DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Six Queens schools, out of 18,000 nationwide, have made the grade in a tally of America’s best public high schools.
Townsend Harris High School in Flushing achieved top honors – a gold medal for academic excellence – in a recent survey by U.S. News and World Report.
The magazine also gave a silver and four bronze medals to five other Queens schools.
Principal Anthony Barbetta of Thomas A. Edison Vocational and Technical High School in Jamaica, a bronze medal recipient, said keeping students focused on a mission was the key to his school’s success.
“Kids come in here with a purpose. They come here to major in a specific subject area,” he said, noting that Thomas Edison offers classes in such fields as pre-med, computer science, graphic arts and automotive technology.
“It’s a great mix of teachers,” added Barbetta, who pointed out that with only 800 classroom spots available and nearly 10,000 applicants a year, competition is stiff.
Like all the schools that made the list, Thomas Edison is a specialized school. It screens student applications using a citywide admissions test. Expressed interest and a strong academic background are also musts.
At the Queens High School for the Sciences at York College, Principal Jie Zhang cheered her school’s bronze medal.
Being a small school helps, she said, noting that enrollment is capped at 370. But so does a bright student body.
“There is something to say about our kids’ readiness when they come to us,” Zhang said.
Being located on a college campus helps enforce a sense of academic rigor, she added, noting most of the students live nearby.
“We are a little school, but we’re serving the community,” she said.
At the Queens Gateway to Health Sciences School in Jamaica, Principal Cynthia Edwards said hands-on learning gives the school an edge.
“We believe that by exposing them early, they can make really good educational choices,” Edwards said. “We also offer a very enriching education in math and science.”
The bronze win “presented some new challenges to aspire to – the silver,” she said.
Two schools in Long Island City garnered the other two medals in Queens: The Academy of American Studies High School earned a silver, and the Aviation Career and Technical High School got a bronze.