Metro

The top 12 non-specialized schools

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With more than 400 public high schools to choose from, the options for New York City families can be overwhelming. Here are some of the city’s best, chosen by various metrics, including graduation rate, reputation and college-readiness. They do not require a separate test to get into (unlike the eight schools that use the Specialized High School Admissions Test, SHSAT), but do take middle school performance into account.

BACCALAUREATE SCHOOL FOR GLOBAL EDUCATION

34-12 36th Ave., Queens
Enrollment: 579 (grades 7-12)
Four-year graduation rate: 96%

Civic-minded high achievers head to this Astoria school for grades 7 through 12, where kids perform hundreds of hours of community service at local venues like Socrates Sculpture Park and take a comprehensive liberal arts program to earn the world-renowned International Baccalaureate degree. Classes focus on critical thinking and high-level analysis across disciplines. Students complete their state-required high school courses by the end of sophomore year, then devote their junior and senior years to IB classes, including an overarching “Theory of Knowledge” course that explores the philosophy of learning itself. Students can combine their academic and extracurricular interests in a required final project or paper. In one recent year, a group of students learned to crochet, so they could produce cozy handmade scarves for the homeless clients of the Bowery Mission.

BARD HIGH SCHOOL EARLY COLLEGE QUEENS

30-20 Thomson Ave., Queens
Enrollment: 652
Four-year graduation rate: 99%

This Long Island City school draws academically driven students eager to power through the state-required high school curriculum, so that they can dig into college-level material. Just like its sister Bard HS in Manhattan, Bard Queens is founded on the idea that many students can handle post-secondary work at age 16. Juniors and seniors conduct independent research and take 60 credits worth of college classes in conjunction with Bard College, graduating with both a high school diploma and a tuition-free Bard associate degree. Bard Queens occupies two floors of a converted office building next door to LaGuardia Community College, with amenities such as a theater, dance rooms, multiple study areas and an art studio. After school, kids participate in 30 clubs — gardening, anime and fencing among them — and 14 sports, including soccer, basketball and girls’ rugby.

The New York Post has a guide to the top high schools in the city.
The New York Post has a guide to the top high schools in the city.

THE BEACON SCHOOL

522 W. 44th St., Manhattan
Enrollment: 1,509
Four-year graduation rate: 98%

A creative curriculum and a beautiful, well-equipped building draw out-of-the-box thinkers to Hell’s Kitchen for one of the city’s most popular high schools. Beacon, one of 38 New York high schools that uses performance-based assessments rather than state Regents exams to gauge achievement, prioritizes student choice along with high academic standards. Interesting elective classes like NYC in the ’80s and Understanding China are offered, along with standards like Advanced Placement physics and biology. Beacon’s $88 million building, completed in 2015, boasts a sunny cafeteria, huge auditorium, two professional recording studios, music rooms to accommodate the school’s 16 bands, a dance studio and art labs. Twenty Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) teams make use of the spacious gym, and 95 clubs cover an endless list of sometimes quirky interests: Bollywood, Tarot cards, 3-D printing, underwater robotics and more.

COLUMBIA SECONDARY SCHOOL

425 W. 123rd St., Manhattan
Enrollment: 700 (grades 6-12)
Four-year graduation rate: 96%

Engineering, math and science are the primary focus at this grade 6-through-12 school in Morningside Heights, which occupies the top three floors of an elementary-school building on the fringe of the Columbia University campus. A partnership with Columbia gives some exceptional students cost-free access to credit-bearing Ivy League classes. The school takes pride in its singular Philosophy for Thinking program, designed to help kids develop moral reasoning and ethical decision-making skills. A commitment to community service leads many students to lend a hand at CSS’s own garden, which features raised beds for vegetables, perennials, a compost project and a flock of chickens. Sports include interesting choices like rock climbing and weightlifting.

ELEANOR ROOSEVELT HIGH SCHOOL

411 E. 76th St., Manhattan
Enrollment: 546
Four-year graduation rate: 99%

The affectionately nicknamed “ElRo” is one of the most coveted schools in the city, often drawing more than 5,000 applicants for its 104 freshman seats. Its warm atmosphere and small size means plenty of encouragement for students as they tackle a challenging college-prep curriculum that offers 14 AP courses and a range of electives, like robotics and digital photography. For a school this small, ElRo boasts a mighty slate of extracurriculars, including the Roosevelt Racers, the city’s first F1 in Schools team, a STEM competition based on Formula 1 racing that has students design and build mini race cars. Despite a tiny gym, it fields PSAL teams in golf, soccer, girls’ flag football and 10 other sports.

NEST+m features a team-teaching structure to help students with disabilities.
NEST+m features a team-teaching structure to help students with disabilities.
William Farrington

HIGH SCHOOL FOR DUAL LANGUAGE AND ASIAN STUDIES

350 Grand St., Manhattan
Enrollment: 403
Four-year graduation rate: 99%

Intense, demanding program produces graduates fluent in both English and Chinese, no matter which one they grew up speaking. Everyone gets a double language period daily, with native English speakers instructed in Mandarin, and vice versa — English language learners make up about 20 percent of the student body. By junior year, all students are proficient enough to take classes together. Asian themes are woven throughout the college-prep curriculum, reflecting the school’s ethnic makeup (91 percent Asian in 2020). Clubs, too, echo the students’ cultural heritage, with K-pop, taekwondo, and Lion Dance among the extracurricular activities on offer. Twelve PSAL sports teams are shared with the four other small high schools co-located at the Lower East Side’s Seward Park Educational Campus.

LEON M. GOLDSTEIN HIGH SCHOOL FOR THE SCIENCES

1830 Shore Blvd., Brooklyn
Enrollment: 1,002
Four-year graduation rate: 97%

This school boasts a rigorous, STEM-centered curriculum with a waterfront view. Students brave lengthy commutes to reach it on the Kingsborough Community College campus in Manhattan Beach, where they have their pick of 18 AP courses and top-notch tech electives like forensic science, microbiology and environmental science. Its wide range of humanities and arts courses include jazz band, ceramics, painting and filmmaking, with dedicated studios designed for these and other artistic disciplines. The Kingsborough art gallery displays a large annual exhibition of student work every January, and Goldstein students have access to the college’s pool, library and other facilities. Along with 40 hours of required community service each year, kids are kept busy with 62 clubs — including one devoted to dystopian books and movies — and 15 PSAL sports teams.

MANHATTAN HUNTER SCIENCE HIGH SCHOOL

122 Amsterdam Ave., Manhattan
Enrollment: 452
Four-year graduation rate: 99%

A nurturing atmosphere and plenty of individual attention support ambitious learners eager to get a jump on college. The science-focused academic program at this selective Upper West Side school speeds through most high school requirements in three years, freeing students to spend senior year at CUNY’s Hunter College across town. Graduates emerge with a full semester of college credits in hand, plus a full-tuition scholarship at Hunter if they choose to continue there. Back on their home campus, a building shared with five other schools, students enjoy the small class sizes that come of an 18-to-1 pupil-teacher ratio. Bright hallways are lined with plants grown in the school’s own hydroponics lab by members of the Botany Club, one of 21 extracurricular activities. PSAL sports include co-ed Double Dutch, badminton and volleyball.

Townsend Harris High School is located on the campus of Queens College in Flushing.
Townsend Harris High School is located on the campus of Queens College in Flushing.
J.C. Rice

MILLENNIUM BROOKLYN HIGH SCHOOL

237 Seventh Ave., Brooklyn
Enrollment: 691
Four-year graduation rate: 100%

With an emphasis on writing and research, this Park Slope high school relies on experiential learning to prepare kids for college. A special research requirement calls on students to master key reading and analytical skills such as graphing, statistics and observation. In addition, four years of English, social studies, math and science, three years of either Spanish or French, and two years of multimedia arts courses, such as photography and theater, are required to graduate. The array of 37 active clubs caters to varied pursuits — birding, knitting and “bad art-making” among them. Both Millennium Brooklyn and its sister school, Millennium High School in lower Manhattan, join forces with other small high schools within Brooklyn’s John Jay Educational Campus to field 27 sports teams, including swimming, fencing and track.

NEST+m

111 Columbia St., Manhattan
Enrollment: 1,791 (grades K-12)
Four-year graduation rate: 96%

New Explorations Into Science, Technology + Math, New York’s only K-12 for gifted students, draws kids from all five boroughs hungry for an academically challenging curriculum that features a dozen AP classes, required computer courses and a workshop model for reading and writing instruction. NEST+m makes a special effort to welcome students with disabilities, using a team-teaching structure to help special-needs students — mainly those with autism and dyslexia — thrive alongside their peers. The school aims to nurture all forms of giftedness and achievement, with strong theater and music departments to match the math, science and computer offerings that give the school its name. Sixty-two clubs, from e-sports to genealogy to songwriting, add even more opportunities for creativity.

Students learn a “humanistic curriculum” at the NYC Lab School for Collaborative Studies in Chelsea, Manhattan.
Students learn a “humanistic curriculum” at the NYC Lab School for Collaborative Studies in Chelsea, Manhattan.
William Farrington

NYC LAB SCHOOL FOR COLLABORATIVE STUDIES

333 West 17th St., Manhattan
Enrollment: 483
Four-year graduation rate: 98%


Teamwork is the driving force behind this Chelsea school, which emphasizes group-learning methods as students follow what school leaders call a “humanistic curriculum.” Graduates emerge with well-developed research, writing and study skills that benefit them in college, which 85 percent of them attend. Their class schedules include regular “family circle” sessions designed to hone social and emotional learning skills. With nine AP courses and unusual electives like podcasting, album appreciation, modern band and comic books, students are encouraged to follow all their intellectual and artistic passions. The roster of 33 clubs includes several devoted to social action, such as the Women’s Empowerment Club and the Green Team.

TOWNSEND HARRIS HIGH SCHOOL

149-11 Melbourne Ave., Queens
Enrollment: 1,271
Four-year graduation rate: 100%

A rich, well-rounded curriculum with an emphasis on the classics draws top students from across the city to Flushing. Located in its own well-appointed building on the Queens College campus, Townsend Harris is nationally renowned: US News and World Report this year ranked it as the best high school in the city, above all eight of the specialized schools. The thoughtful academic program here molds teens for college success through two years of either Latin or classical Greek, a thorough grounding in the humanities, advanced science and math classes for all, and a capstone Bridge Year experience. All THHS seniors are enrolled at Queens College as nonmatriculated students, where they take college courses alongside CUNY undergrads. The lively campus hosts 30 clubs — including Scrabble and filmmaking — and 31 active PSAL teams, plus an award-winning student newspaper whose budding reporters have won mainstream media headlines for fearlessly probing the faults of their own administrators.

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