Satellite Academy High School began in 1972 as a program (non-diploma granting) for at-risk students. The idea was that students who were not engaged would come to us for six to twelve weeks and we would "fix" the problem and send them back. What we found was that they did not want to go back, and so our program kept them and our mission evolved. In 1975 we became a school, accredited by the State and we began to grant diplomas. The founder, a visionary, when asked to expand the program in the early 70s would not allow any site to be larger than 150 students and so expansion meant that more sites would open. Presently we have four sites, all part of the same school, each with about 200 students. The sites are geographically spread out: one in the Bronx, two in Manhattan and one in Queens. On a day to day basis they function as small schools under a site administrator. Collaborative decision making is the model for curricular planning and policy. Satellite Academy (four sites) is one of over 30 Alternative High Schools in New York City.

When we began we were not very good at "caring" for students. We developed an advisor system and involved students in some ways that were considered radical at the time: admissions, hiring, discipline, course selection, etc. Much of that remains today. Our students were (and largely remain) students who begin with us at age seventeen and a half and stay for about two years. They have some high school credit, but are generally one to two years behind. Most have been truant and most have not had a successful school term in quite a while. They come with a range of academic strengths and weaknesses. Because students came with a variety of credits and needs we found ourselves beginning to design interdisciplinary courses. Over the years we have learned a great deal about curriculum and course construction.
About ten years ago we began to realize that our caring was incomplete. A part of authentic caring needed to be demanding more academically and we needed to learn how to do that without losing our intimacy. About ten years ago we discovered the Coalition of Essential Schools and for the last seven years we have been working intensely on redesigning our program. Though the program at each of the sites varies greatly, there are a few common underlying principles that have emerged. Many of our classes remain interdisciplinary and some are team taught (when budget allows.) We value cooperative learning and project centered instruction. Either through block programming or extended class time, our classes are longer than those of the traditional classroom. In addition, all students have an advisory group which has approximately 18 students in each group and is scheduled throughout the week.. The advisory group is a critical part of our program and students form extremely close ties to the students in their group as well as their advisor.
We have learned that in order to offer students an education in a school that values inquiry and strives to be student-centered, we must help students develop certain new habits and skills. We have targeted their first term in our school as the time to introduce and begin the development of these habits and skills. Our "new student" classes help students develop the habits of: being reflective learners, revising their work, working cooperatively in groups, writing as a way of thinking and expressing. Additionally we work on taking notes in a variety of situations and on reading difficult text. Students develop these skills in English classes, Social Studies classes, Math classes and Science classes. They complete their first projects and present portfolios of their work.
After one term our students have begun to develop these habits and find themselves more fully integrated into the general population where they continue to build on these skills. We then begin to focus more attention on their learning to gather information from a variety of sources and on presenting that information to peers. The remainder of classes build on these skills as students acquire credits and prepare for graduation. We have developed a "senior experience" which requires that students demonstrate their ability to independently investigate an issue and present their findings. Additionally, students will be expected to have clear post-high school plans through the seniors courses and by working with the college advisors that are on staff at each site.
Our school has been written up by the Carnegie Commission in the early 80s as an exemplary school and has been on the Public Education Associations list of Good Schools for the past 5 years. We were selected as New York State Compact Partners, being charged with redesigning curriculum and graduation requirements. For the past seven years we have been members of the Coalition of Essential Schools (a national reform movement based on Brown and affiliated with the Annenberg Institute for School Reform) and the Center for Collaborative Education. We are also a member of the New York City Performance Based Assessment Consortium, a group of over 40 schools city wide that are working together on a system of assessment that values performance and project based work to evidence mastery of learning standards.
As members of the Coalition of Essential Schools, The New York Performance Standards Consortium and as New York State Compact Partners were are committed to refining our graduation requirements and are working to develop a process whereby students will graduate upon successfully demonstrating that they have mastered a range of skills in the process of learning about important things.

We regularly invite guests to attend student presentations of their portfolios and would like to add you to our list of friends. Of course, we welcome visitors at any time and spending a few hours at any of the four Satellites is the only way to get to know our school. We look forward to seeing you.

Alan Baratz, Principal