Top 100 Best High Schools 2013 – Hunter College High School – Newsweek – 46/100
Hunter College High School
Hunter College High School is a New York City secondary school for students located on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. It is administered by Hunter College, a senior college of the City University of New York. Although it is not operated by the New York City Department of Education, there is no tuition fee and it is publicly funded. The school’s curriculum strives for a balance of achievement in the humanities and the sciences, and is widely revered for excellence in both fields. Hunter is noted for sending a very large percentage of students to the Ivy League and other top-ranked colleges and universities. It has been ranked as the top public high school in the United States by such sources as The Wall Street Journal and Worth magazine.
71 E 94th St, New York, NY 10128, United States
Established in 1869 as “The Female Normal and High School," a private school to prepare young women to become teachers, Hunter now offers a competitive college preparatory program for both sexes. The original school was composed of an elementary and a high school. A kindergarten was added in 1887, and in 1888 the school was incorporated into a college. The high school was separated from what would become Hunter College in 1903. In 1914, both schools were named after the Female Normal School’s first president, Dr. Thomas Hunter. Despite its success in teaching generations of gifted young women, it was almost closed by Hunter College President Jacqueline Wexler in the early 1970s.
Hunter was an all-girls school for the first 78 years of its existence. The prototypical Hunter girl was the subject of a song entitled “Sarah Maria Jones," who, the lyrics told, had “Hunter in her bones." In 1878, Harper’s Magazine published an approving article about the then-new school:
“The first thing to excite our wonder and admiration was the number – there were 1542 pupils; the second thing was the earnestness of the discipline; and the third was the suggestiveness of so many girls at work in assembly, with their own education as the primary aim, and the education of countless thousands of others as the final aim, of their toil.
“Girls all the way from fourteen to twenty years of age, from the farther edge of childhood to the farther limit of maidenhood; girls with every shade of complexion and degree of beauty; girls in such variety that it was amazing to contemplate the reduction of their individuality to the simple uniformity of their well-drilled movements.
The catholicity and toleration crystalized in the country’s Constitution prevail in the college: about two hundred of the students are Jewesses, and a black face, framed in curly African hair, may occasionally be seen.
The aim of the entire course through which the Normal students pass is not so much to burden the mind with facts as it is to develop intellectual power, cultivate judgment, and enable the graduates to take trained ability into the world with them."
The school became co-ed in 1974 as a result of a lawsuit by Hunter College Elementary School parents, a development which was described by the New York Daily News with the headline “Girlie High Gets 1st Freshboys". In January 1982, the school was featured in a New York Magazine article entitled “The Joyful Elite." The high school has occupied a number of buildings throughout its history, including one at the East 68th Street campus of the College (1940–1970). For several years in the 1970s, it was housed on the 13th and 14th floors of an office building at 466 Lexington Avenue (at East 46th Street). Since 1977, it has existed in a nearly windowless structure at East 94th Street between Park and Madison Avenues on the Upper East Side. Formerly, this was the site of the 94th Street Armory; today, part of the armory’s empty shell (including two abandoned towers) stretches for the entire block of Madison Avenue in front of the school. The greater part of the armory building has been demolished. Designed to resemble the previous structure, the school is known for its near absence of sunlight, poor ventilation and low air quality. Because of its architectural peculiarities, Hunter is often called “The Brick Prison." Its “inmates" are housed in this building from grades K through 12, since it contains both the high school and Hunter College Elementary (collectively known as the Hunter College Campus Schools).
Dr. Tony Fisher is the principal of the high school. Dean Ketchum is the principal of the elementary school and is the interim director of the Campus Schools. Sonya Mosco is the deputy director of the Campus Schools.
Admission to the high school is only granted in seventh grade, and is a two-step procedure. Students from the five boroughs of New York City with strong scores on standardized tests are eligible to take the Hunter College High School Entrance Exam in the January of their sixth grade school year. Eligible students must first meet Hunter’s standards in reading and mathematics proficiency on fifth grade standardized exams. For example, in 2011, sixth grade students who wished to enter Hunter during the 2011–2012 school year must have achieved scores of at least 689 out of 770 on the reading test and 722 out of 780 on the math test, that is, scores in the 90th-and-above percentile of all test takers.
The admissions test has thirty-five multiple-choice mathematics questions, sixty multiple-choice English questions, and an essay-writing portion. Out of about 3,000 test-takers, about 175 are offered admission on the basis of the exam. This 6.6% admissions rate, not considering the many students denied the chance to take the exam because they did not meet the state exam requirements, makes Hunter one of the most selective high schools in the nation.
Approximately 50 students from Hunter College Elementary School also enter the 7th grade class each year. Beginning with incoming students in the 2010–2011 school year, elementary school students must make ‘satisfactory progress’ by fifth grade in order to gain admission to the high school. Prior to this, students at Hunter College Elementary School were guaranteed admission into the high school. In total, entering 7th grade class contains approximately 225 students.
Most students, commonly known as “Hunterites," who enter the high school remain there through their senior year. In eighth grade, some Hunter students take the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test to transfer to other competitive public high schools in New York City, although most choose to stay at Hunter. The graduating class usually retains about 200 students. The total enrollment from grades 7 through 12 is approximately 1,200 students.
Hunter is an open campus, allowing students to go outside during lunch and free periods.
Although a publicly funded school, Hunter’s student body is increasingly unrepresentative of the community it serves. White and Asian students are over-represented while Black, Hispanic and poor students are less common than among the city’s population. In a city where three-quarters of students qualify for reduced-price school lunches (a proxy for poverty), only ten percent of Hunter students meet the reduced-price threshold. This trend has accelerated in recent years. In 1995 the student body was 12% African American and 6% Hispanic. By 2009, these numbers were just 3% and 1%. This trend may be caused by expensive private preparation for the school’s admissions test giving applicants from richer families an advantage compounded by Hunter having dismantled its affirmative action preparatory program In 2012, commentator Christopher Hayes speculated the school could soon have a class with no African-American or Latinos.
All Hunter students pursue an academically enriched six-year program of study. The curriculum is a rigorous college preparatory program that provides a liberal arts education. The majority of subjects are accelerated such that high school study begins in the 8th grade and state educational requirements are completed in the 11th. During the 12th grade, students take electives, have the option to attend courses at Hunter College or Columbia University (for transferable credit), undertake independent academic studies, and participate in internships around the city.
Students in grades 7 and 8 are required to take courses in communications and theater (a curriculum that includes drama, storytelling, and theater). Students in grades 7–9 must take both art and music, each for half a year, and then choose one to take in tenth grade. One of the three available foreign language courses (French, Latin, or Spanish) must be taken each year in grades 7–10, and AP language electives are offered through the 12th grade. A year each of biology, chemistry, and physics must be completed in addition to the introductory science classes of life science and physical science in the 7th and 8th grades, respectively. During 7th and 8th grades, students must also participate in the school’s science fair; the fair is optional for older students. After the introductory 7th grade social studies course, 5 semesters (spanning two and a half years) of global studies must be completed, then 3 semesters of American history. A series of English and mathematics courses are taught from 7th through 11th grades. (The math curriculum is split into a track of “honors" and a track of “extended honors" classes for students of different strengths after 7th grade). If students pass a placement test, they are able to skip a grade and attend classes of a higher grade (for example, a student who passes the test in 7th grade and is currently in 8th grade can take 9th grade “extended honors" mathematics.) Two semesters of physical education are taught each year, including swimming in the 8th grade (held at Hunter College). In 9th grade, students are required to take a CPR course for one semester. Starting in their junior year, students are allowed to take a limited number of electives and Advanced Placement courses. The senior year, however, is free of mandated courses except for a year of physical education electives and courses to fulfill leftover educational requirements.
Hunter has a strong English Department, which incorporates reading dense novels and writing analytical papers beginning in the 7th grade. Students have historically graduated with strong writing and reading comprehension skills, reflected by the school’s high average SAT scores in Critical Reading and Writing, and by the number of students who have earned recognition by the Scholastic Writing Awards. Upper-level electives and advanced placement courses are offered by all six academic departments. Advanced placement courses include: AP Computer Science, AP Calculus AB and BC, AP Microeconomics and Macroeconomics, AP Psychology, AP European History, AP Chemistry, AP Physics C, AP Biology, AP Statistics, AP Spanish, AP French and AP Latin (Vergil). The English Department previously offered AP English and Literature but has since replaced it with the elective Advanced Logic and Composition. Other electives include: Intro to African-American Studies, “Race, Class, and Gender", International Relations, US Constitutional Law, Classical Mythology, Photography, Astrophysics, Advanced Art History I & II, Organic Chemistry, Creative Writing, Joyce’s Ulysses, Shakespeare’s Comedies & Romance/Shakespeare’s Tragedies & Histories, and Physiology. Hunter’s AP offerings are currently being evaluated by the Faculty and Curriculum Committee.
There are six guidance counselors serving the student population. Each junior and senior is assigned a college guidance counselor. In recent years (classes of 2002 through 2005), nearly 99% of Hunter’s students have gone on to college, and about 25% of these students accept admission into an Ivy League school. In 2006–2007, 73 of the graduating seniors were accepted into the Ivy League schools, constituting approximately 40% of the whole class.
Hunter students win many honors and awards during their high school careers, including numerous Scholastic Writing Awards. Hunter wins approximately 23% of all New York State Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. Of particular fame are the winners of the Intel Science Talent Search- the first-place winner in 2005 was Hunter senior David L. V. Bauer (’05), while the 1991 winner was Adam Cohen (’97, now a professor in the Chemistry and Physics Departments at Harvard). In addition, two of New York State’s four 2005 Presidential scholars were Hunter College High School seniors. Sandra Fong (’08) represented the United States in the 2008 Summer Olympics held in Beijing. She competed in the rifle shooting competition.
In light of its academic excellence, The Wall Street Journal recently identified Hunter College High School as one of the top public schools in the nation and a feeder to Ivy League and other leading colleges. Newsweek has also stated that Hunter College High School is one of the top public schools with high performers on the SAT and ACT tests. According to the National Center of Education Statistics, the average SAT score (verbal and mathematics) in the 2001–2002 school year was a 1390. The 2400-scale average for the class of 2007 was a 2156 (1436 on a 1600-point scale), and 2225 for the class of 2012-13.