The International High School at LaGuardia Community College

Lee Pan
31-10 Thomson Avenue, Long Island City

The International High School at LaGuardia Community College was founded in 1985 as a joint venture by the Board of Education and the Board of Higher Education of the City of New York. Our mission is to enable each of our students to develop the linguistic, cognitive and cultural skills necessary for success in high school, college and beyond. The school was designated as an Academic Excellence Project under ESEA Title VII in 1992, and has twice been cited as a Center of Excellence for the teaching of English communication arts. The school is a member of the New York Performance Standards Consortium and uses performance-based assessment tasks (PBATs) to graduate its students.

The International High School admits only students of limited English proficiency who have been in the United States less than four years at the time of application. Once admitted, the students remain for their entire high school careers. They receive a complete high school curriculum taught with a content-based English as a Second Language approach. At the same time, students have the opportunity to maintain and further their native language development through native language arts courses and peer- mediated instructional activities, using materials and textbooks in English as well as their native languages.

The school's calendar is organized on a semester schedule. However, because classes meet for 70-minute periods, 2 semesters of study carry 1½ year's credit (1½ Carnegie units.) The school is divided into a Junior and a Senior Institute. The three Junior Institute teams serve 9th and 10th graders who are in classes together. The three Senior Institute teams serve 11th and 12th graders who also are programmed together. All classes are heterogeneous by language and achievement. Classrooms are generally structured around the development of thematic projects in cooperative groups. Students work in depth both collaboratively and independently.

Through disciplinary and interdisciplinary study, the students receive an education in math, science and technology. Junior Institute students have laboratory science experiences in biology, chemistry, and physics. In math they focus on the fundamentals of algebra and geometry (Math A). They also have the opportunity to investigate some of these areas in depth while developing interdisciplinary math projects. Technology is infused throughout the curriculum. Senior Institute students continue their laboratory science experiences, developing original science experiments for presentation. Math education continues through the pre-calculus level.

In Humanities, history and literature are also presented in both disciplinary and interdisciplinary formats. In Junior Institute, students study classic and contemporary writers, poets and essayists. They also investigate global studies in depth. In Senior Institute, students learn about American History and government, and continue their study of literature at a higher level of English.

An important feature of the curriculum is the experiential education program. Many students complete at least one career education or community service internship, where they can explore personal goals and responsibilities while extending their knowledge of English and U.S. culture in real life settings.

Most of our students are also involved in our enrichment programs in the arts, literature, drama and physical education.

In 2002, International High School became one of the first high schools in the country to join the Bill and Melinda Gates Early College Initiative. Students combine high school and college study and may elect to remain for a thirteenth year. High school students take college courses with matriculated college students and enroll in a daily support seminar. This combination of increased rigor and support has proven to be a powerful approach that increases the likelihood of student success in college. By graduation, almost all graduates successfully complete one or more college courses and many earn a significant number of college credits. The pass rate for students enrolled in college classes averages 85%, with some students obtaining membership in Phi Theta Kappa, the national honor society of LaGuardia Community College.

Graduation Requirements

All graduates of International High School meet or exceed New York State and New York City Department of Education requirements. Our students must complete 4 years of English; 4 years of social studies (2 years each of global and American studies); 4 years each of math and science; 1 year of career education and a 1/2 year each of Art and Music. As per New York State guidelines, all graduates qualify for 3 years foreign language credit for proficiency in their native language and also receive native language instruction.

In addition to coursework requirements, every candidate for graduation must successfully participate in a portfolio presentation process, which includes the PBATs required for graduation. With support from a teacher-mentor, each senior organizes a portfolio of projects, reports, and representative work samples that document his/her learning and mastery of various academic disciplines. The student is also required to prepare mastery statements that evidence his/her academic growth and development. The student then presents the portfolio and mastery statements before a panel of teachers and students. Certification is granted only after the panel is satisfied that competence and mastery have been achieved and that the student is fully prepared to graduate.