Astoria public school on Newsweek’s top 100 list

By Antonia Morales

Newsweek’s list of the best public high schools in the country contains more than 1,600 exceptional schools throughout the nation. So the Baccalaureate School for Global Education considers it an honor to be ranked No. 38 on the list, making it the only high school in Queens to break into the top 100.

Located in Astoria, the school was started in 2002. It has around 430 students in grades 7-12. The student body comes from different neighborhoods and, according to Principal Kelly Johnson, the students “reflect the diversity in Queens in terms of their academic ability.”

The Baccalaureate School at 34-12 36th Ave. is authorized by the International Baccalaureate Organization to issue IB certificates or diplomas. The IB diploma is an internationally recognized credential.

Prior to entering into their challenging diploma program, the students must complete the rigorous Middle Years Program, which starts in seventh-grade and ends in 10th-grade. Johnson said the Middle Years Program is demanding and leaves students more than prepared for the IB program.

Not everyone will receive an IB diploma, but Johnson said school officials do not believe this should discourage students.

“The process and being a part of the IB program is as important as getting the IB diploma,” said Johnson. “It is still very rewarding. The program is more rigorous than most curriculums in other middle schools or high schools.”

Johnson described their position on the list as a “charge” and a “rallying point” for their school. She discussed how she first heard of the honor through the school’s alumni.

“They were jumping for joy over the fact that we were being recognized for the work that the children do,” she said.

The students shared the same enthusiasm and were honored to be associated with the school, Johnson said.

According to Newsweek, the magazine create its list of best schools based on the schools ratio of Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate or Cambridge tests administered to the number of graduating students. The ranking does not factor in test grades or other means of evaluating a school’s performance. But the students at the BSGE do more than take tests.

For example, the students are required to do a personal project. The yearlong assignment asks the students to do an in-depth study on a question in a topic of their choice. After it is completed, they present their project to the rest of the students.

“It’s something about this type of study that is most beneficial,” said Johnson.

The students are also required to complete 150 hours of community service. The school itself does its part in organizing social service activities, such as school-wide blood drives, cleaning parks and feeding the homeless. While it is mandatory, Johnson hopes the students find an activity they enjoy and continue to take part in it.

“We want to encourage students to become participants in society,” said Johnson.

While making the list makes the BSGE proud and Johnson does not want to dismiss it, the principal believes the school has accomplished more.

“I think we are pleased that were are being recognized, but what pleases us is the growth of the students,” she said. “Students overcoming challenges … that’s what we celebrate. We celebrate the growth of the faculty and staff.”

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