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Why is Harlem Academy a private school?
  • Only as a private school can Harlem Academy achieve its mission to support gifted children from underserved communities. As a private school, Harlem Academy:
    • Can use competitive admissions to identify children with high potential.
    • Has the flexibility to hire teachers and tailor its program to nurture their talents and support them in meeting their goals.
  • It would not be possible to realize this mission as a charter school, which would require admitting students using a random lottery. With the vast majority of local students failing to meet basic proficiency standards, charter schools must focus their resources on low-performing students.
What gap does Harlem Academy fill?
  • Public and charter schools focus on closing the achievement gap for our nation’s lowest performing students. They admit students without selectivity and support them in achieving a minimum level of proficiency.
  • Independent schools and gifted and talented programs admit students with top scores and provide them with academically advanced programs. Students from disadvantaged neighborhoods are overwhelmingly unprepared to compete for admission to these schools.
  • Harlem Academy identifies students with unrealized potential. Most of our students enter with scores in the 75th-85th percentile – too high to receive attention at public schools, and too low to gain admission to the city’s competitive programs. Our goal is to support these overlooked students in realizing their full potential, providing a critical pathway to opportunity and success.
What are Harlem Academy's quick facts?

Type of School  
Co-educational, independent, day

One through eight 

Number of Students 

Scholarship Support
$25,500 is the average scholarship awarded toward the $28,500 tuition.
98% of students need significant financial aid to attend.

Extended Day Program
7:30 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

Sources of Funding
85% philanthropic donations
13% tuition
2% government

Student Performance

Our most recent graduates gained an average of 17 percentile points on standardized tests during their tenure. 
72% of our students move into the top ten percent of the nation in reading comprehension, math, or both.

Secondary School Placement
Our graduates move into top college-prep programs, with most earning independent day and boarding school scholarships averaging $44,200 per year.


Who does Harlem Academy serve?

•    More than 90% of students come from Harlem, the Bronx, and Washington Heights.
•    98% of students need significant financial aid to attend.

How does Harlem Academy structure tuition?
  • Serving low-income students is core to our mission, and we promise that no student will ever be turned away for a family’s inability to pay.
  • Tuition is set on a sliding scale based on income and each family contributes as they are able. Most students require significant financial aid, with the average student receiving a $25,500 scholarship toward the school’s tuition of $28,500.
Why do Harlem Academy students need this investment?
  • In the communities Harlem Academy serves, the best and the brightest students in local schools fall behind their peers in higher-income communities.
    • Low-income students fall out of the higher-achieving group during elementary and high school at much higher rates than their more affluent peers.
    • Only 14% of the freshmen at our nation’s top 160 colleges come from the entire bottom half of the income distribution.2
    • Half of the few low-income students who make it to college do not complete their bachelor’s degree.3 
  • Harlem Academy identifies bright students and gives them the chance to succeed at the highest levels.

1Summary of 2015 Gifted and Talented Testers Scoring in the 99th Percentile Compared to 2014, New York City Department of Education (2015). 
2 Achievement Trap: How America is Failing Millions of High-Achieving Students from Lower-Income Families, Jack Kent Cooke Foundation (2009).
True Merit: Ensuring Our Brightest Students Have Access to Our Best Colleges, Jack Kent Cooke Foundation (2016).

How does Harlem Academy choose students?
  • Our core goal is to identify potential without biasing for resource availability and past experience.
  • Key admissions factors:
    • Academic aptitude: We look for students who will thrive in an advanced academic environment.
    • Character: We identify students who can succeed in a moderately structured environment and who will treat their fellow students, teachers, and administrators with respect and care. We also measure attributes, such as grit and growth-mindset, which are highly correlated with success inside and outside the classroom.
    • Family partnership: We seek families who show a willingness to engage and support their students and the school.
  • Admissions stats:
    • We admit 1 in 5 applicants.
    • 85% of admitted students matriculate to Harlem Academy.


How does Harlem Academy keep the focus on low-income students as the school’s reputation grows and the community gentrifies?
  • Our admissions outreach focuses exclusively on low-income, underserved communities in Harlem, the Bronx, and Washington Heights.
  • We reach out to community organizations that serve low-income populations (e.g. day care and recreation centers), attend school fairs, and network with public and private elementary schools that might refer students to Harlem Academy.
  • We partner with organizations focused on access to independent schools (e.g. RIISE and Early Steps) and maintain a presence at block association and community board meetings.
  • We weight applications to ensure that at least 70% of each incoming class qualifies for public housing, and at least 50% is eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.
  • We set tuition based on a sliding scale so that every admitted student can afford to attend.
Why does Harlem Academy focus on grades 1 through 8?
  • We intentionally provide support during the critical early years, when high-potential students from underserved communities so often fall behind. By fifth grade, almost half of high-achieving, low-income students drop out of the top quartile.1  By high school, these deficits are nearly impossible to overcome.
  • Harlem Academy does not extend through high school because there are already a multitude of options available for high performing students. With the preparation we provide, our graduates are able to earn admission and critical scholarship support needed to attend top schools.
  • We look forward to increasing our impact during students’ early years with the addition of a kindergarten as part of our permanent campus expansion. In the meantime, limited space and complicated building code requirements preclude us from including a kindergarten classroom.

1 Achievement Trap: How America is Failing Millions of High-Achieving Students from Lower-Income Families, Jack Kent Cooke Foundation (2009).


What are the key results?
  • Academic excellence. 97% of Harlem Academy students score above the national median, and more than half move into the top 10% in the nation in reading, math, or both (ERB).
  • Family partnership. We have built a strong atmosphere for collaboration, with 100% of families attending conferences twice per year and participating in the life of the school.
  • Graduate placement. Our students move on to top secondary schools, with more than 60% earning independent school scholarships averaging $44,200 per year. One quarter attend a day, boarding, or public school ranked in the top 20 in the nation.
  • Graduate performance. Our graduates maintain strong academic performance, with their median GPA staying steady from eighth grade. In our annual survey, graduates consistently reported being “prepared” or “very prepared” in every core academic area.
What are some exemplary aspects of the program?
  • Skills, depth, and rigor. Our rigorous academic program focuses on developing core academic skills in reading, writing, and critical thinking. We prioritize depth over breadth, focus on synthesis across subjects, and encourage students to develop successful habits.
  • Joyful engagement. We spark students’ curiosity and creativity by presenting them with genuine challenges, cultivating strong teacher-student relationships, providing opportunities to engage deeply in the work, and offering exposure to professionals in many disciplines.
  • Character growth. Each teacher serves as an advisor, providing consistent support as students strive to embody our community pillars: integrity, initiative, compassion, and determination. Small groups of students meet with advisors daily for structured activities designed to help them develop the skills and habits they need to achieve their academic and personal goals.
  • Differentiated instruction. We offer weekly math and reading labs, providing targeted enrichment or remediation within small groups. We also use educational software that allows students to move at their own pace during independent reading and math sessions.
  • Family partnership. We value families as key partners, and set high expectations for supporting their child’s education and participating in the life of the school. We encourage communication, actively seek feedback, and provide a variety of forums for productive engagement with faculty and school leadership. Thanks to this strong partnership, we’ve achieved a 97% attendance rate.
  • Extended school day. Harlem Academy offers programming from 7:30 a.m. until 6 p.m. (36% longer than public schools), providing ample time for a challenging curriculum, individualized support, a robust advisory program, electives, and after-school mentoring and enrichment.


How does Harlem Academy support its graduates and ensure they continue to do well?
  • Harlem Academy’s graduate support coordinator maintains ongoing contact with 100% of graduates.
  • For all first-year graduates, we check in early in the year and then conduct an in-person interview during their second trimester, discussing their transition, academic performance, community engagement, social dynamics, challenges, and access to resources.
  • For all graduates, we conduct an annual electronic survey that includes collection of end-of-year report cards. The results of this survey are used to target needs for additional graduate support and to strengthen our instructional practices.
  • Graduates return to Harlem Academy for several annual alumni events and volunteer roles that draw participation from more than 85% of alumni each year.
How is the school accredited?
  • Harlem Academy is accredited by the New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS).
  • NYSAIS accreditation begins with a self-study that includes a comprehensive internal and external examination of all aspects of the school, including mission and culture, governance, educational program, finance and school operations, parents, and communications. A committee of educational leaders from other independent schools reviews the self-study and conducts a multi-day site visit to gain a deep understanding of each area. The process culminates with a report from the committee recognizing areas of excellence and offering recommendations to support the school in realizing its mission.
  • Harlem Academy received its first 10-year accreditation in 2011 and a strong five-year mid-term review in 2016.
Is Harlem Academy a good investment?
  • Harlem Academy has successfully broadened its donor base, increasing donations by an average of 21% each year. The school has completed every year in the
    black thanks to diligent fiscal planning and operations management.
  • Harlem Academy has received Charity Navigator’s highest four-star rating for four consecutive years recognizing effective and efficient use of donor dollars. This is an accomplishment achieved by only 8% of the 8,000 rated charities.
  • Harlem Academy was recognized with the gold prize
    at the New York Times Nonprofit Excellence Awards for effective and replicable management practices.
  • Our spending is on par with local public schools. The most recent report by the NYC Department of Education put their cost per student at $24,075 (2013/14). That same year, the cost per student at Harlem Academy was$23,977. Our expenses are slightly lower, but we offer a school day that is 36% longer.
  • Our cost per student will drop by 15% in the short term and 25% in the long term as we benefit from economies of scale in our new campus.
How does Harlem Academy approach strategic growth?
  • Harlem Academy uses a business-oriented strategic planning process to clarify and execute goals. These plans drive our growth, operations, and focus on mission.
  • The first strategic plan from 2001-2004 focused on the development of the school.
  • A second strategic plan 2005-2012 shaped the growth and refinement of the program by one grade level each year.
  • With our first class graduating in 2012, we wrote our current strategic plan, outlining the development of a permanent campus for a school that would continue to evolve into the most transformational program in New York City.
What is the role of the Board of Trustees?
  • Our board advances the school and its mission, drawing on its diverse expertise in the areas of law, finance, real estate, architecture, and education.
  • The board provides philanthropic support. Individual trustee giving comprises approximately two thirds of the school’s fundraising through their own generosity and the work they do to share their passion for the school with other philanthropists.
What are Harlem Academy’s biggest challenges now and in the future?
  • To ensure that the school remains true to mission and accessible for the students who most benefit from the impact of our program.
  • To advance our first capital campaign while sustaining fundraising for operations.
  • To manage growth as we expand enrollment to more than 200 students in the initial move to our new campus and ultimately to 400 students.
  • To build an endowment to sustain the school into the future.
How does Harlem Academy think about scale?
  • Locally, Harlem Academy is making an impact in an area where very few low-income children can access advanced academic programs. Harlem Academy has a significant impact on the pipeline of high-potential students from the disadvantaged communities we serve.
  • Nationally, Harlem Academy is a model for best practices through our culture of research-driven innovation, and our dedication to sharing lessons learned with a broad audience.
    • Last year, we collaborated with more than 150 educators and school leaders. Topics included curriculum (math, science, history, vocabulary,
      and character), teacher supervision and training, leadership, and school development.
    • We share resources for teachers and schools to use and adapt for their needs.


Why is achieved by building a permanent campus?
  • Transforming the school from a successful entrepreneurial program into a sustainable institution for generations to come.
  • Impacting 70% more students in the short term, and 300% more students over the next decade.
  • Providing dedicated facilities for science, athletics, arts, and meals.
  • Reducing the cost per student through economies of scale.
Why is this location special?
  • The new location at 655 St. Nicholas Avenue is located in the heart of the communities we serve (Harlem, the Bronx, Washington Heights).
  • It is easily accessible by public transportation.
  • It is in a safe, vibrant location near historic landmarks, parks, City College, and Columbia University.
How can I help or learn more?
  • Make a contribution. As Harlem Academy grows, we need your help to make this opportunity available to our students.
  • Explore this website. We include more detailed information, as well as updates about our program, results, and alumni.
  • Visit the school. We invite you to see our work in action. We will show you both the lower and middle school, where you can gain an understanding of classroom life and our program. Contact Stan Orser to request a visit.