academic classes are year-long courses, so students generally return to their classes with the same teachers for the second semester. Students have the opportunity to change electives at the end of each semester. Certain science courses are offered to students on a per-semester basis.
Internships and community serviceEdit
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 Red Hook, 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.
1993 to 2015Edit
For its first year, The Beacon School was located inside Fordham University, Lincoln Center Campus. It also utilized John Jay College of Criminal Justice's facilities for physical education. From 1994 to 2015, the school had been located three blocks from Jay, at 227 West 61st Street, a former warehouse completed in 1919, alongside the Amsterdam Houses, a group of New York City Housing Authority projects. It was in an area with many other schools, including Public School 191 and Abraham Joshua Heschel School across the street.
2015 to PresentEdit
As of September, 2015, Beacon occupies a seven-story building located at 522 West 44th Street, between 10th and 11th avenues. The building, previously used as a book warehouse by the New York Public Library was sold to the School Construction Authority for $45 million in August, 2011. Construction began in August, 2012, with a ground breaking ceremony attended by high-ranking city officials including City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Department of Education Chancellor Dennis Walcott, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The building, built by Skanska USA for $88 million, houses a full-sized cafeteria, black-box theater, dance studio, auditorium, film lab, and library, with writing labs, art studios, and study spaces throughout the building.
The Beacon School offers 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. The Beacon School has a debate team. There is currently no student government or council, and SOS and other activists club have largely been disbanded. It also features charity clubs, such Project ABLE, which raises money for libraries in Africa, and the Kids for Kids Club, which raises money for local and nonlocal causes.
In 2007 the school made front page news after David Andreatta confirmed that the school took illegal trips to 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 was mixed, with some alumni continuing to be involved in activism, while others have expressed frustration with the liberal leanings of their teachers and peers.
Educational travel has become an important part of the educational culture. Past destinations included India, Cuba, Spain, England, Ireland, Venezuela, France, Sweden, Costa Rica, Mexico, Mozambique, South Africa, and New Orleans.
The Beacon School offers an array of athletic teams for its students. Sports including tennis, softball, track, wrestling, bowling, basketball, Ultimate, soccer, cross country, and fencing form a part of the culture at Beacon. In 2014, Beacon's tennis team won the national tennis championship as a result of taking first place at the All-American Invitational Boys Tennis Tournament in Corona del Mar, California. Because the school does not have a practice space of its own, the school uses many of the city's public access facilities.
Beacon Model United NationsEdit
In 2016, Beacon's delegation placed first among 174 schools from over 30 countries in the Global Classrooms Model United Nations conference. The conference, held annually at United Nations Headquarters, is sponsored by the United Nations Association of the United States in collaboration with the Lebanese American University.
Since 2016, Beacon's Model United Nations program has been cited at the top of Best Delegate's annual list of the world's best high school Model UN teams. The rankings, calculated based on data aggregated from the 30 most competitive Model UN conferences in North America, divide teams into groups by region and overall standing. Beacon is ranked in the Top 25 Overall category, the highest level of recognition awarded by the publication.
B'DAT (Beacon Drama Art Theatre) is Beacon's extracurricular theater program, spearheaded by Jo Ann Cimato.
As of 2017[update], student demographics were as follows: 48.7% White, 22.8% Hispanic, 13.5% Black, 9% Asian, Two Races 5.7%. Approximately 65 out of 100 students are female. Students commute from all boroughs of New York City, however the plurality of students reside in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The school has experienced a significant decline in the number of Black and Hispanic students since its founding due to changes in the admissions policy.
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