About Us

History of The Manhattan International High School

The Manhattan International High School (MIHS) was founded in 1993 as an alternative high school dedicated to serving recently arrived limited English proficient students. Our program, founded by Mr. William Ling, came under the aegis of the Coalition of Essential Schools (CES) and was supported by our sister school, The International High School at LaGuardia Community College. Similar in size and philosophy to all other Coalition schools and the International High School, MIHS is a small learning community of approximately three hundred and twenty students. It is a place where collaboration among faculty and students, respect for all cultures and ethnicities, academic honesty, and performance-based assessment of student work over time are expected and valued. The school was originally “hothoused” at P.S. 126 in Community School District 2 and then moved to the Julia Richman Education Complex in April 1994.

The story of our school is exemplified by the story of our Principal, who arrived in this country at the age of 13 speaking no English. She attended the first of the schools in what became the Internationals Network for Public schools, and eventually went on to be the Principal of our school. It is this sort of mobility that we seek for our students; we take seriously that most of their parents have made tremendous sacrifices, in part to attain the education that we are offering. Our students find a home with us where they learn English through content classes while also assimilating to a new culture, all in an environment where expectations are high, but supports are provided and no one needs to feel self-conscious about their emerging language skills. As new immigrants, our students must learn both content and English simultaneously, while also acclimating to a new culture. External internships and technology access (which they often do not have at home) are essential tools for their success in college and the world of work.

Our model goes against the accepted narrative about English Language Learners. Generally, it is thought that such students must focus on learning English before they can do meaningful academic work. We teach students content from day one and use an innovative structure of mixed ability grouping so that students maximize their learning and practice collaboration. Within five years, 80% of students have accomplished what eludes most native-born Americans: They have learned another language. At the same time, they have graduated by the same standards as their peers throughout New York State.

School Structure

The success of the thematically based interdisciplinary programs prompted the faculty of MIHS to reorganize in 1995 into cluster teams of teachers who develop thematically based interdisciplinary courses of study. Each teaching team consists of a faculty member from one of the four major discipline areas (social studies, English, mathematics, and science). Teams share the same group of approximately 60-75 students who are divided into three different classes called strands. Students remain with the same strand the entire day of instruction, except for their mathematics and elective classes.

Teaching / Cluster teams:

9th Grade - Foundations

10th and 11th Grade - Choices, Actions and Reflections (CAR)

10th and 11th Grade - Innovations and Transformations (IT)

12th Grade - Achievers (ACH)

The school’s organizational structure allows these small cluster teams of teachers to function with a high level of autonomy but also demands accountability from each as well. These teams create curriculum, plan student and teacher schedules, and determine assessment procedures. In order to maintain the cohesiveness of the clusters, teaching teams meet every Wednesday afternoon to do case management, create interdisciplinary projects, discuss shared issues and concerns, and plan for the year-end cluster portfolio presentations.

A Tradition of Success

Research has shown that English Language Learners acquire English best when the language is taught in context. As a result, the faculty at MIHS uses a content-based English as a Second Language approach in each and every classroom. Students thus learn new vocabulary and grammar connected to the content within each of their core academic classes (English literature, social studies, mathematics and science). Acquisition of English, content, and academic and social skills is further augmented through the use of cooperative learning strategies. Students are placed in small, heterogeneous groups within the classroom where they are challenged to collectively solve problems, analyze texts, utilize critical thinking skills, and complete academic projects.

MIHS has been an active participant in the school reform movement. Along with other performance-based assessment schools, MIHS has a waiver from the State Education commissioner that exempts students from taking high stakes Regents examinations in order to graduate. Our students are permitted to graduate by presenting and defending a graduation portfolio that mets the new state standards. This portfolio represents the body of work that a student was able to accomplish in their tenure at MIHS. The portfolio is also a recognition that students, all foreign-born in our case, can graduate by an alternate means with the skills necessary to succeed in college or the world of work. .

Our data attests to the success of MIHS in terms of its structure, philosophy, and pedagogy. Over the course of its history, MIHS has always maintained an extremely high attendance rate surpassing 90 %. It continues to do so today. The college acceptance rate also hovers around the 90% range while the dropout rate remains below 5 %. Recent reports published and released by the DAA show 24 % of our students moving towards English proficiency as compared with 15.7% in similar schools and 16.8 % in other city schools. In 2002, 90.6 % of MIHS students showed mandated gains in English language acquisition, as compared to 71.2 % at similar schools and 68.2 % at other city schools.