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According to a newly released report from Inside Schools, Townsend Harris High School tops the 2015 list of the 20 New York City public high school programs that have received the most applications. This year alone, 5,540 eighth grade students have applied to our school seeking a spot within the highly selective academic pool.
Each year, the Department of Education releases a list of the top 20 public high schools to which most New York City eighth grade students have applied. These 20 schools were selected from over 400 high school programs city wide, excluding those of the nine specialized high schools. The list is based on the number of times each school was applied to and disregards each applicant’s personal ordering of the programs.
The list is then published by the DOE and made of available through the Inside Schools website to potential students inquiring about the various public high schools and their statistics.
Inside Schools is a project of the Center for New York City affairs at The New School provides the most current data from the New York State Department of Education. This includes but is not limited to: attendance, student demographics, graduation rates, average standardized test scores, and student and parent surveys.
Senior Hema Venkata, impressed by the increase in applicants states that this statistic makes her “value her spot in Townsend Harris more.” Senior Rebecca Duras feels that this statistic made her value her spot at THHS more, explaining that “realizing that so many kids are competing to be here makes everything else-the complaining about the workload-seem so trivial.”
For Principal Anthony Barbetta, Townsend Harris’ position on the list did not come by surprise. According to him, “our reputation as one of the top high schools in New York City is appealing to applicants. We have a great school with great teachers and a great administration. It’s not too big and not too small. Students want to come here because there is something for everyone at Townsend Harris.”
Last year, Townsend Harris was ranked 5th on the list under Baruch College Campus High School, Pace, Eleanor Roosevelt and Beacon, with 5, 521 applicants. Within a year, the increase in applications proved viable, as Townsend is now the most applied to public school in New York City.
Assistant Principal Veronica York credits this leap to the actions of the student body, citing the students as the “best recruitment tool” for potential applicants. Each year, she comments, “we have approximately 1,150 students in our school who are being sent out into the community. They speak about us in a positive manner and handle themselves in a mature way. People are impressed by our students. They see success.”
Ms. York has found the fall open house as a major attractive factor for applicants. The open house “is a school effort and a great opportunity to show off all that we do here. There are 3,000 people in a building looking around at Townsend Harris with an updated, professional brochure of what goes on in our school. It’s our own brag book. Students read and look around. They can really see what is Townsend Harris.”
Despite the increase in applicants, both Mr. Barbetta and Ms. York have found consistency within the applicant pool. The demographics of the student body have “remained the same” and the majority of entrants to the school are dominantly from Queens public junior high schools.
The standards of acceptance have also remained relatively the same. This year, the overall average of an accepted applicant was a 95, and a 4 on both the English Language Arts and Mathematics State Exams. According to Ms. York, “we are still only accepting the best and brightest.” As the school’s statistics show, from the 5,540 students, approximately 1,500 students have met this criteria. From this number, Mr. Barbetta states that “approximately 500 students have been selected. This number will then be narrowed down by the students who will choose whether or not Townsend Harris is the school they will be attending.”
The increase in applicants “is not supposed to” affect the number of students accepted into the school, but according to Mr. Barbetta, “it will. The school funding is based on the number of students in the school.” The Class of 2015 is made up of 308 students; however, a typical incoming class of Townsend Harris is 270 students. If only 270 students were to be accepted, Mr. Barbetta explains that “we would be in a 38 student deficit and could lose as much as $200,000 in our budget.” For this reason, the Class of 2019 is expected to be a larger entering class, similar to the one graduating this year.
In her last year, Hema feels that “the increased number of students competing for a seat that [she] was given freshman year” has made her experience at Townsend “even more worth it.”