P.S. 165 Edith K. Bergtraum
QUEENS NY 11367 Map
P.S. 165 Edith K. Bergtraum
Kids learn to love to dance at PS 165, where older kids mentor younger ones and choreograph dances based on the little ones' interests. There is a band and chorus, and a third grade class was chosen to play the recorder at Carnegie Hall. The arts are one of the ways the administration builds community among the disparate groups served by PS 165, including new immigrants, children in a district-wide gifted program called Alpha, and children receiving special education services.
All classes participate in theatrical productions. A PS 165 graduate, now a professional dancer, worked with a group of boys, including kids from the special education classes, to choreograph a hip hop dance. A group of rehearsing tap dancers were so organized and motivated that they didn't even need to wait for instruction from the long time dance teacher who was talking to a visitor. We saw kids operating the auditorium lights and sound system while their classmates danced on stage.
We noted an easy collaboration between the different groups in the school: 5th graders acted as monitors to pre-schoolers, and buddies from a 6th grade class sat in a class of 1st graders to help them make paper tissue flowers. All classes in the school read and discuss the same book each month.
Kids come from such far flung countries as Afghanistan, Israel and Albania, and the school makes an effort to get their parents involved. In a "bilingual buddy" program parents are paired with someone who speaks the same language to help translate at parent teacher conferences, meetings and other events. The parent coordinator leads a weekly English class for parents.
There are Collaborative Team Teaching classes on every grade, beginning with pre-kindergarten. These classes, each of which has two teachers, bring together both general and special education students.
Classroom projects, especially in the Alpha classes, were very impressive. Student-made handmade dolls, depicting each student's heritage, were on display accompanied by well-written stories. Students in a 4th grade gifted class were writing their own Constitution after studying the U.S. Constitution.
Much of the classroom activity on the day of our early May visit revolved around making gifts and cards for Mother's Day. These ranged in creativity from cutting and pasting a poem into cards made up construction paper to more ambitious projects in some of the Alpha classrooms, such as mobiles made from coat hangers, buttons, and bottle caps or handmade pillows stitched by boys and girls alike. Several moms and a few dads had taken the day off work to participate in a sale of chocolate roses and to stuff "goodie bags" for an upcoming "Play Day."
We were impressed by early grade math lessons, and so, apparently, are teachers from other schools who were on hand to watch a pre-K lesson, which included children with special needs. Children were given a slip of paper with a number such as "7" on it then asked to draw patterns such as 7 lines, and then to make a shape using 7 small geometric pieces. One boy fashioned a "house" out of 4 small blocks then turned it into a person. In kindergarten, the children knew how to count by fives, proudly chanting in a circle up to 100; they were even able to do simple multiplication. This is an academic kindergarten; there are still piles of dolls and kitchen areas, but they are seldom used.
Despite the emphasis on collaboration at the school, the suspension rate is higher than usual for an elementary school, mostly for "insubordination or fighting," according to Principal Sonya Lupion. "I nip it in the bud. I have a lot of parent meetings. I don't tolerate any disrespect," she said. Lupion, principal of PS 165 for nine years, was set to retire in September 2007, but told us she hopes she has "empowered" her staff to sustain the school.
A recent upgrade of the lighting and sound system in the auditorium has been a boon for the school's many productions. The dimly hallways, however, could use a bit of illumination.
Along with other schools in the city and district, PS 165 discontinued its 6th grade after the 2006-07 school year. Class size is between 17-20 in most classes, but as high as 32 in the gifted classes.
Special education: The school has a sizeable special education population with a CTT class in every grade and several "self contained" classes for kids with special needs only. We were impressed by the way that all children were included in all school activities. The school is "barrier free" and there are large rooms for children needing occupational therapy. Beginning in September 2007, the school will offer a pilot program called NEST, for children on the autism spectrum, which concentrates on readiness for kindergarten.
Admission: The Alpha gifted program which begins in 1st grade is open to students from all over District 25.
After school: There is no regular after school program. Students may stay after school to get homework help from staff members. Some children attend clubs on Saturday from 9-12 noon. Early morning test prep is offered from September to March.
This school is included in New York City's Best Public Elementary Schools. (Pamela Wheaton, May 2007)