NEW YORK, July 5, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- A group of unique public high schools in New York State and New Jersey, cited by President Obama as role models for the nation, have received critical funding from science investor, Jeffrey Epstein and his foundation, The Jeffrey Epstein VI Foundation. The schools are called the Bard High School Early College schools (BHSEC) in Manhattan and Queens of New York City and in Newark, New Jersey.
The Bard schools are not charter schools. They are financed by New York State and New Jersey. However, they run with the efficiency and success of a prominent charter school. The schools are small, with less than 600 students each and a student teacher ratio of 20 to 1. Admission is academically exclusive, focusing on academic records, writing and math assessments and an eagerness for ideas and learning. And like most charter schools, the BHSEC schools critically have autonomy, even though they have to meet Regent state exams and state graduation guidelines. They have the autonomy to run their teaching staff, budget, operations and curriculum.
Unlike charter schools however, BHSEC schools provide an entire high school curriculum in just two years and then two years of college level credits. After four years, students graduate with sixty college credits, a state Regents high school diploma and a Bard College Associate in Arts degree in the liberal arts and sciences. This accelerated approach comes from the schools' belief that many young people are ready and eager to do serious college work at age sixteen and that young adults' ambition to learn must be taken seriously.
The results have been exceptional: 95% of BHSEC graduates attend college. In July 2009, President Obama, addressing the NAACP's centennial convention cited the schools as a role model for the nation: "Innovations like Bard High School Early College and Medgar Evers College Preparatory School that are challenging students to complete high school and earn a free associate's degree or college credit in just four years." In 2012, The New York Observer ranked BHSEC as the #1 public high school in New York City, with an A+ grade, outranking the top private school.
BHSEC has its roots in the college system. In June 2001, The New York City Board of Education and Bard College created Bard High School Early College with the support of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Since the 1960's Bard College, originally called, Bard College of Simon's Rock, was the nation's only four year college and was designed for younger scholars.
"Competition is tough," Jeffrey Epstein notes, whose foundation actively supports public education across the country. "Approximately 7,000 applicants compete for 150 seats each fall. So we need to continue working with state education boards to duplicate this successful model."