For Stuyvesant and Bronx Science, a good-natured competition born of striking similarities
Imagine a bustling, urban public high school whose alumni include Nobel Prize winners, government officials, and world-class writers, musicians, actors, scholars -- you name it. And the prestige of going there is hardly a thing of the past.
Fewer than 10 percent of the more than 20,000 eighth and ninth graders taking the annual admission test will score above the cutoff point -- and once there, the workload doesn't let up. But sleep deprivation can seem a small price to pay (especially when the tuition is free), considering the range and depth of the high-level classes offered. And when these driven students do graduate, they go on to become -- well, just look at their alumni role models.
Now imagine two such schools, and each one believes -- knows -- it's superior to the other. Think
Even their addresses speak to an uptown-downtown polarity. Bronx Science is a few subway stops north of
Nor would anyone confuse one building for the other.
So which school is on top? It depends upon whom you ask.
"So, how's it going at the city's second-best high school?"
In reality, they consult each other about school issues regularly and readily praise the other's institution. Reidy, who has been at the helm of Bronx Science for nine years and for 22 years before that taught in and then headed its biology department, says that she has a standard reply when potential students or parents ask which school is better. "I say, 'If these are your two choices, how lucky you are! Both schools will provide you with an excellent education.'" Teitel -- who joined
Or at the very least, more similar than not. After all, the same test -- the New York City Specialized Science High Schools Admissions Test -- determines who gets into Bronx Science and
Among these schools, too, there is one size only: large. About 3,200 students attend
In fact, the more a visitor tours each building's classrooms (class size at both maxes at 34), peeks in at the labs (whatever specialized equipment you might need, it's there), or observes students pausing to share a joke in front of their lockers or rushing through the corridors en masse to get to the next class, the more similar the schools begin to seem. That impression is only strengthened by interviews with students, parents, teachers, and administrators, whose raves about each school's pluses can start to sound interchangeable: Students are "incredibly bright" and "highly motivated"; the choice of courses is "awesome"; both schools emphasize "creative and critical thinking" and foster "a culture of learning."
Gripes? So much to do and so little time to sleep, goes one refrain. Another has to do with the commute, which for some can take up to an hour each way. (Fortunately, bus and subway rides provide time for homework, catching 40 winks, or hanging out with friends.) The schools are even alike in their diversity, both economically and ethnically (about two thirds of the pupils at each school come from Asian backgrounds; the rest a mix of Caucasian, Hispanic, and black). At both, too, because a fair number of parents are non-English speaking, translators are on call.
Location, location, location.
Not surprisingly -- at least, not to
Bronx Science's tart comeback: "We're worth the trip," proudly declares the school bumper sticker.
Then there is the very important subject of lunch. At
The lunch issue doesn't mean one school is more laid back than the other. "We have high expectations for ourselves," says
But they do find time to be teenagers. At both schools, you can spot kids -- and staff -- having a good time. At
Occasionally, it's the parents who stress out. "I've had parents come and tell me, 'My child has a 96 or 97 in a particular class, and how can they do better?'" says Teitel. "Sometimes I have to tell the parents to step back."
The students have already gotten the message, says
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Education: Stuyvesant and Bronx Science New York City Schools Share a Drive to Be Tops | Diane Cole
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