The Bronx High School of Science (commonly called Bronx Science or Science is a specialized New York City public high school sometimes said to be the premier science magnet school in the United States. Founded in 1938, it is now located in the Bedford Park section of the Bronx. Admission is by an exam open to all grade-eligible students in New York City, reportedly taken by more than 20,000 students annually. Although known for its focus on mathematics and science, Bronx Science also emphasizes the humanities and social sciences and continually attracts students (called "Scienceite(s)") with a wide variety of interests beyond math and science.
Bronx Science has received international recognition as one of the best high schools in the United States, public or private, regularly ranking in the top 100 in U.S. News and World Report's lists of America's "Gold-Medal" high schools. It attracts an intellectually gifted blend of culturally, ethnically, and economically diverse students from New York City. As of 2012, Bronx Science is ranked as one of the " 22 top-performing schools" in America on The Washington Post as well as number 50 out of a list of the best 1,000 high schools in the country on The Daily Beast's "America's Best High Schools" list. In 2014 it was ranked second highest on Cities Journal's list of the "15 Best High Schools in New York", along with Stuyvesant (ranked third) and Brooklyn Tech (ranked eighth).
Almost all Bronx Science graduates continue on to four-year colleges, and it is a "feeder school" with many grads going on to attend schools in the Ivy League and other prestigious institutions each year. Bronx Science has counted 132 finalists in the Intel (formerly Westinghouse) Science Talent Search, the largest number of any high school. Eight graduates have won Nobel Prizes—more than any other secondary education institution in the United States—and six have won Pulitzer Prizes. Of the eight Nobel Prizes earned by Bronx Science graduates, seven of them are in physics, which earned Bronx Science a designation by the American Physical Society as an "Historic Physics Site" in 2010.
Principal Meister put his imprint on the school from its formation, for example selecting as school colors "green to represent chlorophyll and gold the sun, both of which are essential to the chain of life."
Bronx Science started with about 150 ninth year students and 250 tenth year students, the remaining facilities of the building being used by DeWitt Clinton. As more boys began to attend Science, the Clinton contingent was gradually returned to its own main building. During their joint occupation, which lasted for 2 years until 1940, the two schools had separate teaching staff and classes, but the same supervision and administration.
In 1946, as a result of the efforts of Meister, the faculty, and the Parents Association, the school became co-ed, giving girls of New York equal opportunity to pursue a quality education in a specialized high school, previously denied to them. This expansion to co-education preceded its rivals Stuyvesant (1969) and Brooklyn Tech (1970) by more than two decades.
In 1958, after 20 years as principal of the school, Morris Meister resigned to become the first president of the newly organized Bronx Community College. Alexander Taffel succeeded Meister as principal.
From the beginning, the Parents Association and Principal Morris Meister campaigned for a new building. After twenty years, but under Principal Taffel, plans were finally completed for a new $8 million building, designed by the architectural firm of Emery Roth and Sons. The new building would be on 205th Street near Bedford Park Boulevard, in a predominantly institutional area, between DeWitt Clinton High School and its large football field on one side, and Harris Field and Hunter College (now Lehman College) on the other. On March 3, 1959, students and faculty occupied the new building for the first time, solving the problem of how to move the books from the old library to the new in typical Bronx Science manner: on Friday afternoon each student took home five library books from the old building, and on Monday returned them to the new one.
They entered a school equipped with modern classrooms, laboratories, and technical studio areas. The main lobby entrance featured a 63-foot (19 m), Venetian glass mosaic mural overhead, depicting major figures from the history of science such as Marie Curie and Charles Darwin under the protective hands of a God-like figure representing knowledge, with this quote from John Dewey: "Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination." The mural is an original work by Frank J. Reilly entitled Humanities Protecting Biology, Physics, Chemistry, reflecting the school's mission to excel not only in the sciences and mathematics, but also in the humanities. Legions of students over the years, bemoaning the lack of swimming facilities, have sarcastically referred to the mural as "the Science swimming pool", perpetuating the idea – perhaps apocryphal – that a choice was made to fund a mural rather than a pool in the new building; but the mural continues to epitomize the special nature of the Bronx High School of Science. The move was not without incident. In the first spring of the move, rumors swept the school that various Bronx youth street gangs were coming to the school, and that the Fordham Baldies would shave the hair of Science students. This never happened. Another incident did happen that spring: The first time Science girls appeared on the outdoor physical education field in gym clothes, some students from the neighboring, all-male DeWitt Clinton High School charged the separation fence between their field and the Science field. The fence held, but the female students exercised indoors for the remainder of that year.
When Bronx Science celebrated its silver anniversary in June 1963, President John F. Kennedy hailed it as "a significant and pathfinding example of a special program devoted to the development of the student gifted in science and mathematics." The President had recently selected one of its graduates, Harold Brown, of the class of 1943, for the position of Director of Defense Research and Engineering; he would later serve as Secretary of Defense under President Jimmy Carter.
When Alexander Taffel retired as principal in 1978, the chairman of the Biological Science Department, Milton Kopelman, became Principal. He remained so for over ten years. Upon Principal Kopelman's retirement in 1990, long-time faculty member and Biology Assistant Principal Vincent Galasso became principal. He was followed by Physical Science Department Assistant Principal Stanley Blumenstein, a 1963 graduate of Bronx Science.
In 2000 William Stark, an assistant principal of the Social Studies Department, was appointed acting principal. He was expected to move up to the principal's office, when Chancellor Harold O. Levy decided to try to find a Nobel laureate to become principal. However, when that effort failed, Stark was still not offered the job as principal. Stark said that if he wasn't officially offered the job by a certain date, he would take another position being offered to him elsewhere. When the deadline came and went, Stark accepted a job as principal of Manhasset High School. Many faculty and parents were upset that Stark was not appointed in a timely way and thus had left the school; Vincent Galasso agreed to an interim appointment for one term in 2001.
After Levy's unsuccessful attempt to appoint a Nobel laureate, Valerie J. Reidy, Assistant Principal of the Biology Department, was appointed principal in September 2001; she was the first female principal in the school's history. Reidy has been a controversial figure, and several teachers left the school in response to her becoming principal. Some teachers have openly criticized her to newspapers and some students staged protests in 2005 and 2008. There was also a substantial exodus of social studies teachers at the end of the 2010–2011 term, reportedly due to problems with the administration. Valerie Reidy announced her resignation in June 2013.
In September 2013, Dr. Jean Donahue was named Interim Acting Principal of the school. Donahue is an alumna of the school (Class of 1977), the parent of an alumna, and a long time faculty member at the school.
The Bronx High School of Science has a student body of about 3,000 students. Admission is based exclusively on an entrance examination, known as the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test (SHSAT), open to all eighth and ninth grade New York City students. The test covers math (word problems and computation) and verbal (reading comprehension, logical reasoning, unscrambling paragraphs) skills. Out of the approximately 30,000 students taking the entrance examination for the September 2011 admission round, (with 19,587 students listing Bronx Science as a choice on their application), about 1,044 offers were made, making for an acceptance rate of 5.3%.
Although the student body is diverse, comprising almost every ethnic group in New York City, about 63% of the Bronx Science's student population is Asian as of 2012. Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics represent 23.51%, 3.33%, and 6.89% of the school's student population respectively. The ratio of female to male students as of 2012 is forty-two females for every fifty-eight males.
Rooftop solar array: A rooftop solar panel installation was completed in February 2006. The 33.6 kW (DC) photovoltaic (PV) arrays consist of 168 Sharp Solar 200 watt DC PV modules laminated to PowerLight's flat-roof PowerGuard mounting system and utilizes a Xantrex PV-30208 30 kW AC 3 phase inverter. Integration with the school's computer network allows students to monitor the solar panels' production of electricity in real time, while saving on the school's energy cost. A screen just off the main lobby displays production data at every moment.
High speed internet access in every room
Website with a .edu top-level domain, one of a few obtained by high schools before the rules changed in October 2001 restricting .edu to post-secondary schools.
Televisions equipped with DVD/VHS players in every room
Advanced library resources: The Bronx Science library provides resources ranging from traditional print and microform to electronic subscription e-journals and databases. Located on the first floor just off the main lobby, the library is composed of three smaller rooms encompassing approximately 65,000 square feet (6,000 m²) with a seating capacity of 100. Holdings include over 30,000 volumes, 135 different magazines, microforms (including the New York Times on microfilm dating back to 1851) and readers, and computers in the computer room. Among its electronic resources is ScienceDirect, a free science journal service provided by Elsevier to a select few science high schools. It is used by students as a gateway to firsthand experience with published scientific research.
In 1978, Stuart S. Elenko, a Social Studies faculty member, founded a Holocaust Museum and Studies Center at Bronx Science, funded by grants, donations, and the New York City Council. The museum was one of the first of its kind in the United States, and houses a collection of rare documents, photographs, artifacts and other material from the Nazi era; the Studies Center sponsors speakers and puts together and distributes educational materials about the Holocaust. The museum has had over 60,000 visitors. In 2004 an anonymous benefactor – an alumnus of the school – made a very large donation to the museum. In 2006, the museum moved out of its original home into a larger space, although plans were made for the museum to be renovated. In April 2013, after more than a decade, Bronx Science completed the expensive job of rebuilding the newly redesigned museum – which now sits in the basement of the school. Costing over $1 million thanks to several grants and numerous donations from alumni (including $150,000 from the City Council) – over $500,000 of those expenses directed towards the museum's construction – the museum is one of the rarest of its kind to be located in a public high school in America. Home to over 1,000 collected artifacts, the museum is housed in a 1,000-square-foot (93 m2) room, which sports an aggregation of artifacts tucked in pull-out drawers and positioned beneath glass displays, along with their respective captions. Bronx Science offers a Holocaust Leadership Class (offered to sophomores and upperclassmen), which allows the students in this class to serve as the tour guides of the Holocaust Museum & Studies Center.
Bronx Science is the only NYC Specialized High School with a campus.
A hallway on the first floor of Bronx Science
A math and computer programming class at Science in 1960, with an IBM 650 op code chart, upper right. Science was one of the first high schools to teach computers. The school had a keypunch machine and students ran their programs at the Watson lab at Columbia University. Science obtained its own computer, an IBM 1620, a year and a half later.
Bronx Science students take a college preparatory curriculum that includes four years of lab science, math, English, social studies, two or three years of foreign language and a year of fine arts, with required courses and a wide selection of electives, including advanced placement (AP) classes, which allow students to place out of introductory college science courses. Over 160 distinct courses are offered. Students have an opportunity to do independent research, and many compete in the annual Intel Science Talent Search (formerly sponsored by Westinghouse).
In the biological sciences, the students have the additional option of taking a special "double honors" biology course, which features extra laboratory exposure. Science electives include microbiology, physiology, forensic science, human genetics, evolution, astronomy, organic chemistry, electronics and others.
The mathematics department offers the standard AP courses in AB/BC calculus and statistics, courses in multivariable calculus and computer science, including AP Java. A course in linear algebra and differential equations was offered for the first time in fall 2007.
Four years of social studies or history classes are required, and include US and world history, economics – with electives in psychology, law, finance, and global studies, among others.
Three years of languages are required. Bronx Science offers French, Spanish, Latin, Italian, Modern Greek, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. At one time Hebrew, Russian and German were also offered.
Students in their sophomore year are required to take either Applied Science or a class to satisfy the Sophomore Research Requirement. Classes that satisfy the Sophomore Research Requirement include Introduction to Engineering, Social Science Research, Biology/Physical Science Research, and Math Research. Students have the option of continuing their research in their junior and senior years, which gives them the opportunity to work with mentors and submit their final research paper to prestigious competitions such as the Intel Science Talent Search. Students must also obtain credits from two terms of a class in the fine arts or the equivalent. The fine arts requirement is usually satisfied during Bronx Science's Summer Program which offers Drama, Music, and Art. Students usually "double up" on two of these courses to satisfy the fine arts requirement for once and all during the time period of one summer. However, it is possible to satisfy the fine arts requirement by taking a music elective such as Jazz Band or an arts elective such as AP Studio Art during the regular school year.
Health and Physical Education courses are also required, with activities including step aerobics, weight training, basketball, skating, team handball, fitness and yoga.
English – Journalism Workshop, Yearbook Journalism Workshop, Bronx Science Forensics Debate Team (offered to officers of Bronx Science's Speech & Debate Team)
Social Studies – Holocaust Leadership Class, Social Science Research Projects
Mathematics – Math Research, Calculus, Statistics & Data Analysis, Math Team (offered separately for freshmen through seniors), Multivariable Calculus & Partial Differential Equations, Linear Algebra & Differential Equations, Game Programming, Robotics, Robotics Project Management
Physical Sciences – Physical Science Research, Introduction to Engineering, Digital Engineering, Post-AP Chemistry (Quantitative Analysis), Post-AP Physics (Introduction to Modern Physics), Astronomy & Astrophysics, Introduction to Organic Chemistry
Foreign Language – Spanish for Professions, Spanish Narrative & Film, Advanced Fourth Year Conversation (French, Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Spanish), Advanced Fourth Year Latin Selected Readings, Honors Modern Greek Language & Literature, College Level Greek, Intensive Modern Greek for Beginners, Intermediate Honors Modern Greek for Beginners, Classics in Translation, Korean
The Arts – Basic Acting – Improvisation & Performance, Advanced Acting: Play Production, Studio in Art, Photography, Studio in Drawing & Design, Studio in Painting, Introduction to Music, Digital Music Lab, Concert Band, Jazz Band, Intermediate Band, Orchestra, Chorus
Health & Physical Education – Basketball, Baseball, Volleyball, Aerobatics, Whiffle Ball, Gymnastics, Yoga, Weight Training, Fitness, Flag Football, Soccer, Ultimate Frisbee, Hockey, Team Handball
Bronx Science offers all of the AP courses, except for AP German Language and Culture. The courses include:
English – AP English Literature and Composition, AP English Language and Composition
Social Sciences – AP U.S. History, AP European History, AP World History (2 Years), AP U.S. Government & Politics, AP Microeconomics, AP Macroeconomics, AP Micro/Macroeconomics, AP Comparative Government & Politics, AP Human Geography
Mathematics – AP Calculus AB, AP Calculus BC, AP Statistics, AP Computer Science
Science – AP Biology, AP Environmental Science, AP Psychology, AP Chemistry, AP Physics B (without Calculus), AP Physics C (with Calculus)
Language – AP Spanish Language, AP Spanish Literature, AP French Language and Culture, AP Italian Language and Culture, AP Latin (Virgil), AP Chinese Language and Culture, AP Japanese Language and Culture
Arts – AP Studio Art, AP Art History, AP Music Theory
Along with a rigorous academic foundation and an array of extracurricular choices, students are provided with original research opportunities in the biological, physical, and social sciences, and programs that hone students' investigative skills and prepare them for academic competitions. Interested students may apply for research programs in their freshman year and begin a three-year sequence of voluntary work on their projects in their sophomore year. During this time, students collaborate with scientists at local laboratories to develop and complete an independent research project, usually concentrated during two summers. The program culminates in the writing of a scientific paper in the senior year, which is submitted to various competitions, such as the Intel Science Talent Search. Since the inception of this prestigious national competition in 1942, Bronx Science has accumulated the highest number of finalists: 132.
Bronx Science students working on the publication of the Science Survey in the newspaper publication room
There are several school publications, some produced by students, others produced by individual departments.
Science Survey is Bronx Science's entirely student-run newspaper. Students manage everything: reporting, layout, design, editing, and final production, under the supervision of the journalism teacher. The paper runs on funds from its advertisers, with no fiscal school support. The paper is distributed on average 7 times per year at no charge. Science Survey has been the name of the Bronx Science student newspaper since the founding of the school in 1938.
Dynamo is the literary magazine sponsored by the English Department, consisting of original poems and stories submitted by students from all grades. The Observatory is Bronx Science's prize-winning yearbook. The yearbook office has a custom-built web server to manage its production, powered by MediaWiki and Coppermine software.
The Biology Department sponsors two publications. BioNIC (the Biology News and Information Center) is an annual web publication featuring biology-related events at Bronx Science, student-written articles, opportunities, and links to helpful and interactive pages. Biology Journal, a joint venture between students and faculty, documents advances in the field within the school and in the outside world. Each themed issue contains interviews, commentaries, artwork, featured student research papers, and abstracts from every student biology research project that year.
Other department-produced publications include the annual Math Bulletin, consisting of student term papers, original student mathematics research, and topics in mathematics; Exposition, an annual production of the Social Studies Department; and Reactions, written by Physical Science students.
BS was the name for the school's underground newspaper in the 90's. The paper may not be currently active. It was entirely student-run and financed by the writers, through candy sales to the student body. The paper included only student-written content covering local politics, poetry, fiction, non-fiction and art. One article covered the lax grading of one teacher, demonstrating several purposefully ridiculous homework responses which the teacher 'checked' as being acceptable without reading.
The school boasts both boys' and girls' teams for basketball, bowling, cross country, fencing, golf, gymnastics, handball, track, soccer, swimming, tennis, and volleyball. The baseball, basketball, softball, and volleyball teams compete on both the varsity and junior varsity levels. The cricket team is co-ed. Bronx Science also has a girls varsity flag football team, a boys varsity wrestling team, a girls varsity lacrosse team, and a developmental boys varsity lacrosse team. In the 2009 to 2010 school year, Bronx Science's boys won the "Triple Crown": the cross country, indoor track, and outdoor track were ranked best in the Bronx all in one year. In 2012 to 2013 school year the Girls Soccer team defeated Beacon High School winning the PSAL city championship.
Speech and Debate Team: Founded in 1969 by debate coach Richard B. Sodikow, the team has been prominent and successful. With the creation of Lincoln-Douglas Debate in 1979, came the creation of the Bronx Science LD squad which has had national success. David Yalof won the national championship in 1984, and two years later, Hee-Sun Hong received the first-ever Tournament of Champions title in Lincoln-Douglas Debate. In 1988, Jonathan Koppell and Peter Colavito closed out the final round of the Tournament of Champions.
The Speech and Student Congress portions of the team have also won numerous awards. A small sample: In 1996 and 1997 Kari Hodges won the New York State forensic league championship in Dramatic Interpretation, an award also won in 1992 by Maggie Siff. Rachel Haber and Benji Unger took home the state championship in Declamation in 2001 and 2002. Kayan Clarke and Xizi Qiu were state champions in Original Oratory in 1997 and 2002. Patrick Woods won the state championship in Student Congress in 1998.
Bronx Science debaters have amassed many titles in major competitions, including: Emory University's Barkley Forum for High Schools, the Harvard National Invitational, the Lexington Winter Classic, Hendrick Hudson, T.A. Edison, University of Southern California, Villiger, the Northeast Regional Championships, the Newark Debates, the Westchester Classic, the Robert J. Kaiser Invitational, the Scarsdale Jeffrey Williams Lincoln-Douglas Debate Championship, Woodward Academy Novice Nationals, Woodward Academy Second Year Nationals, the MBA Round Robin, the Bronx Round Robin, the Glenbrooks Round Robin, and the National Debate Coaches Association (NDCA) National Championship.
Robotics Team: The Bronx Science Sciborgs (FIRST Team 1155) compete annually in the FIRST Robotics Competition. The team is a collaboration between students and mentors to design, fund, and construct a winning robot.
Winners, 2010 New York City Regional Finalists
Winners, 2009 Connecticut Regional- Winner; Winners, 2009 New York City Regional Finalists; Winners, 2009 New York City Regional – Rockwell Automation and Innovation in Control award
Winners, 2007 New York City Regional Chairman's Award; Winners, 2007 New Jersey Regional Finalists
Winners, 2006 New York City Engineering Inspiration Award
Winners, 2005 New York City Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield, and Byers Entrepreneurship Award
Winners, 2004 New York City Delphi Driving Tomorrow Award
All-Girls Robotics Team: The Bronx Science All-Girls FeMaidens (FIRST Team 2265) competes annually in the FIRST Robotics Competition. This team was created by the Bronx Science Sciborgs in 2007 as an effort to advance women in engineering.
Winners, 2010 New York City Regional – Winner; Winners, 2010 New York City Regional – Engineering Inspiration Award; Winners, 2010 New Jersey Regional – Imagery Award
Winners, 2009 Connecticut Regional – Best Website
Winners, 2008 New York City Regional – Website Excellence Award
Winners, 2007 New York City Regional – Rookie All-Star Award
Mathematics teacher James Perna, a Teacher of the Year
The Bronx Science faculty includes educators with advanced degrees, including the PhD, in their field, and many have taught at universities. Unlike most New York City public schools, teachers are not hired according to seniority. Instead, teachers are interviewed and reviewed by a committee of current teachers from the department.
Some teachers are also alumni of the school: Michael Contente (ret. June 2007), the former coordinator of the Department of Mathematics (1966); Jean M. Donahue, PhD, formerly the assistant principal of the Science Department and as of the 2013-14 school year the school's principal (1977); Fred Levy, assistant principal of the art, music, and technology departments; David Cohen (math and technology), Richard Lee (biology), Sherrill Mirsky (ret. June 2009), Dorothy Klausner (ret. June 2009), Beatrice Robertson (math), Polly Schoenfeld (English), Jordan Ronson (English), Olivia Byun (English), Daniel Abella (filmmaking), John Liu (Global and U.S. History).
Many teachers also play an active role in the advancement of the school's vision. For example, Fanny K. Ennever, PhD, a former teacher in the Physical Science Department and adjunct assistant professor at Columbia University, was responsible for securing a $27,500 grant in both 2004 and 2005 for developing and modifying the Bronx Science chemistry laboratory curriculum, in order to make sessions less "cookbook" and more inquiry-based.
Every year, the senior members of ARISTA National Honor Society vote for the Honored Teacher Award. Winners of the award include Patricia Nunez (Foreign Lanuage, Spanish), Gregory Greene (Mathematics), James Perna (Mathematics), Pat Drury (Physical Education), John Reutershan (Mathematics), Dr. Wheeler (Biology), Mrs. Ramos (Biology), Louis DiIulio (Social Studies) and Dermot Hannon (English).
No other secondary school in the United States has as many alumni who have won Nobel Prizes. If Bronx Science were a country, it would be tied at 14th with Norway for number of Nobel laureates (as of July 2013). Were Bronx Science a university, it would be tied for 58th place, matching UNC-Chapel Hill and UMD.
In Season 1, Episode 18 of The West Wing, Mallory O'Brien mentions Bronx Science in a discussion of public school reform and school vouchers. Rob Lowe's character, Sam Seaborn says, “Boston Latin, the oldest public school in the country, is still the best secondary school in New England.” Mallory O'Brien replies "They all can't be Boston Latin and Bronx Science."
In the television show Head of the Class, Bronx Science is named explicitly throughout the show as Fillmore High School's rival, often appearing against them in academic competitions.
In Season 1, Episode 12 of What I Like About You, Henry says he goes to Bronx Science and has a GPA of 3.7.
In one episode of Everybody Hates Chris, Chris and his friend, Greg both apply for Bronx Science. In the end, only Greg was accepted.
Northern Exposure was a show about a doctor whose medical education was financed by an Alaskan town where he was then obliged to work. Dr. Joel Fleischman (played by Rob Morrow) often reminisced about his high school days at Bronx Science. When Dr. Fleischman's role diminished, he was succeeded by Dr. Phil Capra, played by Paul Provenza, who is an actual Bronx Science graduate.
On Brooklyn Bridge, a CBS television series from the early 90's about a Jewish family in Brooklyn, the family celebrates the admission of Alan, the older son, to Bronx Science. Stereotypical mother boasts to the neighbors and relatives call from all over, including the "old county," to congratulate Alan's achievement. Alan decides not to attend fearing the commute and separation from his neighborhood friends.
In Noah Baumbach's 2007 film Margot at the Wedding, it is revealed that Margot's son, Claude, has recently transferred to Bronx Science. His father is heard saying "It was a difficult decision because Claude has so many friends at school now, but it is expensive and Bronx Science is a great public school." Claude then retorts "I didn't get into Stuyvesant."
The 2009 film City Island includes a character who attends Bronx Science. Scenes of the movie were shot at the school.
William Goldstein and Charles Leipart have created a musical, Me and Miss Monroe, which tells the story of Steven, a 16-year-old Bronx Science student in 1962 who inadvertently meets and befriends Marilyn Monroe at the carousel in Central Park as he works on his project for a national science fair.
The 2010 adaptation It's Kind of a Funny Story mentions Bronx Science among rigorous public high schools a character would like to attend.
The 2011 adaptation Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close mentions that Oskar Schell's father went to Bronx Science High School where he was student manager of the baseball team and science editor of the paper.