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Top Public High Schools
Midwood High School
2839 Bedford Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11210
Admissions policy: Neighborhood school, screened
Grade levels: 9-12
Graduation rate: 87%
Enrollment: 3,500
Class size: 31-34
Ethnicity: 33% W, 38% B, 9% H, 20% A
Average SATs: Verbal, 509; math, 537
Free lunch: 13%
At Midwood, it's socially acceptable to study round-the-clock. Kids are obsessed with their grade-point averages. The New York Times Magazine chronicled the life of a Midwood student who worked so hard she didn't stop for meals.

The tone is traditional and highly structured. The H-shaped building with a cupola, constructed in 1940, is cheerful and well kept, if worn. The labs that produce so many top science students are so old they could almost qualify as museum pieces. Science equipment is stored in oak cabinets with glass doors.

As many as 4,000 students are packed in a building designed for 2,300. Classes are held in three overlapping sessions, with some students arriving as early as 7 a.m. and finishing at 12:30 p.m., and others arriving at 10:45 a.m. and staying until 4:20 p.m. The first lunch period is at 9:45 a.m.; practice for band and orchestra starts as early as 7 a.m. Advanced Placement courses are so oversubscribed that only students with near-perfect grades are permitted to take them.

And yet in 1999, Midwood had more semifinalists in the Intel Science Talent Search than any other high school in the nation, and in 2000 it tied for first place. Midwood offers fourteen Advanced Placement courses, and the College Board listed it among the best schools in the nation in terms of AP offerings. The school has an extensive sports program -- including competitive team sports and aerobics, tennis, bowling, and billiards. Soccer, basketball, varsity swimming, and track are strong.

Midwood is racially integrated, and students say that's one of its strengths. A black student, Natasha McLeod, recalls how her life has been enriched by friendships at Midwood with Russian and Pakistani girls. A white girl who transferred from a small private school says she appreciates the lack of snobbery. "All different religions and races, freaks and geeks -- you learn to like all kinds of people here," says another student.

How hard is it to get in? About 230 students are admitted each year to Midwood's medical-science program; about 230 freshmen are admitted to the humanities program, all according to their academic records. Students zoned for the school are automatically admitted. Applicants may list Midwood as their first or second choice to be considered.

Downsides: "You can't beat the math and science," says one parent. "But . . . if you're not in the specialized programs, you're forgotten about." About 10 percent of students take more than four years to graduate, and many kids transfer to other schools.

Guidance and college counseling: Only two college counselors for a graduating class of 500 to 700 seniors, but the office is well run and efficient and keeps students on top of deadlines.

Web Extras

Description from the Board of Education

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

• Illustrious alumnus: Woody Allen.

  • 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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