fred wilson

Big money

New York

Software-themed school aims to replicate Stuy curriculum for all

Stuyvesant High School computer science teacher Mike Zamansky describes a mathematical problem solving tool to students. In Room 307 of Manhattan's Stuyvesant High School, 23 students spent a recent afternoon copying tables and number trees representing a mathematical problem-solving technique used in graphic design computer software. The students, who all won admission to Stuyvesant by posting top scores on an entrance exam, listened raptly as their teacher, Mike Zamansky, walked them through the complex algorithm behind "seam-carving," a process used in resizing images. Then Zamansky checked to make sure they understood. "No problem? Seems reasonable? or 'Huh'?" he asked, offering students the chance to signal by a show of thumbs whether they understood or needed more help. No one pointed a thumb down. Zamansky has been teaching computer science since 1995, through a program he designed for students to follow from sophomore to senior year. Stuyvesant's program is the only rigorous computer science sequence in the city's public schools and one of the few in the country. Now it is the inspiration behind a new city high school that aims to change that. Founded by an influential venture capitalist with deep ties to the technology industry and a young principal fresh from the city's training program, the Academy for Software Engineering will be the city's first school to focus on software engineering. The goal is to extend the approach of Zamansky's classes — which teach problem-solving, network communications, and programming language literacy — to any student in the city, even if they can't make the cut for Stuyvesant or don't even have a computer at home.