Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science, and Engineering

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The Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science, and Engineering (CSS) is a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) selective public school in the New York City public school system. The school was launched as a cooperative initiative between Columbia and the City's Department of Education, with Columbia providing roughly 4% of current (2009) operational budget and offering full access to the University's facilities to school faculty and eventually to students in the 11th and 12th grades. The school opened in 2007 with a 6th grade class of 96 students and plans to add a new class of 6th graders every year, with the school eventually growing into a grades 6-12 school.

The school is currently housed in P.S. 125, but will move into a building on the Manhattanville campus on land donated by the University.[1]


CSS was announced in October 2005, with NYC Mayor Bloomberg present.[2][3] It will be a magnet school of about 650 students. Some people think it's a 'bribe'. Others think it's no coincidence that the acronym for the project's original name ("Columbia Science, Math, and Engineering Secondary School") was "CSMESS". Not surprisingly, the name was changed.


Since its inception, the school has attracted an exceptionally diverse and talented student population from northern Manhattan. Typically over 1000 students apply for the 96 spots in the incoming 6th grade class, from which the school selects based on two rounds that evaluate citywide test scores and performance on a critical thinking essay exam. Incoming students typically score high 3s and 4s, and hail from all socioeconomic and ethnic/racial groups. The current student population is 55% Hispanic, 20% Black, 20% White, and 5% Asian, and the school's Title I (free lunch eligible) population is around 45%.


On city accountability measures, the school has scored at the top of the public sector, earning a 96.4 on its 2009 school report card. This score reflects Mayor Bloomberg's new value added approach to assessing schools, which means that the school demonstrated student performance GAINS on state ELA and Math exams greater than almost every other school in the city. In addition to these measures, the school has earned high marks from parents and students who appreciate the school's impressive course offerings (electives, arts, fitness), talented teaching staff, and June field mini-semester program.


The school's FY2009 budget is roughly $1.6 million serving 288 students, which amounts to $5700 per student, which is near the lowest funding levels in the nation. Columbia University's current annual contribution to the school is $75K, or roughly $260 per student. Once Columbia Secondary juniors and seniors are attending the campus for undergraduate courses, these numbers may shift dramatically.

Location Controversy

When the department of education tried to temporarily house the program at local P.S. 36, parents threw a hissy-fit and accused the DOE officials of answering to their puppet masters at Columbia. [4]

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