P.S. 372 The Children's School
An Insideschools pick
An Insideschools pick for Special Education
BROOKLYN NY 11215 Map
P.S. 372 The Children's School
The Children’s School is one of the most popular schools in Brooklyn and one of the first to mix special needs with general education students in one classroom with two teachers, one of whom is trained in special education. The school has a good teacher-child ratio, a history of parent involvement, and a willingness to adapt lessons to challenge strong students while giving struggling students extra help.
Principal Arthur Mattia“Mr. Artie,” as kids call him–says he puts a premium on listening. “My ideas are shaped around what people are telling me,” he said. “Parents, staff and teachers are driving the school. They’re in the trenches every day.” He has been at the school since it was founded in 1992 and has been principal since 2004.
Some children have mild learning problems while others have severe emotional or academic difficulties. Some have high intelligence and unconventional behavior. Sixty percent are non-disabled. Staff say it’s important to stay open to new approaches and ideas. At the time of our visit teachers were engaged in parallel teaching. Two 5th-grade math groups of like ability, each with about ten students, sat on either end of one classroom. The teacher of one group reviewed expanded notation while the other had kids writing mixed numbers as improper fractions. Another recent effort is to offer more training to paraprofessionals (as teachers aides are called) and to catch reading issues in the early grades by giving those in need extra help five times a week.
The school is housed in two buildings separated by a play yard. Some early childhood rooms have high windows and kids can’t see out. Every corner of the building is put to use: two children worked with a teacher on a quiet stairwell landing; one child, who arrived at the school as a selective mute, was spelling words out loud to a group of peers in the hallway. A few yards away a teacher placed zig-zag lines of masking tape on the floor to offer a fast young learner a challenging measurement activity.
We heard teachers use confident, warm and supportive voices and saw engaged kids. A 2nd-grade teacher read aloud to her engrossed students then had them stop and jot down what they were thinking; kindergartners piped up from their positions on the rug to point out features of a non-fiction book; a dance teacher named, for her pre-K class, the geometric shapes they created as they moved to music with large stretchy bands.
A supportive, bully-free community is promoted. Older kids serve as “peacekeepers” at recess with younger children. Second grade teacher Steve Quester said his goal is to build a greater sense of “belonging, significance and fun” – tenets he is learning about in the Responsive Classroom approach to decreasing behavior problems.
An outpost of PS 372 in Fort Greene serves children with Autism Spectrum Disorder in six classrooms, each with six students and two adults. In 2009, when four of these children moved to the less restrictive site, teachers gathered for a session called “Conversations around Autism” to help ease the transition. The literacy coach, art teacher, testing coach, and District 75 assistant principal spend time at both sites, which lends continuity.
Many after school offerings include Spanish, gymnastics and Haitian Dance. Fourth and 5th-graders participate in “studios” like hip-hop and comic books on Friday afternoons.
Parents from PS 372 have been instrumental in bringing special education services to several middle and high schools in the neighborhood, according to Mattia. Students attend strong District 15 middle schools (MS 443 The New Voices School for Academic & Creative Arts, MS 51 William Alexander School) as well as noteworthy out of district schools (Mark Twain Middle School and NEST+M).
Admissions: The school is open to children from across District 15. The admissions lottery for general education students is split geographically between the northeastern half of the district (Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, Greenwood Heights and Cobble Hill) and the southwestern half (Red Hood and Sunset Park) with half of the available spaces for pre-K and kindergarten allocated to each half of the district. Open houses are January through March. Applications are accepted in January. There are far more applicants than spaces available. (Lydie Raschka, March 2011)