|Townsend Harris High School at Queens College|
149-11 Melbourne Ave.
|Type||Public (magnet) secondary|
|Established||1904, refounded 1984|
|Color(s)||Crimson and gold|
|Yearbook||The Crimson and Gold|
Townsend Harris High School at Queens College (THHS) is a public magnet high school for the humanities in the borough of Queens in New York City. Students and alumni often refer to themselves as "Harrisites." Townsend Harris consistently ranks as among the top 100 high schools in the United States. In 2019, 2020, and 2021, U.S. News and World Report ranked THHS #1 in New York State; THHS ranked #12 nationally in 2021. The school was named in honor of Townsend Harris the 19th-century American merchant, politician, and diplomat who served as the first American Counsel to Japan.
Townsend Harris High School was founded in 1984 by alumni of Townsend Harris Hall Prep School, who wanted to reopen their school that was closed in the 1940s. This process in started in 1980.
The first principal was Malcolm Largmann, a former high school English teacher with a strong belief in a classically styled education who also handpicked the school's original faculty. Largmann served as principal of Townsend Harris from 1984 until his retirement in 2001. The new school began life in a small building on Parsons Boulevard, originally intended as a temporary home until a permanent facility could be realized. In early 1995, the school moved into a new building located on the campus of Queens College.
Brian Condon became principal after a heated debate concerning Interim Principal Rosemarie Jahoda.
Well over 15,400 students compete for approximately 270 seats in the freshman class each year based on their middle school grades, standardized test scores and even attendance records. Admission is available to all New York City residents in 8th grade. A minimum grade point average of 91 is required of all applicants to be considered for admission. Minimum standardized reading and math scores at the 90th percentile are also required (4.3 on both English and Math).
Some seats are available for 9th graders wishing to start Townsend as sophomores, though as the number depends on the number of students who decide to leave the school during freshman year the number varies significantly from year to year; in 2006, only 5 were available. In 2019, just 10 seats were available to 5,000 students who applied.
Initially, the admissions process included an interview and a writing component, but this was eliminated by 1988. Upon matriculation, students take a writing and math exam. Students must fulfill prerequisite grade standards to earn admission in addition to the examination.
In addition to the standard three-year Regents English program, all students take a "fifth year" of English as freshmen in the form of classes in linguistics and writing processes. In addition to the standard modern language requirement which may be fulfilled with classes in Spanish, French, or Japanese. Students must have a two-year classical language requirement which can be fulfilled by classes in Latin or classical Greek (in addition, Hebrew is offered as an elective course). There is also a rigorous physical education requirement, especially freshman gym, and a senior project required of students. A variety of electives and AP classes are also offered to students. As of 2004, AP World History became a mandatory subject and replaced the Regents-level course. Every subject requires students to execute at least one major project a year, with history classes requiring one per semester and English several per semester. These projects are referred to as "collaterals."
In the 2008–2009 school year, Townsend Harris is offering the following Advanced Placement (AP) classes: World History, United States History, United States Government, Environmental Science, Psychology, Calculus AB/BC, Computer Science A, Japanese Language and Culture, Latin: Vergil, Statistics, French Language, Art History, Computer Science Principles, AP Macroeconomics, AP Microeconomics, and Spanish Language, Spanish Literature.
The most notable feature of the school's curriculum is the senior "Bridge Year" program. Students in good standing may take up to 12 credits at Queens College at no cost to themselves. This includes a required humanities seminar co-taught by Harris teachers and Queens College faculty. The curriculum and format is foundationally fairly similar to the Great Books seminars required of liberal arts freshmen at colleges around the world, with heavy emphasis on critical reading and writing.
Recently, a number of other New York City public high schools have been established that have similar "bridge year" programs. These include the High School of American Studies at Lehman College, Queens High School for the Sciences at York College, and Bard High School Early College.
In sharp contrast with the original school which was open to male students only, the new school has been dominated by female students from its inception, today comprising approximately 70% of the student population.
As of 2019, the school's minority population is largely Asian, with the New York City Department of Education's "Asian and other" category making up 44% of the student body total, comprising the largest segment of the school's population. White students comprise 37% of the population, Hispanic students 12% and black students 7%.
48% of students at Townsend Harris are from an economically disadvantaged background.
The school maintains a 100% graduation rate.
The attendance rate is the highest in NYC. Scores on standardized examinations are also high when compared to other public high schools; in the year 2005–2006, Harrisites had average scores of 628 and 632 on the SAT verbal and math sections, respectively, compared to 551 and 565 for what the city deems "similar schools" and 444 and 467 for students citywide. In 2000 Eileen F. Lebow published a history of the original school, The Bright Boys: A History of Townsend Harris High School (ISBN 0-313-31479-9).
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(p. 224) By 1916, Gershwin had also begun writing songs with Irving Caesar ... Caesar, a tunesmith in his own right, had grown up on the Lower East Side, and like Ira had graduated from Townsend Harris ...
(p. 148) Frank Loesser was the most versatile of all Broadway composers ... He was educated at Townsend Harris Hall and dropped out of City College.
(p. 137) ... affirming the school's unique role and listing distinguished alumni: among them Justice Felix Frankfurter, Senator Robert Wagner ... Sidney Kingsley, playwright; and Edward G. Robinson, actor.