|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.