High School Program

We know teens are energetic, curious, and ready to engage meaningfully with their world. We embrace these gifts as we guide, challenge, and support our high school students in the creation of a personalized education. Students fulfill (and exceed) New York State High School requirements with a mix of structured, staff-led classes, projects, and activities; independent studies; in-school leadership and responsibilities; and citywide internships, volunteering, and student programs.  

Our high school kindles a love of learning, and enhances the capacity for disciplined study--necessary, and much sought, attributes for success in college and along any other path students choose to follow. Recent college acceptances include Middlebury, Pomona, Bard, Hampshire, Reed, Mount Holyoke, Sarah Lawrence, Goucher, Macaulay Honors College, Clark, Bennington, SUNY Albany/Potsdam/Purchase, Brooklyn College, Franklin & Marshall, City College, and Hunter College.

At BFS I learned to risk using my voice. My peers and teachers affirmed me in this. I focused on building meaningful relationships and found a sense of belonging within this community. I feel very grateful to be a part of it.
— Student, Class of 2017


Graduation Requirements and Materials

Our Guiding Principles at Work in the High School


Teaching and Learning

Mixed-age advisories and all-school activities.

We honor the invaluable lessons young people teach each other. Every day includes time for students of all ages (from four to 18) to spend time together. In the high school, every activity includes students ranging in age from 13 to 18.

Cooperatively designed curriculum.

Students partner with teachers to plan curriculum that speaks to their passions, questions, and skills.

Hands-on and real life learning.

Students are supported in their pursuit of independent studies, internships, and trips, and encouraged to share their own areas of expertise in student-led workshops, presentations, and classes.

Assessment through descriptive evaluations from teachers, and through narrative student self-evaluations.

We believe that academic and personal growth cannot be accurately or meaningfully assessed through rote grading and testing. If our students choose to pursue standardized testing for outside admissions, we support their studying and preparations, as we do any other academic pursuit.

Small advisories and classes.

We value inter- and intrapersonal growth as essential to the education of any young person, and our students often refer to our high school program as “a family.”

The Library, The Art Room, The Music Room.

These shared school spaces are always open for student use.

A holistic and comprehensive graduation process.

Students demonstrate that they are ready for graduation by fulfilling all their community responsibilities, compiling a narrative transcript that fulfills New York State equivalencies in all academic areas, forming a graduation sub-committee, and writing an essay on why they are ready to leave BFS and go on to the next stage in their lives. They must successfully defend this essay in a community-wide meeting.  

NYS State High School Diploma.

BFS is a nonprofit independent school with an absolute charter from the New York State Board of Regents and is a registered NYS secondary school.

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Democratic decision-making.

Students share in the running of the school through weekly all-school and high school democratic meetings. For more detail see our page on “Democratic Meeting.”

Affinity groups.

Staff-led racial affinity groups meet throughout the year to discuss current events and in-school issues. A group for female-identifying students has been meeting weekly, with staff support, since 2016. For more detail see our page on “Affinity Groups.”

Conflict resolution.

Staff and students use mediation, meetings, and conversation to solve problems and hold each other accountable.

Social justice seminar.

High school students attend a weekly class on a variety of social justice topics. For more detail see our page on “Social Justice Seminar.”


Our studies include a diverse and relevant array of topics and voices.

Multifaceted teaching.

We support the varied ways in which we all learn, and provide multiple access points to every lesson. We partner with the NYC DOE to provide IEP mandated services, including a SETSS (Special Education Teacher Support Service) provider who works in classes and in separate sessions to support students with learning disabilities.

Shared class resources.

Classroom materials are provided to all students from a common pool.

Every trip for every student.

Trips are paid for from a shared fund, which is replenished by school-wide fundraising. Trips are only an option if the cost can be covered for every single student.




We prioritize daily time in our neighborhood outdoor spaces, as well as weekly student- and teacher-led trips.

Minimal homework.

Our take-home work is assigned with care to support personal and academic growth. We believe students need time outside school to spend on extracurriculars, personal passions, employment, and time with their families.

Games, exploration, and experimentation.

We remember that teenagers (and adults!) are never too old to play, be it an all-school Capture the Flag game, poker club, video game design, collaborative and experimental art making, basketball at the court next door, skateboarding with Stoked, Pi day sing-alongs, and all our yet-to-be-invented games.

Capture the Flag.

A long-running BFS tradition, we join in multiage games of Capture the Flag in the park.

Flexible in-school scheduling.

We honor that all of us need time and space to grab a book in the library, play a card game with a friend, or simply have an unplanned conversation. Our students have the opportunity to design a school day that includes essential, unstructured time.



Classroom agreements.

Students create shared agreements and guidelines for behavior and participation.

Wide world connections.

Last year alone, we partnered with CHIPS, a local soup kitchen and residence for new mothers, took part in our third annual Indigenous People’s Day and MLK Day day-on events, hosted public gentrification awareness workshops, held student-organized marches in support of Black Lives, and debated designating ourselves a sanctuary school. Our American Prisons class met with lecturers from organizations from across the city, and our students filmed a documentary on gentrification funded by a Brooklyn Youth Voice Awards grant.

Care for our building.

Every day, high school students are responsible for cleaning their floor, and every week they meet in mixed-age “pods” to care for shared spaces like our music room, art room, and library.


Our families are an essential part of our school, and are invited to participate in the high school as visiting teachers, chaperones, and guests for celebrations such as our advisory potlucks and spring barbecue. We also support the work of family through parenting workshops and affinity groups.

All-school celebrations and events.

Throughout our school year, we join the rest of the school, and our school families, in holiday celebrations, work fairs, and potlucks.

After BFS

We are proud to maintain a connection with the amazing graduates from our high school program who have gone on to college and careers throughout NYC and beyond.  In addition to being accepted into the programs listed below, our graduates have found paths as artists, activists, community organizers, teaching assistants, and talented child care workers.

College acceptances:

Bard College
Bennington College
Berklee College of Music
Binghamton University
Brooklyn College
California College of Art
Cazenovia College
Champlain College
Clark University
College of Staten Island
Dillard University
Drexel University
Emerson College
Evergreen State University
Fashion Institute of Technology
Franklin & Marshall College
Global College at Long Island University
Goucher College
Hampshire College
Hart College of Music
Hiram College
Hudson Valley Community College
Hunter College
Ithaca College
Kingsborough Community College
Marlboro College
Medger Evers College
Middlebury College
Mount Holyoke College
New York Institute of Technology
New York University
Pennsylvania State University
Pomona College
Pratt Institute
Reed College
Rochester Institute of Technology
Sage College of Albany
Sarah Lawrence College
School of Visual Arts
Simon’s Rock College of Bard
SUNY Albany
SUNY Geneseo
SUNY New Paltz
SUNY Potsdam
SUNY Purchase
The New School
UMass Amherst
Union College
Ursinus College
William E. Macaulay Honors College