Even if your child is in the fifth or sixth grade and not necessarily ready for high school just yet, we suggest you take them to an open house or two. It will show them what high school is like and just might inspire them.
Through a set of standards and criteria each school is willing to share, we have chosen those top high schools for you to explore. After a series of discussions with teachers, administrators, parents and students, we have assembled information to help you choose the right education for your student.
Low student-to-teacher ratios are quite common, and students average fairly high SAT scores. Holy Cross High School, which boasts an average SAT score of 1260, and Lawrence Woodmere Academy, where the student-faculty ratio is 5-to-1 are examples of ways private schools differ from public high schools.
Dominican Academy, an all-girls school in Manhattan, offers AP Italian Language courses, and at the open house at St. Saviour High School in Park Slope, you will hear about recent graduates attending Yale, Cornell, Georgetown and Clemson.
High achievement, special attention and challenging curriculum is normal for these schools.
Recently, the Queens district attorney began investigating Maspeth High School. The school, which was named a National Blue Ribbon School, had multiple whistleblowers come forward and allege that teachers were forced to pass students and change grades and test scores.
It is not a stretch to suppose there are inconsistencies in “random lottery” admission processes to most of the smaller high schools throughout the city. It seems a student is chosen if they or their parent knows someone.
But even if your child is lucky enough to have a “connect” or win a lottery just to get in to a new, smaller public high school, we encourage you to spend a few hours on a tour of our Top High Schools. We maintain that private education at the high-school level is always going to be worth the investment.
In this special editorial section of our century-old weekly community newspaper group, we suggest you think about a better, more personalized education at one of the private high schools based on the extensive information we compiled over a decade of coverage, questioning and investigation.
Learn from this guide and explore what these high schools have to offer in the way of helping their students get into top colleges across the nation. Advanced placement classes, after-school clubs and truly organized athletics are just part of everyday life in these school.
Mentoring, college coordinators and peer-to-peer counselors are routine. Faith and moral character are paramount to the experience at these schools, so if that’s not for you, then just stop here and go to the entertainment section. But we find out top high schools are culturally and religiously diverse.
After doing the research, we can assure parents that our Top High Schools are worth the investment in your child. If you want specialized attention, public schools just won’t cut it.
Take a look at any of the schools’ websites, and there might be as many as eight sports teams in action on a given day. And there seems to be something for the student body to take part in every weekend, from Buddy Days to walkathons. For example, St. Francis Prep held its annual walkathon last Friday, and students raised over $250,000 for music facilities.
There is no shortage of high school teachers and program coordinators at these schools who passionately work to help get their students involved with activities and ultimately get them into the college of their choice.
In Astoria, where the television and film industry has a strong presence, St. John’s Prep continues to build on its Black Box Theatre program, which has already inspired many students to go into the arts. According to Simona Rodano, who runs the theatre arts program, students are excited to take this passion to the next level.
Nuala Martinez is the new principal at St. John’s Prep. We met her last month at a community event and she is going to be spectacular. The school is one of many listed here offer scholarships, many from endowments.
This year, they awarded an eighth grader from Glendale the first Flood Family Scholarship. Daniel Stankiewicz, an honor student from I.S. 113 and a parishioner at Sacred Heart Church, received the scholarship in recognition of integrity, service, and dedication in the community.
The culture of these private schools encourages student to get involved in activities in and out of the classroom. Year after year, we find that more schools are offering amazing in-school courses and after-school activities geared toward the arts and sciences.
Archbishop Molloy in Briarwood continues to offer a video broadcast club. As we noted last year, Msgr. McClancy High School in East Elmhurst offers music and performing arts scholarships, and their choir sang at Citi Field last month.
In Manhattan, St. Jean Baptiste kicked off the new school year by marching in the parade to open San Gennaro Festival. Getting their students involved in the community outside school walls is a hallmark. Xavier High School always has a top-notch band march in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on 5th Avenue.
As colleges increasingly emphasize digital literacy, Martin Luther School in Maspeth is answering the call, partnering with Apple to put their students ahead of the curve. Each one gets a new iPad and uses them in a broad range of classroom situations.
Robotics and technology classes headline the course load for 10th, 11th and 12th graders at Cathedral in Manhattan, while entrepreneurship and business law programs continue to be popular, according to students there.
The overwhelming attraction to an education at our top schools is the culture of family. “Once a Stanner, always a Stanner,” said one student we spoke to from the Archbishop Molloy. And the alumni family is extraordinary. “It’s about the critical thinking and the way we learn life-long values,” said McClancy alum Billy Hofmann.
How We Chose the Schools for Our List
We sent questionnaires to dozens of private high schools in Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan for our 2019 issues. In order to make the cut, at least 90 percent of the student body must be college-bound and the schools must boast a full roster of extracurricular activities.
We speak to parents, students, alumni, teachers and administrators. We are able to obtain interesting information that might not typically be shared with the outside world. The questions we ask are intended to compare the academic, spiritual and social environment of each school.
Schools are not shy about sharing scholarship opportunities for eighth graders, and we suggest parents speak to admissions directors about those programs. Have your student prepared for an interview, as scholarships are not given haphazardly. And scholarship money that graduating seniors received for colleges is crucial for our evaluations.
We found that each school has its strengths, challenges and distinct culture.
Some schools wouldn’t share enough information for us to make a determination on quality of curriculum, program and student body, so they were not included on our list. But we’ve been on this beat for 15 years now, so the administrators know why we are calling each fall.
Public high schools do not share the information we are seeking with us. Many are now small, and small gives your child a shot at making it out of there in one piece. Themed public high schools have been getting good marks from parents, but it seems many students need a connection to get in.
If they would give us credible information, we could evaluate them. We have determined that it’s hit or miss with these schools, with very little consistency on the outcome.
With our top schools, a larger percentage of students who score in the middle of the class in academics tend to get accepted and get scholarship money for a college of choice. Students from The Kew-Forest School are attending Johns Hopkins, Wesleyan, Tufts, Duke and Amhurst. Now that’s a list any school would be proud of.
High-achieving eighth graders who might have attended a specialized city high school in the past are now opting for a top private high school and receiving some form of academic scholarship.
Each of our top high schools has its own way of motivating students for four years, but they have a few things in common we feel we should point out. They all work hard at getting all of their students into top colleges, and treat every student like they are important.
The Mary Louis Academy, an all-girls school in Jamaica Estates, begins talking about college with students as early as the ninth grade. Its college placement program works on matching students to colleges based on their passions, interests, and unique skills.
St. Agnes in College Point hosted a program last month called Empowering The Next Generation of Women, and partnerships with colleges is a staple at the school. Molloy College administrators and Patricia McDonald, the former mayor of Malverne, were guest speakers at the event.
St. John’s Prep has a baccalaureate program in partnership with St. John’s University. The program enables St. John’s Prep students to complete high school and college in seven years.
Our Top High Schools have the flexibility to reach out to institutions of higher education to develop partnerships. They include college credit courses and the opportunity for seniors to visit a college campus for classes to get a feel for the next level.
The Mary Louis Academy has a pre-med track, and students take part in a summer internship at hospitals like Lenox Hill and New York Presbyterian.
Many of the schools on this list have dynamic programs like this, and in most cases graduates from these high schools have an advantage because they are entering college with a semester or more worth of college credit, bringing the cost of college down considerably.
Call a school on our list and ask about college interaction programs, or even better, ask to talk to one of the seniors involved.
Interested in a Top High School? Take the Extra Step
If price is keeping you from thinking about one of these schools, rest assured these schools typically want your child if your child wants them. Contacting the financial aid department at one of the schools does not send up a red flag about you child. In fact, it helps.
These schools love kids who show a passion for their school, and they will make an effort to figure out how to get you financial aid. You will have to pay something (showing your family tax return is typical), but if your student is well behaved, shows that he or she is willing to work and has some talent that can add to the school community, they will get you in.
After exploring the options in Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan in this special issue, attend the open houses during the next few weeks and talk to an admissions director. If they find your child is likely to succeed, you might qualify for scholarships or aid.
Technology, Scholarships, College Credit Courses & Internships
The schools we cover in this issue have invested heavily in technology in their classrooms and libraries. Over the last ten years, they have been much more willing to experiment with savvy tech options to stay ahead of the curve.
They all offer state-of-the-art computers, libraries, smartboards and websites to assign and submit homework.
Almost all of the schools in this issue offer college credit courses, which helps with some college expenses. Nearly every student at Dominican Academy for girls in Manhattan takes at least one college-credit course, and almost two-thirds enroll in an honors course.
Dominican Academy went through an extensive renovation project over the past two summers. While adding a few classrooms in their 68th Street townhouse, they added to the size of the cafeteria, made the school more wi-fi friendly and added a performing arts space.
St. Francis Prep offers 30 or more college credit courses in subjects ranging from art and language to math.
Trips abroad are also part of many language curriculum options. Xavier High School has a number of trips every summer, from building homes in South America to simply helping communities in need in this country.
While we find that most private high schools in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan are attracting students from nearby, they are a choice for more and more students who commute an hour and sometimes more.
Queens-based McClancy says they have always attracted students from Greenpoint, while the Rockaways always seems to have a number of teens who travel to Xavier in Manhattan.
Dominican Academy in Manhattan says 30 percent of its students live in Queens or Brooklyn. It’s just a simple train ride away.
What To Look For at The Open House
October is the month most schools want you there, although some offer second chances. It is imperative that you attend the open house with your child. Ask questions of the people taking you on the tours.
Most schools have had a student or two attend a top-ranked college. Find out where a student who was in the middle of the class academically went to college last year. Do most of the graduates go to CUNY, SUNY or do they aspire to go to tier-one colleges?
U.S. News and World Report magazine publishes a guide to U.S. colleges this month. Look it up online.
Don’t be shy about asking questions. Your child will spend the next four years there, so speak to a current student you don't know. Is he or she the type of kid you think you want your child to become?
Ask where they score in relation to their classmates. Are his or her marks in the middle of the class or are they above average? A teenager will be honest if they are talking to you one-on-one.
Ask to speak to the principal or admissions director during the open house. Introduce your child to him or her. Don’t be afraid to tell them about your child. Talk about what type of student they are and their outside interests.
They actually want to talk to you and they will be honest with you. Understanding that they want a student who will be a good fit for the school is quite important. If the student leaves after a year, it doesn’t make sense for either the school or the student.
Sports & Schools
Many of our top schools concentrate on athletics for two reasons. It is a way of promoting their school, but it is also a big part of the culture of the student body. It feels good to win, and it spreads a winning spirit.
Our top schools all have robust sports and club programs. Administrators will freely admit the positive press from a few good teams goes a long way in recruiting students.
Many students look forward to practice or the game after class, or they say intramural sports get them through the academic day. Not everyone will make the team of their choice, but these schools do a great job of making sports an integral part of the school spirit.
If your child is an athlete, seek out the freshman coach at the open house. Coaches will be honest about your child's chances of making the team.
Take the TACHS
Apply for the Test for Admission into Catholic High Schools, or TACHS, scheduled for November. Visit tachsinfo.com or call (866)-61TACHS by October 21 to register in advance. Students applying to a top high school must provide their choice of schools in order of preference.
After the TACHS, contact the school admissions director and try to get your child enrolled, even if they have not accepted him or her. We know of many instances where this was done and the student had a great high school experience and went on to the right college. Be as honest with yourself and your child as possible.
There is no doubt that the extra attention and quality education your child receives at our Top High Schools is worth the cost and effort. Many children mature during their teen years, so don’t stifle their academic potential before they get a chance to grow up.