Our 2009 Top High Schools List
Oct 07, 2009 | 18304 views | 0 0 comments | 138 138 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Click to view the Digital Edition Click on a school below to view detailed information: Bishop Ford Central High School Cathedral High School Catherine McAuley High School Christ the King Regional High School Dominican Academy Holy Cross High School The Kew-Forest School Martin Luther High School The Mary Louis Academy Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School Mother Cabrini High School Notre Dame School St. Agnes Academic High School St. Francis Preparatory High School St. Jean Baptiste High School St. John's Preparatory High School St. Joseph's High School St. Saviour High School St. Vincent Ferrer High School Xavier High School

It’s October and the rush is on. Open houses are upon us, friends are talking about their choice, one mom is boasting about how her older son made it into Stuyvesant High School and you look at your son’s grades and realize that his grammar school marks are high enough for you to explore some better options than your locally zoned public high school or the smaller themed high schools scattered around the city.

Or maybe you have an average student who might fall to the level of fellow students, and you worry that if you send him to a public high school he or she might not work very hard.

In this, our annual Top High Schools issue, we suggest you explore going to a high School that could add some moral and spiritual focus on top of a top-notch academic regimen to your child's formative teenage years. The schools we highlight in this section have a greater percentage of graduates that have the marks and skills to go on to tier-one colleges.

Parents need to try to find the right fit for their child. Today, as opposed to ten years ago, it is more typical that the first child in the family will fit better into one school only for the second child to be comfortable in another. The schools are indeed different in their academic standards, expectations, social climates, size of classes, and spiritual emphasis. However what we have found is that each looks at their students as part of their family.

Keep this guide as a reference when you consider high schools. Throughout the year, our reporters and editors talk to students and faculty of the schools throughout New York. We suggest you apply for the TACHS test. For the student applying to a top private high school, a choice of schools (in order of preference) must be written down by the student with an application to take the standardized test called TACHS. Applications to take the exam are due by October 22, 2009, by internet or telephone. Register by calling (866) 618-2247 or visiting their .

How We Chose The Top Schools

We sent questionnaires to dozens of private high schools in Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan for our 2009 issue. Since this is our 8th year publishing the Top High Schools issue and not all high schools might have thought we were fair to them in the past, a few did not wish to share information, but we still have plenty to go on.

We spoke to parents, students and teachers – and in some cases administrators - and were able to obtain interesting information, which might not typically be shared with the outside world. The questions were intended to compare academic and social environment of each school so we could package it and let our readers make a more informative choice of a top school for their eighth grader to consider.

Some schools were not shy about sharing scholarships opportunities offered for eighth graders, as well as dollars their seniors were offered as scholarships to colleges. Some were able to brag about the average SAT scores of their current students, while others wouldn’t share. On the whole, each school has its strengths, and some shortcomings. If little Danny’s school isn’t listed here, it doesn’t necessarily mean we think his school is not worthy. There are some schools which wouldn’t share enough information for us to make a determination of quality of curriculum, program and student body.

Worth The Cost

After doing the research, we found that most of the schools we cover in the Top High Schools issue are worth the cost. Special attention given each student while attending the school is what most of these private high schools are about. Whether a future employer sees the name of the school on a resume, or their extended family on a Facebook page, the high school they went to follows them for the rest of their lives. A focus on faith and moral character is also paramount to the high school experience at these schools.

Parents and students we spoke with still say travel time, school location, and academic standing remain the top reasons for choosing a school, but the landscape is changing. Many schools we cover in this edition alter their approach to getting top students each year, while others have stuck to their traditional methods.

Technology, Scholarships, College Credit Courses & Internships

Gone is the old thinking that private schools do not possess the vast technological assets as public schools. They all offer high-speed internet connections and state-of-the-art computers. Most have comprehensive websites, and many schools have their students operate the site. Constant expansion of computer labs, science labs and library resources is the norm.

Most schools in this issue offer college credit courses, which helps with some college expense. St. John’s Prep in Astoria was proud to share with us that 33 percent of their students are enrolled in at least one college-credit course and almost two-thirds enroll in one or more honors courses. St. Francis Prep offers 30 college credit courses in subjects ranging from art and language to math and more.

Most of our schools encourage internships as a part of the high school experience. Here at this newspaper we have recently had interns from Monsignor McClancy as well as St. Francis Prep. Foreign country travel excursions are part of their language curriculum options. Manhattan’s Dominican Academy has more than one foreign bound school trip every year. One student told us the two-week trip was so affordable that twenty friends of her family came on the trip.

The biggest change from when our parents went to private high school might be that there is a more diverse academic skill level in schools. While some schools only admitted students with the highest academic abilities into their school, now there are students roaming around the halls who, administrators we spoke with, say “bring something else to the table.”

While we find that most private high schools in Brooklyn, Queens, and Manhattan are still servicing the needs of students in their locale, they are attracting more and more students who commute an hour and sometimes more.

“It doesn’t bother me to travel for an hour to get here,” said a senior at Msgr. McClancy High School in East Elmhurst, who lives in Springfield Gardens. Trains and busses are safer, more comfortable, and, in many cases, students have told us that traveling to a school in another borough might be quicker than some top schools in their own area.

We are also finding students willing to travel if they are offered academic scholarships, or if they see that some personally desirable extracurricular activities (i.e. sports teams, clubs, specialized academic programs) match their needs. One student, who lives in Woodside and attends the Notre Dame School School on 13th Street in Manhattan, told us that she gets some valuable study time accomplished during her 45-minute daily commute.

More important to you might just be what that school has to offer and what kind of graduates they produce. For graduates of Bishop Ford High School in Park Slope, for instance, more than 95 percent are attending four-year colleges.

Think About College Now

Maybe there is something about St. John’s University you like. Maybe their sports management program is something you think your child might be interested in for college. St. Francis Prep in Fresh Meadows says that St. John’s University gets more St. Francis students than any other college. Bishop Ford shared that St. Francis College in Downtown Brooklyn typically gets more of their graduates than any other.

Compare the schools on the following pages. You can find average class size, Average SAT scores, college courses offered, open house information, and quotes from students, teachers, and parents. You will be well informed when making a decision.

Feeling good about a high school while on a walking tour might not be good enough anymore. Most students who are currently in their senior class won’t readily admit they made a mistake by choosing their school, but most will be able to tell you what they liked and disliked about their experience. And “experience” is exactly what a high school education is about. Private high schools vary in their focus and social and academic environment, as well as college preparatory help. Finding your way through the hype and the truth is precisely what a family must do before making a choice.

Speak To Parents

You should speak to moms and dads of kids who are in high school currently. If you ask the right questions, you will be able to get past their hesitation about not letting you think they made a mistake. Just because they think it was a good choice for their child, might not mean it is for yours. Every school has its strengths.

Ask the parent of a child who you think is the kind of person you want your child to be. A good athlete, a good student, a polite, energetic, motivated high schooler might impress you. We see some schools that push internships through the summer. We have high school interns at this newspaper. We’ve had some great students who learned a good deal here. We have also had some who could not handle the pressure of a deadline.

You need to believe that your child’s high school choice plays an important role in the outcome of their life, not just the college he or she will attend.

What To Look For at The Open House

October is the month most schools want you there. Some offer second chances in later months. It is imperative that you attend the open house with your child. Even if you went to one a few years ago, go again. You will surely see the school differently, as school amenities might change. We list open house dates in this issue.

1. Ask about graduation rate when you visit the school.

2. Ask how many graduates went on to top colleges. It’s less important that they list the colleges where their graduates have attended or received acceptances to last year. All schools have had a child or two attend an Ivy League college at one time or another. Find out where a student who was in the middle of the class academically went last year. Do most of the graduates go to community colleges, CUNY, SUNY or tier-one colleges? U.S. News and World Report magazine publishes a guide to U.S. colleges every October. Give it a look. See the colleges where the graduates of your favorite high school went.

3. Speak to a current student you might not know. Is he or she the type of kid you think you want your child to be like? Ask where they score in relation to their classmates. Are his or her marks in the middle of the class, or are they above average? Ask. We have found that a teenager will most likely be honest if they are talking to you one-on-one. Find a senior. Where do they stand in the class and where are they planning to go to college? How were his grades in elementary school? If that student, who is in the middle of the class, now is attending a college you think might be the goal of your child, then maybe that is the school for your son or daughter.

4. Ask about what the school offers if a student is struggling. Most schools offer tutoring at the school after the day is over. Students who perform better typically help students who are having academic problems in a certain area. See if the school you are considering does indeed provide that service. Ask if they have a favorite teacher or advisor. Maybe you can speak to that advisor. It is most important to see if that student is well-adjuste’ and if they can hold a lively conversation with someone they don’t know (like you and your child). Let them speak; they will.

5. Ask to speak to the principal or admissions director during the open house. Introduce your child to him or her. Don’t be afraid to tell him about your child and what type of student they are. One thing we can tell you for sure: they like kids. They like students. They want to talk to you about your child and we have found that they are honest with you. Their experience tells them that if they paint a true picture then the family can make an educated decision about their school. They have told us that they don’t want a student who will not be a good fit for the school. “If the student leaves after a year,” said one principal of a Queens high school we spoke with,” it doesn’t make sense for either the school or the student.”

Sports & Schools

Many schools have sports as a secondary focus, but admit that sports play an important role in the high school experience. Some schools concentrate on their teams because it is a way of promoting their school. Although few principals will freely admit that they feel the good press of a few good teams goes a long way in recruiting students, it’s true.

Many students say that looking forward to practice or the game after classes or the intramural sports program at the school gets them through the academic day. Not everyone will make the team of their choice, but these schools do a great job in making sports an integral part of the school spirit. Be cautioned not to pick a school because they have a great basketball or baseball program, because if you don’t make the team resentment often sets in.

If your child is an athlete, seek out the freshman coach before you attend the school. Most coaches we spoke with will be honest about your child's chances to make the team. Although recruiting kids is generally frowned upon, it always seems that basketball and baseball coaches of high school teams will know four or five kids coming into their freshman program.

If your child is not one of the select few for the highly popular basketball team, we find that many opt for the track or volleyball team. Some parents feel their child might actually be better off on the volleyball team in the long run. “At least I knew she would play when I went to the games,” said one parent of a student who attends Archbishop Molloy in Briarwood.

Things Change

Schools are looking for their niche in a field. Private schools tend to try to add new amenities to their curriculum each year, so don’t rely on information from three or four years ago.

Ethnic and religious diversity is much more a part of every school these days.

Honors classes and college courses are much more common today. Taking these courses, and getting college credits as a junior or senior can dramatically lower your cost for college, so check out the offerings of each high school.

You should know what your child can handle, academically and socially. It is indeed true that some schools expect more homework than others. It is also true that some schools graduate more of their students to top colleges. The way they keep their standards high is to accept students who will be more likely to succeed in their daily academic grind and spiritual experience. There is no shortage of moral uplifting during a teen’s years at these private high schools we list. Spiritual and religious experience is important in private schools. Religion and the spiritual interactive experience might not be on the top of most parent’s list, but is a top priority for most of these schools.

If your child doesn’t score particularly well on tests, but you know he can handle the workload at a certain school, then you should not be afraid to put the school as your first choice on the TACHS exam. After the test, contact the school of choice and try to get your child enrolled, even if they have not accepted him or her. We know of many instances where this was done, and the student had a great high school experience and graduated on to a good college. However, we know of many instances where the child couldn’t handle the work and was asked to leave the school. So be as brutally honest with yourself and your child as possible.

There is no doubt that the extra attention and quality education your child receives at our top schools is worth the cost and the effort. Do not make the decision too early that your child is not the type to go on to college. Many children mature during their teen years. Don’t stifle their academic potential before they get a chance to grow up.
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