The Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science, & Engineering is a public, sixth through twelfth grade school that opened in the fall of 2007. A partnership between the New York City Department of Education, the community, and Columbia University, CSS-MSE serves academically talented students who have an interest in a rigorous and demanding program focusing on math, science, and engineering. The school reached its full enrollment of close to 700 students during the 2013-2014 school year and graduated its first class of seniors in June, 2014.

The school is located on the 5th, 4th, & 3rd  floors of the Ralph Bunche Educational Complex on 123rd St between Amsterdam and Morningside Avenues.


School Mission Statement

Columbia Secondary is a selective, public, college preparatory school with a focus on science, math, and engineering. Its program of study provides a challenging academic experience that prepares its students for selective colleges; for careers in science, math, and engineering; and for a life of civic engagement and ethical responsibility. We train students to be socially and politically conscious, to be aware of their responsibility to their communities and the world, and to be dedicated to a life of creation and discovery in service of humanity.


Educational Vision

Columbia Secondary immerses its students in science and math as a way of seeing and making sense of the world. Learning experiences focus on the active exploration of major concepts, ideas, and theories that respond to life’s big questions. Students will be exposed to the history of these ideas; the struggles and controversies necessary for their development; the kinds of questions and problems that are key to the discovery process; and the special role of effort and creativity. Students model and engage in their own explorations so that they may experience the excitement, beauty, and difficulty of discovery. Students become cognizant of the limits of knowledge and be sensitive to the dangers of an over-reliance on science and technology. Students learn to explore new questions, to ponder the significance of new scientific discoveries, and to use scientific knowledge and critical thinking in their own life decision-making.


Instructional Philosophy

Effective instruction depends largely on setting clear and high expectations, promoting an inclusive and participatory classroom culture, and motivating students to become independent learners. Instruction at Columbia Secondary is Socratic in spirit, with discussions, debates, guided inquiry, and carefully led lectures that focus on key questions, concepts, and theories. Students have extensive opportunities to engage in research, solve real-world problems, and learn experientially through internships and community service.


The school’s curriculum is distinguished by:

  • science, math, and engineering focus with research and service learning opportunities in NYC and at Columbia University
  • a writing intensive and public communications focus. Students learn public speaking, become adept at using multimedia to communicate and become effective writers
  • a one in the nation, Philosophy for Thinking program that promotes the development of intellectual skills, argument, inquiry, critical thinking, moral reasoning, and personal and ethical decision-making skills
  • A 7 year Engineering program emphasizing teamwork, conceptual development and problem solving skills
  • access to parts of Columbia University’s vast academic and cultural offerings. (Advanced students, for example, may take courses at Columbia University or other colleges and universities in the area); and
  • after school science, math, and technology electives