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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.