School & District Management

Bard To Start Public ‘Early College’ In N.Y.C.

By Karla Scoon Reid — June 13, 2001 2 min read
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A New York City public high school managed by Bard College will grant graduating students an associate’s degree in liberal arts and sciences, instead of a high school diploma.

The city’s board of education approved the Bard College plan last week.

Scheduled to open in September in an existing Brooklyn school, the Bard High School Early College is the brainchild of Bard College President Leon Botstein, an outspoken critic of traditional high schools.

“They will never get a high school diploma,” Mr. Botstein said of students at the new school. “I’m saying that in the long term, that that’s no loss. Their time is better spent in college.”

Mr. Botstein said he has always wanted to test his theory that students could bypass high school and accelerate learning in an urban system.

That theory is already in practice at Simon’s Rock College of Bard, where students are admitted after completing 10th or 11th grade to pursue college degrees. But Simon’s Rock is a boarding school for 364 students in Great Barrington, Mass., in the rural Berkshires.

Focus on Subject Matter

At the new Bard school, students will be taught a liberal arts college curriculum by professors with what Mr. Botstein called a “deep connection to the subject matter.” A fatal flaw of a high school education, he believes, is teachers’ lack of such knowledge.

Mr. Botstein, who also doesn’t believe in undergraduate degrees in education for teachers, said high school teachers are inadequately prepared to instruct students.

The school will serve 250 students in grades 9 and 11 to start, adding the remaining grades the following year. Up to 1,000 students will attend the school eventually.

Students will be admitted to the school by application, interview, and portfolios—but not by standardized-test scores, which Mr. Botstein calls an “inadequate guide.” He said the school would seek motivated and disciplined students who have strong family and community support.

While still a public school financed by state and local dollars, the Bard school’s budget will be supplemented by money raised privately by Bard College, which is in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y.

New York City Schools Chancellor Harold O. Levy said Bard College’s decision to work with the 1.1 million-student district is a “vote of confidence in our children” and in the school system’s ability to implement innovative educational strategies.

“This exciting collaboration allows us to offer a unique option that ensures those New York City students who are ready and willing to engage in serious intellectual work have the opportunity to do so,” Mr. Levy said in a statement.

Mr. Botstein said he hopes the partnership will inspire other liberal arts colleges to follow suit. He added that the Bard High School Early College could serve as a model that could be replicated in other urban centers across the nation.

Coverage of research is underwritten in part by a grant from the Spencer Foundation.

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A version of this article appeared in the June 13, 2001 edition of Education Week as Bard To Start Public ‘Early College’ In N.Y.C.

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