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String theory: A guitar class at Edward R. Murrow High School. (Photo by Magdalena Caris.)
Edward R. Murrow High School
1600 Avenue L
Brooklyn, NY 11230
Admissions policy: Educational option, audition
Grade levels: 9-12
Graduation rate: 86%
Enrollment: 3,850
Class size: 34
Ethnicity: 49% W, 23% B, 13% H, 16% A
Average SATs: Verbal, 488; math, 515
Free lunch: 19%
Edward R. Murrow High School was founded in 1974 with a progressive vision that students learn best when given the freedom to decide how to spend their time. Many of the petty irritations of high-school life are missing here. There are no bells, no hall sweeps by deans to get stragglers into class, no rules about wearing hats indoors. For kids with self-discipline, the school offers opportunities to learn to write well, to do independent research, to perform in a musical production, or to become active in student government.

And despite its unwieldy size, it's a safe school. Founding principal Saul Bruckner discovered that corridors in which kids sit and chat -- a Murrow trademark -- are safer than empty halls. Another Bruckner directive still carried out is that kids change courses and teachers four times a year; his rationale was that the greatest number of kids and teachers should get to know one another.

The school is racially, socially, and ethnically diverse and has kids at every skill level -- from super-high achievers to the severely disabled. It's best known for its theater, art, and music departments, but the regular academic courses are as strong as any in the city. Students may take a wide array of Advanced Placement courses and compete in the Intel Science Talent Search. Seven foreign languages are taught. (Nearly 450 kids study Russian, and about one quarter of the student body speaks Russian at home.) The chess team is state champion and second in the nation.

How hard is it to get in? Open to any student living in Brooklyn; students living in a specified zone around the school have priority. Applicants must list Murrow as their first choice to be considered. Students in the music and art programs are admitted by audition. Students in other programs are accepted according to the educational-option formula (an advantage for low-scoring students.)

Downsides: Some kids can't handle the freedom and begin to skip class or slack off. Murrow has physical education but no team sports. The school has nearly twice as many girls as boys, perhaps because of its lack of organized athletics.

Guidance and college counseling: Each student meets a guidance counselor four times a year. Although the college office is unable to give the personal attention a student might receive at a smaller school, the mother of a Murrow girl who was admitted to Smith raved, "The guidance counselors are amazing people. They have a well-organized system, and they are very level-headed about what colleges to go for."

Web Extras

School site

Description from the Board of Education

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

• Murrow has the top chess team in New York State.

New York Times, June 2001: Since it opened 27 years ago under a cloud of neighborhood opposition, Murrow, an educational-option school, has been one of the jewels the Board of Education has been able to point to, even when many other high schools were models of disorder and academic stagnation. ...Many of the school's 3,600 students come in voluntarily before and after scheduled hours for elective classes and activities. .

  • Baruch College Campus High School
  • Beacon School
  • New York City Lab School for Collaborative Studies
  • The New York City Museum School
  • School of the Future
  • Young Women's Leadership School

  • brooklyn
  • Edward R. Murrow High School
  • The Leon M. Goldstein High School for the Sciences
  • Midwood High School
  • High School of Telecommunication Arts and Technology

  • Benjamin Cardozo High School
  • Townsend Harris High School

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