Math and Sciences Under Microscope at High School

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By Lauren Rothman Science & Technology Crystal Bonds, principal of the High School for Math, Science and Engineering at the City College of New York, calls her school "Manhattan's treasure." "We have phenomenal students who have exceeded way beyond our expectations, and their own," she said. The High School for Math, Science and Engineering (HSMSE) was established 10 years ago as a joint initiative between the New York City schools' chancellor and the chancellor of the City University of New York. The school is one of nine specialized public high schools in the city. Incoming ninth and tenth graders must test to get into the school, which teaches a rigorous curriculum and this year accepted only 440 students. In April of 2012, the school was named the most diverse in New York City by the New York Times, and its students come from all over the five boroughs. Bonds said that the school's faculty sets it apart. "More than half of our teachers have job experience in their industry. They make the learning applicable to life," she said. Those teachers impart real-world knowledge to their students, who in their sophomore year choose between three tracks: the Advanced Engineering Program; the Mount Sinai School of Medicine Biomedical Research Program; and the Mathematics Program. Teachers in the engineering program include five engineers, who focus on "innovation and design" in their courses, according to Bonds. Students who choose the engineering major benefit from HSMSE's partnership with the Grove School of Engineering at the City College of New York (CCNY) and are given the opportunity to apply for a paid research internship at CCNY's Grove School of Engineering. Medicine majors complete a demanding two-year program at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine. In their first year, they complete a research internship in one of the hospital units, such as cardiology, oncology or obstetrics. In their second, they are placed in clinical and laboratory internships that prepare them for college and medical school. The math concentration at HSMSE was started just two years ago. Students in this major study advanced math and complete two semesters with the Varsity Math Team. Eligible students may also study alongside college students at CCNY, taking courses like pre-calculus and calculus after school and during the summer. David Scheiman has been a math teacher at HSMSE for six years. He said the students at the school are unique not only in their brightness, but also in their humility. "Our students are extremely eager to learn, but they're also very humble and willing to take criticism," he said. "They want to get better. These are students who come to school early in the morning for extra help. "There's no sense of competition between them," Scheiman said. "They want to help each other. That's very rare in rigorous programs like this one." Bonds said that the school's administration constantly seeks new ways not only to challenge its students, but also to support them. To that end, she created a new program this year called Freshman Academy. Every day, ninth graders meet for 45 minutes to learn the basics of organization: how to plan their day, how to manage their workload, and how to come up with effective plans for studying at home. "Our students come from all over, and have had very different experiences when they get here," Bonds said. "Freshman Academy brings all of them onto the same page." Bonds said she looked forward to continuing to introduce students to new modes of learning. "Some of our students haven't had much exposure to science or math or engineering before coming here," she said. "We want to expose the children to these subjects with the hope that they gain a passion for them."

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