The School of the Future has a first-rate writing program and a stellar
record of sending just about every graduate to college. Classes have fewer
than 25 kids; history and English, which are combined to form one two-hour
humanities class, have only 22 students per class.
District 2 oversees the School of the Future. The staff repeats the
progressive mantra that it's more important to learn "habits of mind"
than to learn a particular set of facts. SotF, in a pleasant, remodeled
former vocational school for girls, has many student teachers from Teachers
College, NYU, and the New School, so there's usually more than one adult
in a class.
Writing is part of every class, and every piece of writing goes through
three or four drafts. Kids might write an essay on Sophocles, a movie
review, or a plea to improve the conditions in the school bathrooms.
One look at a ninth-grade math class confirmed that the arise curriculum
is in effect: kids sprawled on the floor in the hallway and leaning over
desks, coloring large sheets of paper marked off in squares. They were
making scale drawings of paintings by Pablo Picasso and Georgia O'Keeffe
in a lesson intended to show how artists use mathematics in their work.
How hard is it to get in? Children of all academic abilities
are accepted, and kids from District 2 have preference. Space is extremely
limited in the upper grades; children from outside the district are advised
to apply for sixth grade.
Downsides: Kids say that a school this small becomes socially
claustrophobic, particularly after six years. And parents and kids agree
that the sports program is weak -- the classic small-school woe -- and
that the music program is nonexistent.
Guidance and college counseling: One mother raved about the college-admissions
counselor, who writes "extensive" letters of recommendation, takes kids
personally to visit college campuses, and tirelessly calls colleges on
behalf of students.