The Beacon School
|The Beacon School|
|522 West 44th Street
New York, NY 10036
|Type||Public High School|
|School district||New York City Department of Education|
|NCES School ID||360007800592|
|Faculty||59 (on FTE basis)|
|Grades||9 to 12|
|Number of students||1,276|
|Color(s)||Blue and White|
|Athletics||Baseball, Basketball, Bowling, Cross Country, Fencing, Indoor track, Outdoor track, Soccer, Softball, Tennis, Ultimate Frisbee, Volleyball, Wrestling|
The Beacon School (also called Beacon High School) is a selective college-preparatory public high school in the Hell's Kitchen area of Manhattan in New York City, near Times Square and the Theater District. Beacon's curriculum exceeds the standards set by the New York State Regents, and as a member of the New York Performance Standards Consortium, its students are exempt from taking most Regents exams. Instead, students present performance-based projects at the end of each semester to panels of teachers. Beacon offers extensive opportunities to participate in student organizations, varsity athletics, community service, and international travel.
Beacon has a Stock Market Club, Debate Club, Model UN, Math Club, Drama Program, Film Making Club, Photo Club, Arts Committee, Yearbook, Literary Magazine, and Student Government, as well as a wide variety of additional student clubs and activities. Beacon Ink is the student-run literary magazine that publishes exceptional creative writing and artwork. The literary magazine celebrates exceptional student work that might not otherwise be widely noticed, and provides students the opportunity to create a truly professional-quality publication.
Beacon was founded in 1993 as an alternative to the Regents Exam-based testing system in favor of portfolio-based assessment. The school's purpose was also purportedly to keep class sizes down and total student population at, or just above, one thousand students. The total population, for example, was once listed in a 1998 high school selection guide as "less than 600 students", though later had approximately 1,150 students. Over time, Beacon was forced to accept certain aspects of the Regents-based testing curriculum, and to abandon its portfolio-assessment system as the sole method of graduation, which it had been up until mid-1999. Beacon now utilizes, in its own words, "traditional testing ... [but] our students' progress is largely assessed through performance-based projects, completed individually and in groups. To graduate, students must present their best work to panels of teachers."
The class schedule at the Beacon School is organized in bands, designated by letters A through H. As a Beacon student advances in grade level, s/he is gradually given more opportunity to choose classes of his or her choice in the subject area of the band in question, rather than relying on his or her stream to do the selecting. This is both a preparatory measure for the university system of class selection, where students are permitted to select all their classes themselves on an individual basis, as well as a means of allowing students the ability to find what interests them among the course offerings.
Beacon also offers several Advanced Placement courses. AP courses are available currently in the math, language, and science departments. biology, calculus, chemistry,and Spanish. Students take the Advanced Placement exam at the end of the course, and have an opportunity to attain college credits.
Beacon's in-school requirements have been significantly more stringent than those of comparable New York City public high schools since well before its forced acceptance of the Regents Exam system. There are still critics who complain that Beacon's acceptance of that system hindered, not helped, its overall college-preparatory initiatives. Some argue that the Regents Exams are standardized tests that do not tailor themselves to the particular academic performance strategies and attitudes of each student the way portfolio-based systems do.
Though the yearly schedule is broken into two semesters, these are not standard United States college semesters. Most academic classes are year-long courses, so students generally return to their classes with the same teachers for the second semester. Students have the opportunity to change electives at the end of each semester. Certain science courses are offered to students on a per-semester basis.
Internships and community service
The school does not require its students to do internships, but internship opportunities are available for those that want to pursue them. A minimum of 50 hours of community service hours is a strictly enforced graduation requirement, and can be fulfilled however a student likes, as long as s/he clears the work with a community service leader in writing before beginning it. The community service program is led by a faculty advisor but taught by a group of dedicated 11th and 12th graders called "The Community Service Leadership Team". This group of students plan lessons and activities to get lowerclassmen excited about community service placements across the city at non-profits such as the Added Value Farm in Red Hook, Brooklyn and Community Voices Heard in East Harlem.
Every tenth grader (15-16 year old) at the Beacon School takes the Community Service class in either the Fall or Spring semester. We try to provide internships that are educational for students and at the same time meaningful for the community. Beacon students reflect on their experience in written journals and in a weekly classroom seminar.
Beacon students are expected to work five hours per week over a semester (about 4 months) in a site that they select" but they may complete the hours through the course of 1 year. They may negotiate any work schedule that is convenient to themselves and their community service site. A total of 50 hours is required for passing credit in the course. Students who complete 75 hours are eligible for "honors" credit.Students in Community Service meet weekly in a seminar to reflect on their community service work and to explore related social issues. Some students are responsible for writing a weekly guided journal entry that is submitted to their community service seminar teacher.
1993 to 2015
For its first year, The Beacon School was located inside John Jay College of Criminal Justice. From 1994 until the 2015, the school had been located three blocks from Jay, at 227 West 61st Street, a former warehouse completed in 1919, alongside the Amsterdam Houses, a group of New York City Housing Authority projects. It was in an area with many other schools, including Public School 191 and Abraham Joshua Heschel School across the street. 66th Street-Lincoln Center and 59th Street-Columbus Circle are the subway stations which most students use. The building was re-purposed to allow for instruction and complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. For the student population, the building's facilities are quite small. The narrow hallways caused congestion and often prevented swift passage between classes. There were three stories, in addition to a basement, which also had classrooms. The basement was partly at ground level, a result of the steep incline of 61st Street. The first floor had a very small cafeteria (compared to most schools, so many students ate outside) and a spacious drama studio. There was no proper auditorium at Beacon. The second floor housed a gym with a rather low ceiling, alongside a Dance Studio, Fitness Center, and Weight Room. The third floor hosted the school's library and art room, which was linked to a dark room for photography. There were three computer labs: one on each non-basement floor, arranged vertically. There was one elevator for wheelchair access.
2015 to Present
As of September, 2015, Beacon occupies a seven-story building located at 522 West 44th Street, between 10th and 11th avenues. The building, previously used as a book warehouse by the New York Public Library was sold to the School Construction Authority for $45 million in August, 2011. Construction began in August, 2012, with a ground breaking ceremony attended by high-ranking city officials including City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Department of Education Chancellor Dennis Walcott, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The building, built by Skanska USA for $88 million, houses a full-sized cafeteria, black-box theater, dance studio, auditorium, film lab, and library, with writing labs, art studios, and study spaces throughout the building.
The Beacon School offers many extracurricular activities such as after school theater and studio stage crew, book club, a biking club, a rock climbing club, a dance club, a Live Poets Society, art club, music performance, a photo club, a Senior Committee (populated by seniors who are responsible for helping with plans for graduation and the annual senior trip), and a Model United Nations club that has won awards at every conference it attended over the past few years, including several at the UNA-USA Conference, hosting students from around the world. The Beacon School has a very strong debate team. In the past two years, Beacon has consistently won multiple levels of the state tournament. On March 2010, Beacon gained its first bid to the Tournament of Champions and won the Lexington Winter Invitational. Another prominent club within the school is SMAC (Student Movement Against Cancer) where students unite in an effort to find a cure for cancer by raising funds for research. There is currently no student government or council, and SOS and other activists club have largely been disbanded. It also features several charity clubs, such Project ABLE, which raises money for libraries in Africa, and the Kids for Kids Club, which raises money for local and nonlocal causes.
In 2007 the school made front page news after David Andreatta confirmed that the school took illegal trips to the communist island of Cuba. At the end of the school year the teacher involved, Nathan Turner, resigned. In 2005, then Lt. Governor Paterson sent his daughter on one such trip. Alumni reaction to the trips and the political nature is mixed, with some alumni continuing to be involved in liberal activism, while others have expressed frustration with the liberal leanings of their teachers and peers.
Educational travel has become an important part of the educational culture. Past destinations have included India, Cuba, Spain, England, Ireland, Venezuela, France, Sweden, Costa Rica, Mexico, Mozambique, South Africa, and New Orleans.
The Beacon School offers a wide array of athletic teams for its students. Sports like tennis, softball, track, wrestling boys and girls bowling, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls Ultimate, boys and girls soccer, girls cross country, and the fencing team form an integral part of the culture at Beacon. The boys' baseball team won the B Division PSAL championship in 2002 and 2003. The Beacon Boys soccer team won the PSAL Soccer championship in 2005, 2010, and 2015. Despite its size, these sports programs have been some of the most competitive in the city, most notably with the school's soccer program. The boys' and girls' soccer teams are consistently ranked amongst the highest in the State, and in 2010, both the boys' and girls' teams won the PSAL A Division Championship, making Beacon the first school in the history of the PSAL to win both the boys' and girls' championships in the same year. In 2014, Beacon's tennis team won the national tennis championship as a result of taking first place at the All-American Invitational Boys Tennis Tournament in Corona del Mar, California. Because the school does not have a practice space of its own, the school uses many of the city's public access facilities.
Beacon Model United Nations
Beacon's Model United Nations program is directed by longtime history teacher Richard Miller. The team, which debates solutions to international issues, attends conferences within New York City, as well as throughout the United States.
In 2016, Beacon's delegation placed first among 174 schools from over 30 countries in the Global Classrooms Model United Nations conference. The conference, held annually at United Nations Headquarters, is sponsored by the United Nations Association of the United States in collaboration with the Lebanese American University.
Since 2016, Beacon's Model United Nations program has been cited at the top of Best Delegate's annual list of the world's best high school Model UN teams. The rankings, calculated based on data aggregated from the 30 most competitive Model UN conferences in North America, divide teams into groups by region and overall standing. Beacon is ranked in the Top 25 Overall category, the highest level of recognition awarded by the publication.
B'DAT (Beacon Drama Art Theatre) is Beacon's extracurricular theater program, spearheaded by Jo Ann Cimato. B'DAT has become acclaimed in New York City for its school premieres of shows such as The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Spring Awakening, The Light in the Piazza, and Passing Strange. These premieres, as well as various prizes from the New York State Theater Association, have led B'DAT to become a leading example of high school theater in the United States.
Beacon Music, led by English teacher Brian Letiecq, is an in-house rock, jazz, and funk performance and recording program. Beacon Music students have played at famous New York venues like Arlene's Grocery, Sullivan Hall, and The Bitter End.
As of 2014[update], student demographics are as follows: 47% White, 25% Hispanic, 15% Black, 9% Asian, 4% Native American & Pacific Islander. Approximately 61 out of 100 students are female. Students commute from all boroughs of New York City, however the plurality of students reside in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Beacon has engaged in efforts to maintain racial diversity, yet the school has experienced a decline in the number of Black and Hispanic students since its founding.
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