Westchester’s Public High Schools Tell Us What Makes Them Special
No, seriously, we asked them and they answered.
So you’ve seen our high schools chart (not to brag, but, you’re not alone—it’s hugely popular). It’s chock-full of statistics: SAT scores, the percentage of students scoring above a 3 on the AP exam, average class size—you name it. But we’re the first to admit that there’s a certain human element, if you will, lacking amid this sea of numbers. There’s much more to schools than stats. That’s why we asked each high school filling out our 2014 survey (the data for our chart is provided by the schools themselves) to send along a personal statement of sorts: What is it that makes your school special?
Here are their answers:
Alexander Hamilton High School
Alexander Hamilton Junior/Senior High School (AHHS) provides a challenging academic experience for students in Grades 7-12. During the 2013-14 school year, AHHS adopted Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People as a vehicle for improvement efforts. AHHS is a continuous improvement school that employs quality programs such as the Baldrige Model. This year the school is honing improvement efforts on the workforce and customer foci through the adoption and utilization of a Plan-Do-Study-Act (PDSA) continuous improvement cycle. Continuous improvement strategies led the staff to identify the myriad of systems within our school and for each, a process was defined. The processes were then evaluated using a PDSA cycle to determine our effectiveness and areas of weakness. This has led to preliminary increases in graduation rates, implementation of formative assessments, student improvement on summative assessments, and a personalized professional development experience. Moreover, with the adoption of the 7 Habits teachers and students developed effective character education experiences that facilitated a focus on the individual.
As part of our 7 Habits and Baldrige initiative, the stakeholders at AHHS hope to build a school of excellence where students develop the skills necessary to be competitive in their future endeavors. Accomplishing this goal requires a team approach that includes the community-at-large of the Village of Elmsford, merchants, parents, and the school family.
Blind Brook High School
Students embody the spirit of community and school service evidenced by our 80-hour community-service graduation requirement. Blind Brook is distinguished by the variety of unique programs it offers in which students demonstrate their commitment to learning and in improving themselves and their community. Our philosophical foundation speaks to educating the whole child and striving for the highest level of academic excellence with integrity as core value. Specific examples follow:
- K-12 focus on Academic Integrity embraces a K-12 honor code and integration of ethics into the curriculum across the disciplines
- Peer Mentor Program
- Honors Student Leadership Seminar focuses on leadership principles, practices, teamwork, and problem solving with a strong emphasis on writing, research and active practice of leadership skills.
- Honors Shapers of the World, an interdisciplinary, Socratic English elective where students examine the common threads which link disciplines such as literature, art, music, philosophy, history and science in the development of human civilization.
- Science Research Program includes a ninth grade Introduction to Science Research exploratory program and Honors Science Research; INTEL Semi-Finalist, 2nd Place Winner National NASA Contest
- STEM initiative incorporates new technologies and robotics; National STEM ranking 38
- Blind Brook Community Coalition comprised of students, parents, school officials, law enforcement, faith based organizations, civic groups, government, healthcare, youth serving organizations and mental health agencies unites to strengthen a culture that promotes safe and healthy lifestyles for our children. Efforts earned a five-year $625,000 Federal Drug-Free Communities Grant.
- Named to National AP Honor Roll
- The Senior Options Program where seniors participate in six-week internships
- Professional Learning Communities scheduled daily to support best instructional practice and to improve student outcomes
- Use of Web 2.0 technologies to enhance instruction and student-to-student interactions
- Exemplary extracurricular programs to include an award winning theater arts program, Model United Nations and Mock Trial teams
Briarcliff High School
Briarcliff High School, identified by New York State Education Department as a Reward School for the past two years, strives to set high expectations for all students, to encourage students to take rigorous programs (Honors, College level and AP courses), to create structures and supports to assist students who have not traditionally been enrolled in these more rigorous courses to be successful and to personalize the high school environment for each individual student.
Therefore, the curriculum at Briarcliff HS is expansive in breadth and depth to engage and support all academic abilities. Specially, the Briarcliff HS curriculum comprises the following:
138 Different Course Offerings
21 Advanced Placement Courses
36 College Accredited Courses
10 Honors Level Courses
Briarcliff Manor Science Research Course
Collaborative Courses (English, Social Studies, Math, Science)
Math and English Labs are available to all students with a certified content teacher to offer extra help during the academic day.
Briarcliff High School students are highly engaged and graduate with an average of 27.7 credits when 23 are required to graduate. Their course selections include an average of more than five Honors, College, level, or AP courses. The standards and rigor of their programs provide a solid foundation for college readiness as outlined in the Standards for Success: Understanding University Success, A Project of the Association of American Universities by David Conley, Ph.D. which has been incorporated into the Briarcliff HS curriculum design.
Most importantly, all Briarcliff HS students complete a Community Service graduation requirement of a minimum of 8 hours of service per year. Most students log well and above this minimum requirement with over 75% of the students exceeding the 8 hour expectation. The students find much gratification for their community volunteerism and helping others.
Byram Hills High School
Byram Hills High School provides our students with a comprehensive college preparatory program and impressive array of curricular and co-curricular opportunities. Our focus upon academic achievement, community building, and student leadership development are the hallmarks of a Byram Hills Education.
The college admission results of our graduating seniors were incredible with 77% of our graduates being accepted at Tier I and II (Barron’s) colleges and universities. Equally impressive were the results of our annual graduate survey which indicate that not only are our students being accepted at outstanding institutions, but they are well prepared for success once they are there. Recently, our renowned Dr. Robert Pavlica Authentic Science Research Program was honored with five more students earning selection as Intel semi-finalists. These students join the 81 semi-finalists and 18 finalists that Byram Hills has produced in prior years.
At Byram Hills High School we have a long-established and supported goal of developing responsible citizens and effective student leadership. This is done through the expectations set for and supported by our students as well as well-coordinated programs which promote student leadership through service. A few examples of these programs include;
Peer Leaders - Select seniors are trained and collaborate with our health teacher to assist in the instruction of our sophomore health program. Peer Leaders work in pairs within each class developing and delivering instruction and modeling positive pro-social behaviors.
Mentors - As part of our 8th to 9th grade transition, all 9th grade students participate in a daily mentoring class. Two selected senior students, one male and one female, and one faculty member lead each of these classes which are designed to orient our freshmen to all aspects of the high school community and foster supportive upper class and faculty relationships for our freshmen.
Chemistry Lab and Teaching Assistants- This program was recently created in an effort to better support the success of our Regents Chemistry students. Select senior AP Chemistry students are assigned to each of our Regents Chemistry classes. They collaborate and plan lessons with the chemistry faculty, deliver lab demonstrations, and conduct office hours for students.
This is just a brief sampling of what makes Byram Hills High School such a special place to learn, work, and play.
Dobbs Ferry High School
Dobbs Ferry High School is an IB World School and offers the International Baccalaureate Diploma to students in grades 11-12. Approximately 98% of students enroll in at least one of the rigorous IB courses before graduating and 25 students in the Class of 2013 received the full IB Diploma.
In addition to a rich academic program, DFHS offers over 15 elective courses in visual arts and music, 36 extra-curricular clubs, and an impressive program in science research. The high school also features an Advisory Program, academic electives, and a senior internship that serves as a culminating experience for all students.
The school's commitment to academic excellence, professional development for teachers, and equity/access for all students has resulted in top national rankings. In 2013, The Washington Post ranked DFHS #19 in NYS. In addition, DFHS has been recognized as a NYS Reward School for the past two years and earned “Blue Star” distinction by the W!SE Financial Literacy Corporation.
Eastchester High School
Similar to other Westchester schools, our students have a rigorous academic program including 22 different AP and college-credit bearing courses, over 30 extracurricular activities and clubs to choose from, and 38 interscholastic athletic teams on which to participate. While the academic and co-curricular programs are strong, an emphasis on benevolence and philanthropy is woven throughout our entire school. Our students, through the guidance and modeling of our staff, intentionally seek to help others. Most recently they completed:
- Collecting coats for the homeless.
- Providing new toys for children in need.
- Serving meals to families who can’t afford holiday meals.
- Raising money for those in need of life-improving surgery.
- Collecting money to assist those in the Philippines.
- Providing education to students in Swaziland.
Charles E. Gorton High School
The Gorton learning community is committed to preparing students for the future by setting and maintaining high expectations for all students. It is our charge to prepare students for entry into a four year college of their choice. College readiness is strongly promoted through the Academy of Medical Professions by providing rigorous and engaging instruction that infuses the classroom experience with authentic learning opportunities. The school is a proud recipient of the Smart Scholars Early College Grant by the New York State Department of Education. All students have the opportunity to choose Healthcare/Medical career pathways. Smart Scholars Early College Program supports students as they set goals and create action plans. Students are also afforded the opportunity to take college courses, which will enhance their academic and critical thinking skills, and provide them an opportunity to reason, work effectively, and make informed decisions based on factual analysis. We will empower every student to become productive citizens through the three smaller Medical/Healthcare communities within the school: Patient Management, Medical Technology Services, and Medical Research and Development. The Academic program is based on the National Consortium of Health Science Education’s National Healthcare Foundation Standards. Core area teachers in each of the communities/pathways use project-based medical/health care curriculum in which rich learning experiences and real world applications are integrated into the curriculum and practicum experiences.
Port Chester High School
Port Chester High School's motto, "Success For Every Student," guides a devoted staff in proudly nurturing the needs of a culturally diverse student body. Beyond offering comprehensive and rigorous academic programs, as a full-service school, we collaborate with various institutions to provide students and their families with unparalleled resources, including a school-based health center, counseling services, and afterschool activities. Boasting a nationally-recognized marching band, we encourage students to discover their potential and exhibit Ram Pride in and out of the classroom. Meeting the needs of every young adult, our soundshore high school is a hidden gem of Westchester.
Our students share diverse racial, ethnic, cultural, educational, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Some have lived in the district for generations, while many others have only recently immigrated to the United States. About a quarter of our students are current or former English Language Learners, and our cultural diversity enriches the school community. Many of our graduates are the first in their families to pursue higher education. The percent of our students who do go on to college is a testament to their commitment to overcoming the often linguistic, financial, and cultural challenges that they endure.
Culminating a decade of transformation, this is our first year as an International Baccalaureate World School offering the IB Diploma Program, a rigorous, two-year, pre-university course of study for eleventh and twelfth graders. We have expanded student opportunity by decreasing or eliminating prerequisites for enrollment in IB, AP, and college dual-enrollment courses by opening them to students who possess the desire to participate and the background, skills, and potential to be successful. This has greatly increased access to these courses for traditionally underserved students from minority and low socio-economic backgrounds. We strongly believe that students who accept the extra challenge have the right to reach for their dreams.
Sleepy Hollow High School
Sleepy Hollow High School is one of six high schools in the nation named a 2014 MetLife Foundation-NASSP (National Association of Secondary School Principals) BreakThrough School recognized for its collaborative leadership, personalization, strong curriculum, instruction and assessment; along with high graduation rates, impressive college acceptances, and rigorous course offerings accessible to all. The award cited Sleepy Hollow’s record of academic success and distinct ability to serve all students, including those facing challenges such as poverty or just learning English. The extensive application process culminated this October, with a site visit to document and verify results, observe teaching and learning and meet with students, staff, parents and community partners. In addition to the school receiving a grant and being featured in an upcoming issue of Principal Leadership magazine and at theNASSP Annual Conference in Dallas Texas, Principal Carol Conklin-Spillane will have a series of opportunities to share her experience with other school leaders across our country.
Rye High School
Rye High School has been nationally recognized for its academic strengths, placing in the top 100 high schools in the rankings conducted by US News and World Report and the Washington Post. Our students have historically earned recognition from the National Merit Scholarship Program, the National Hispanic Scholar Program, and as a National Achievement Scholar. Several of our music students have been selected for All-State ensembles, and the Parsons Street Players continue to present excellent drama and musical productions. A long tradition of the high school involves our student organized Awards Assemblies highlighting student achievement and individual talents. Community Service continues to encompass the entire High School with activities assisting those in need both abroad and in our neighboring communities.
Scarsdale High School
- International Experiences 2013-2014
- Architecture Trip to Barcelona
- Cambodia Summer Program
- French Immersion Day with Edgemont High School
- International Science Symposium in Singapore
- International Youth Summit in Singapore
- Korean Teacher Exchange
- Spanish classes attend a performance at Teatro Repertoria Espanol
- Video conference with Irish Environmental Activist
- These International experiences take place every other year. We will be running all programs during the 2014-2015 school year.
- China Exchange
- Italian Exchange
- French Exchange
- Spanish Exchange
- Band Trip
- Orchestra/ Chorus Trip
Westlake High School
Westlake High School has begun two very successful programs that are fairly unique among high schools. The first is our “Senior Experience”, which is an opportunity for all seniors to spend the 4th quarter working on an internship with job shadowing experience. This past year we sent over 100 seniors out into the “workforce” to experience a field of their choice. Almost all career fields were represented including having one senior actually work on the Tony Awards, so much so that she was given a credit in the final program.
Our second program is related to our growing Science options. Westlake became the official host and sponsor of the Westlake Science Fair. This regional science exhibition is the only one of its kind for sophomore beginning the Science Research process. With well over 225 student entries representing all areas of science, Westlake High School became the hub for scientific inquiry.
White Plains High School
One of the things that makes White Plains High School special is our Fine Arts Program – its size, scope and quality.
The strength of the White Plains High School Fine Arts program is indicative of the support from the community, the talent and commitment of our students, and the exceptional abilities of our teachers. At White Plains High School we have 9 performing music ensembles, guitar and piano classes, theater classes, and over 20 visual arts classes including art technology and traditional arts media courses. In any given year, around 80-85% of our students participate in our fine arts program. In addition to course offerings, we have several extra-curricular activities in the arts that are open to the student population: including the National Art Honor Society, Jazz Band, Musical/ Play Productions, Theater Club, and Honors String Ensemble, among others. Our Choirs have performed at Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center multiple times, and the band and orchestra regularly participate in programs in Boston, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and Montreal. Our Honors String Ensemble is invited to perform at about 30 events a year within the community.
In a difficult budget climate, the Board of Education is committed to the belief that the Arts are core subjects in the White Plains Schools, and it has not cut any fine arts program. Anyone who has attended one of our concerts, play productions, or art shows can speak to the joy the arts bring to the lives of ours students. They bring meaning to their lives that many students do not find in other subject areas. Students find a sense of belonging and a love of learning in their fine arts courses, where they work collaboratively and passionately. The Varied course offerings at White Plains High School are a reflection of the diversity of our students and the arts continue to play a vital role in the High School Experience of our incredibly capable students.
Mamaroneck High School
Mamaroneck High School (MHS) prides itself on the depth and breadth of educational programs that it offers and in developing each student to his/her fullest potential. Students can choose from over 150 required and elective courses. MHS’s rigorous curriculum includes a diverse range of classes, from humanities courses such as Contemporary Literature, to art courses like Drawing and Painting or college level courses such as Advanced Placement Physics (nearly 20 AP courses in all). The high school is dedicated to providing students with as many real life, authentic learning experiences as possible. We are a school that understands that learning comes alive when students are able to see the application of a particular subject in their daily lives. Whether it’s travelling to China to stay with a host family as part of our exchange program with a sister school in China, or visiting Washington D.C. to meet with U.S. Representatives and staffers and learn about the role that lobbying plays in our political system, our students engage in active learning. Our electives are rich in substance and span a diverse group of topics, including Architecture, Performing Arts (PACE Program) Clay, Digital Photography, Computer Science, Robotics, Criminalistics, and more. Our PACE program, which stands for Performing Arts Curriculum Experience, as well as our music programs, are nationally known; students in these programs are recognized year after year locally, regional and often nationally. MHS offers a comprehensive interscholastic boys and girls athletics program in 25 different sports and has won State championships in baseball and field hockey. We house our own television station, with our students producing a daily television news segment, and have been working to expand MHS’s internship program for seniors. MHS also offers an alternative program called APPLE (a Place People Learn Excellence) for students with specific needs.
Edgemont Junior-Senior High School
Edgemont Junior-Senior High School is ethnically and culturally diverse, enrolling students from more than forty countries around the world. Academically strong, Edgemont has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of America’s best public high schools. Edgemont offers a rigorous, college-preparatory curriculum to all of its students, including multiple honors and Advanced Placement courses across all disciplines.
Consistently ranked among the best high schools in Westchester County, Edgemont is an educational leader in a region known for its outstanding public high schools. Edgemont sends over 96% of its graduates to four-year colleges.
Outside the classroom, Edgemont students distinguish themselves in a vast and diverse range of extracurricular activities including:
- Nationally ranked debate team
- Model United Nations program
- Literary magazines
- School newspaper
- Drama and musical theater programs
- Expansive music program that includes instrumental and choral music with ensemble performance groups such as Chamber Choir, Concert Choir, Jazz Band, String Ensemble, Wind Ensemble, Pit Orchestra, Pep Band, and Concert Band
- Community service organizations
- Peer leadership and advocacy programs
- Fifty-three different interscholastic sports teams, several of which have competed in state championships: girls’ tennis, boys’ wrestling, and boys’ and girls’ golf and track
Edgemont also has an alternative school, Phaedrus, which is a half-day program that serves twenty-four juniors and seniors possessing a wide range of academic abilities and interests and representing a microcosm of the greater high school population. The program, to which students must apply, seeks to create a dynamic and democratic school community where students develop as leaders and independent learners.
Harrison High School
Harrison High School is committed to core values of equity, access, rigor and adaptability. These core values are exemplified through comprehensive academic and co-curricular programs. According to the WashingtonPost Challenge Index, Harrison High School ranks among the best in Westchester at preparing all of its students for college success. The high school offers an expansive International Baccalaureate Diploma Program with 25 courses, 7 Advanced Placement courses, a Science Research Program and Syracuse University dual-enrollment in Multi-Variable Calculus and Computer Software Engineering. Advanced Placement courses are offered to sophomores in AP World and AP Chemistry. Additionally, HHS boasts a unique opportunity for advancement in mathematics through a two year course in Pre-Calculus beginning in 9th grade. Co-curricular programs include an award winning student-run newspaper, Model Congress, DECA, nationally ranked debate team and an expansive fine and performing arts program including playwriting and technical theater. HHS is extremely proud to be recognized as a Grammy Signature School semifinalist for its band, chorus, orchestra and dance programs. Students participate in more than 30 interscholastic sports teams and excel as scholar athletes. Our school facilities include a planetarium and black box theater, a state of the art performing arts center, a newly renovated student commons and cafeteria and extensive athletic fields for year-round sports.
Hastings High School
What makes us special is that our students shine when given high academic standards. We are a completely open enrollment school in that students self-select into Honor and AP classes. With this said, we consistently score approximately 87-90% scoring at least a 3 on AP exams. Many schools that have specific criteria for entrance do not achieve these results. In addition we have an accomplished music program that continues to win many accolades. We have won many awards at many competitions over the years. For a small school we outperform many large programs. We will be attending the Worldwide Heritage Festival this year in Washington D.C. and competing again at the national level.
Lincoln High School
Lincoln High School is faced with the challenge of educating students for college readiness and a complex, global society. This is accomplished through offering a strong academic program that incorporates and teaches students the skills necessary for career choices in the Arts, Business and Finance, and the Program for Scientific Inquiry (PSI). Regardless of his or her career choice, every student leaves Lincoln High School with a strong academic foundation. This is evident by the number of graduates that go on to higher education. Students are registered for Advanced Placement courses, and are participating in our nationally recognized Academy of Finance and our Program for Scientific Inquiry. In addition to the variety and magnitude of course offerings, Lincoln High School also provides a wealth of educational services. Among these are Saturday School, Lincoln After School Academy, Study Hall with a Twist, SAT Prep Courses, MCJROTC, Computer Assisted Instruction, a Ninth Grade Summer Transition Program, after school courses, and an advanced Vocal Music and Instrumental Music Program. In addition, the Replication Grant will provide all stakeholders at Lincoln High School with opportunities to infuse technology in everyday instructional activities.
This year, Lincoln High School will continue to sustain its Smaller Learning Communities initiative. Through collaboration and a specific plan to work within distinct and unique academies with a focus on business development and finance, the Lincoln High School staff has become a Professional Learning Community. We will work together to ensure that the diverse learning needs of our students are met and appropriately addressed.
New Rochelle High School
New Rochelle High School continues its proud tradition as an award winning, comprehensive educational institution. We are a truly diverse school, with more than 3,300 students who come from over 60 countries. Although we are a large school, we excel at providing individualized attention to meet the needs o f every student.
We offer a rigorous college preparatory curriculum that is aligned to the new common core learning standards. Because we are committed to developing fully prepared and engaged 21st century citizens, our academic program provides students with opportunities to explore a wide variety of interests beyond the state mandated curriculum.
We are particularly proud of our physical facility which includes a planetarium, a museum (which is the only Regents-chartered museum in a school in the State of New York), tennis courts, 3 athletic fields, a cable television station, sculpture, ceramic, photography, painting and dance studios, state of the art instrumental and choral music rooms, computer and science labs and the list goes on.
With more than 240 different course offerings which include the performing and visual arts, business, architecture, honors classes, computer science, 40 different AP and honors classes, and a nationally recognized athletics program, we have something for everyone.
Pelham High School
Academy Period: A+ from Students and Faculty
When asked about their high school experience, students and teachers consistently praise Academy Period. This is a 20-minute block after school and before clubs and sports begin during which all teachers are available in their classroom for students to drop in for extra help. Chemistry teacher Jupiter Luna says, “Both students and teachers like Academy Period a lot. There are no excuses. Everyone is free at the same time, and the students know where to find us. Students come in on their own, and if I can’t get to all the questions in class or I know a student is struggling, I ask them to come to Academy Period. It works.”
Two World Language Learning Labs
In response to a survey showing growing interest in world languages among students, faculty, and community members, the Pelham Education Foundation funded a second language lab several years ago as part of renovations at the high school. The latest digital technology with video and audio capability provides students with interactive tools that enable them to listen to multiple native speakers and engage in authentic learning experiences, all as part of their regular classroom instruction. For teachers, the second lab enables them to differentiate lessons based on student needs and level. PMHS offers the study of four different languages at five levels, including Advanced Placement Spanish and college-level courses through Syracuse University (SUPA) in French, Italian, Latin and Spanish.
Pleasantville High School
The theatre program at a Pleasantville High School has a long history of excellence. Pleasantville High School produces a spring musical each year, in which every student that auditions is cast. The student crews, together with the cast and student members of the orchestra pit, involve over a third of the high school population.
Accolades for the musical theatre productions have included many nominations and wins from musical theatre judges, who visit the performance each year. This is sponsored by the Metropolitan High School Musical Theatre Awards, which represent three counties. For the past three years, our school has been nominated for Best Musical Theatre Production Overall, which has given our cast the opportunity to perform selections from their musical at the Annual Awards ceremony. Our Director, Music Director, Set Designer, Lighting Designer, Choreographer and Costume Designers have won Best Awards in their categories and the actors, singers and technical categories have won various nominations and awards at the ceremony each year.
Our school is a member of NYSTEA, the New York State Theatre Educators Association, and sends both teacher and students to the annual weekend theatre conference each year, at which the students pursue excellence in theatre though a variety of theatre workshops
Theatre classes, varying in levels 1-3, have been offered for the last eight years as an elective for students interested in studying this art form. Some of the graduates of this class have gone on to major and minor in theatre in college; not only in performance, but in theatre education and stage management
Rye Neck High School
A Rye Neck High School, college and career readiness programming culminates in the Senior Internship Program (SIP). SIP offers all seniors the opportunity to participate in an eight week, full-time internship in a wide variety of professional settings that provide real world experiences and a dynamic introduction to the professional world. In 2013, eighty-nine (89) seniors worked in sixty-three (63) internships that ranged from education to engineering as they learned career skills and learned important lessons about accountability. SIP exemplifies Rye Neck’s commitment to developing each student’s strengths and talents through participation in in-depth, innovative programs that also include the Independent Learner Program and Science Research, as well as an award-winning Mock Trial Team.
Tuckahoe High School
As one of the smallest schools in Westchester, our high school is exceptional in that it gives students the opportunities of a high enrollment school while providing the very personalized education of a small, private school. Our supportive community has provided our students a WI-FI building for research in our 10 Advanced Placement course offerings and in our extensive academic and extra-curricular programs.
Named as a NYS Reward School for demonstrating outstanding academic progress, our diverse student body had 70% of our 2013 graduates attending Tier I and II colleges and universities. Student academic excellence is only part of the Tuckahoe experience. Strong extracurricular participation includes students involved in Habitat for Humanity, Cure for Cancer walks, and numerous drives for the less fortunate. Our students leave Tuckahoe ready to face the world of diversity, rapid change and dynamic challenges.