P.S. 184 Flushing Manor
QUEENS NY 11357 Map
P.S. 184 Flushing Manor
PS 184 reminded us a bit of Lake Wobegon, humorist Garrison Keillor's fictitious Minnesota town, where "the women are strong, the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average." Tucked away in the middle class neighborhood of Whitestone, PS 184's students are bright, high-scoring on exams, and active in student government. Parents are very involved, flocking to the school to run activities ranging from a PTA family fun night at a local bookstore to Halloween parties, movie nights, winter fairs, and elaborate graduation events.
This successful school, one of only 209 the chancellor has exempted from the citywide curriculum, employs many veteran teachers. It would, therefore, be easy for PS 184 to remain on automatic pilot and stick to old-fashioned, tried and true teaching techniques, such as depending heavily on workbooks and graded readers. But Principal Dora Pantelis, whose daughter attended the school years ago, is a strong proponent of the city's progressive "balanced literacy" approach to reading instructiona method that mixes whole language (sight reading) with phonics (sounding out words), and that encourages children to read fiction and nonfiction books suitable to their skills and interests, rather than graded readers.
The day of our visit, just before a school holiday for Election Day, it was out with the oldincluding dog-eared textbooks and outdated World Book encyclopediasto make room for bins of new books, throughout the school's classrooms. The library, too, was undergoing a renewal, as the school discarded many old dusty volumes, to set up a new media center.
In classrooms we saw a combination of old and new approaches. All rooms were set up with rugs and learning areas for subjects such as writing, math, and science. Desks were pushed together so that kids could converse as they studied with each other. We saw many classes where this worked well, and a few where kids listlessly paged through textbooks as the teacher lectured to them. In a social studies lesson we saw, kids were eagerly consulting a well-stocked classroom library of non-fiction books about different countries as a teacher demonstrated how to take notes on their reading.
We saw children making electrical circuits in a science class, and we enjoyed reading the writing samples produced by the youngest children, who had been asked to describe their explorations of a pumpkin's innards. "Smushy" and "smelly" were two of the adjectives they used. We saw photographs celebrating a character study earlier in the year when students came to school dressed as a character in their favorite book.
Each class puts on a play once a year in the auditorium, which is being given new lighting. "This auditorium is always mobbed with parents," the principal said. Teachers are strongly encouraged to take the kids on at least three field trips a year to different places of interest in New York City. The principal favors museums, although not all teachers favor trips.
Although many examples of pupils' written work and projects are posted on the school's bulletin boards, there is a scarcity of artwork and the school had no regular art teacher at the time of our visit.
Adjacent to PS 184 is a spacious public playground that the school uses as a schoolyard. The principal says it's a priority for kids to get out every day unless the weather is very bad.
After school: Activities are limited. The PTA runs only a few short-term programs a year, but a number of kids take private buses to nearby YMCA programs.
Admission: PS 184 is a neighborhood school. However, because of long-standing district zoning regulations designed to integrate the schools (in what's called a "skip zone" system, see zone map below) many children are bused in from Flushing. This results in long bus rides for some students, the principal said. Students who attend PS 242 and PS 130 early childhood schools, which go only through the 3rd grade, have the option of attending PS 184 for the remainder of elementary school.
Special education: There were three "collaborative team-teaching" (CTT) classes at the time of our visit, and more were to be added. In such classes, often known by their acronym, CTT, two faculty members, one a specialist in special education, teach mixed groups of general education students and students with special needs. The team-teaching approach appeared to be working well at PS 184. (Pamela Wheaton, November 2005)