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Top Public High Schools
Young Women's Leadership School
105 East 106th Street
New York, NY 10029
Admissions policy: Selective
Grade levels: 7-12
Graduation rate:
Not yet available
Enrollment: 360
Class size: 20-25
Ethnicity: 2% W, 18% B, 78% H, 2% A
Average SATs:
Not yet available
Free lunch: 100%
Founded in 1996 as one of the country's few all-girl public schools, Young Women's Leadership School has quickly gained a reputation as a no-nonsense bastion of academically challenging college prep for girls who believe they can do better without the distraction and competition of having boys in their classes.

Occupying three floors of an office building on 106th Street between Lexington and Park Avenues, the school's classrooms have framed art prints on the walls, cozy sofas, and tables instead of desks, with commanding views of Central Park. As a small school, the course offerings are limited. Sports consist of badminton games in the all-purpose room.

Girls wear uniforms -- plaid skirts or navy trousers with blue blazers. You hear a lot of Excuse me's from girls in the halls. "They are treated with respect, and they are respectful in return," says Ana Torres, vice-president of the PTA, whose granddaughter attends.

But there's a relaxed feel to the school as well. Girls call teachers by their first names (except for the Japanese teacher -- because in Japan, only family names are used). Instead of in a noisy cafeteria, girls eat lunch in a place they call their "dining room" -- with round tables ideal for conversation.

Classes offer an unusual degree of discussion and debate, with a strong emphasis on writing. Some have a feminist twist. In an eleventh-grade humanities class, girls studying Enlightenment philosophers read an excerpt from Mary Wollstonecraft's A Vindication of the Rights of Women. For homework, they had to create an imaginary dialogue between Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Wollstonecraft on the role of women in society.

The school is the brainchild of Ann Rubenstein Tisch, a journalist who believes that single-sex education is an important way to counter what researchers see as a crisis of confidence that strikes young adolescent girls. "It seems to be where the unraveling begins, right out of elementary school," says Tisch.

How hard is it to get in? Priority is given to students in District 4 (Harlem and East Harlem). There are a few openings for students entering in ninth grade. Students who want to be considered for admission must list the school as their first choice.

Downsides: The school's greatest draw -- no boys -- is also its greatest drawback. Staff turnover is also a problem.

Guidance and college counseling: A full-time college counselor meets weekly with each girl starting in her junior year. The counselor takes the girls on overnight trips to visit colleges, including Yale, Smith, and Connecticut College .

Web Extras

School site

Description from the Board of Education

1999-2000 School Report from Board of Education (pdf format)

• Oprah spoke at the graduation this year. "When I heard your stories, I saw my life in your lives," she told the grads.

New York Times, June 2001: "Despite disadvantages like poverty, the girls at the Young Women's Leadership School of East Harlem have amassed an impressive record. All 32 seniors have been accepted by four-year colleges, and all but one are going (the odd girl out is joining the Air Force). Eighteen of them have received full-tuition scholarships."

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  • New York City Lab School for Collaborative Studies
  • The New York City Museum School
  • School of the Future
  • Young Women's Leadership School

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    From the October 22, 2001 issue of New York Magazine.
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