|The Bronx High School of Science|
"Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination."
— John Dewey
|75 Bronx Science Boulevard
(West 205th Street)
|Type||Public, Exam school, Selective Magnet School, NYC Specialized High School|
|School district||DOE Region 10|
|Oversight||NYC Department of Education|
|Principal||Jean M. Donahue|
|Color(s)||Green and Gold|
|Average SAT scores (2012)||2010|
The Bronx High School of Science (commonly called Bronx Science or Science) is a specialized New York City public high school. 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 is attended by 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.
Bronx Science is a member of the National Consortium for Specialized Secondary Schools of Mathematics, Science and Technology (NCSSSMST). Together with Stuyvesant High School and Brooklyn Technical High School, it is one of three original specialized science high schools operated by the New York City Department of Education.
The Bronx High School of Science was founded in 1938 as a specialized science and math high school for boys, by resolution of the Board of Education of the City of New York, with Morris Meister as the first principal of the school. They were given use of an antiquated Gothic-gargoyled edifice located at Creston Avenue and 184th Street, in the Fordham Road-Grand Concourse area of the Bronx. The building, built in 1918 for Evander Childs High School, had been successively occupied by Walton High School (1930) and by an annex of DeWitt Clinton High School (1935). The initial faculty were composed in part by a contingent from Stuyvesant High School.
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, Jean Donahue was named interim 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. Donahue has since been instated as the principal.
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.
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, in order to teach students about tolerance. The museum, located in the school's library, 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 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 to the museum's construction. The museum is one of the rarest of its kind, being located in an American public high school. 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 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. Students take four years of English, with electives including honors creative writing, exploring science fiction, journalism workshop, and AP English. 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.
Representative electives include:
Bronx Science offers all of the AP courses, except for AP German Language and Culture. The courses include:
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.
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.
A comprehensive events calendar is maintained on the school's website.
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.
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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.
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 Language, Spanish), Gregory Greene (Mathematics), James Perna (Mathematics), Pat Drury (Physical Education), John Reutershan (Mathematics), Alison Wheeler (Biology), Nina Wohl (Social Studies), Mrs. Ramos (Chemistry), Louis DiIulio (Social Studies) Dermot Hannon (English), Sophia Sapozhnikov (English), Todd Davis (Social Studies) and Nicholas McConnell (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.
Bronx Science also has six Pulitzer Prize-winning graduates; a seventh is the Editor of a newspaper that was awarded:
Six alumni have won the National Medal of Science, the nation's highest scientific honor bestowed by the U.S. President and thus far awarded to 425 scientists and engineers. Bronx Science also counts among its graduates 29 current members of the United States National Academy of Sciences (NAS), an honor attained by only about 2,000 American scientists. There are 22 Bronx Science graduates who are current members of the United States National Academy of Engineering (NAE), ten are current members of the Institute of Medicine (IOM), and at least one is a current member of the Royal Society of Canada. Other award-winning alumni include journalist Mark Boal, who was honored with the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for The Hurt Locker (2009).
Other notable graduates and former students include:
The Firesign Theatre, an avant garde radio comedy troupe of the 70's based part of their album, "Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers" on principal Alexander Taffel addressing the school in the auditorium.
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 country," 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.
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