P.S. 46 Alley Pond
QUEENS NY 11364 Map
P.S. 46 Alley Pond
High test scores, a well-regarded special education program and a deep commitment to inclusion are the hallmarks of PS 46. The school teems with activity; diverse, focused classes and a wide range of extracurricular offerings have also helped the Alley Pond School become one of the most sought-after elementary programs in its zone and other parts of eastern Queens.
Principal Marsha Goldberg doesn't like turning students away—particularly students with disabilities who may not be getting the services they need in their current school. "It's flattering" that so many parents want their special needs students at Alley Pond, Goldberg says, "but it's sad too."
The school's popularity has had a price. Class size has increased to as many as 32 students in the fifth grade, and the art room is gone. For the first time in 2012 the school had four kindergartens, indicating the crowding is unlikely to abate anytime soon.
Teachers find ways to challenge strong students and to give struggling students the help they need. Students are grouped within their classroom but the grouping is flexible, changing from day to day and subject to subject. Although students get high scores on standardized tests, Goldberg is not a big fan of test preparation. Instead, she says, PS 46 stresses test sophistication, familiarizing children with test taking and providing them with strategies that may help them on test day.
The classes we visited appeared fluid and well taught. Students were involved and interested in whole-class discussions, small groups or working alone at their desks. In a fifth grade class, students paired off to help each other with a math problem. "How do you estimate this?" one boy, seemingly confused, asked his partner. In a fourth grade team teaching class, students eagerly discussed figures of speech and prepared to act out some of them.
Goldberg and Assistant Principal Stamo Karalazarides rattle off a list of special offerings at PS 46: a tech lab, art, math enrichment, two choruses, percussion music for first graders, ballroom dancing for fifth graders, a basketball team, a cheerleading squad, student council and more. Although the school has no separate gifted program, high achieving students are pulled out of their regular classes once a week for project-based work.
"We want school to be fun and engaging and create memories that last a lifetime," Karalazarides says. Students form strong bonds with the school, coming back to discuss high school and even college choices with their old teachers. Parent coordinator Donna Kodjapashis told us that her son, now in college, comes back to PS 46 to volunteer.
Most students go on to MS 74 or other District 26 middle schools. Goldberg said many later attend specialized high schools.
After school: School faculty and staff offer an after school program until 5 p.m. (4:20 p.m. Fridays). Children may sign up for academic help or enrichment as well as sports and arts activities. Cost depends on the specific program selected.
Special education: A pioneer in inclusion, PS 46 has a team teaching class for every grade. It also offers two self-contained classes for students with moderately severe handicaps and two classes for children with intellectual disabilities. It recently launched a Horizon program for autistic students deemed to be too high functioning for District 75 programs but unable to qualify for the NEST program for higher functioning students on the spectrum. Another program, HUGS, provides support for students on the spectrum who can spend much of their day in a less restrictive setting. Goldberg, who previously served as the District 26 supervisor for special education, strongly believes children with disabilities should mix with other students as much as possible. The school has a substantial special ed staff including occupational and speech therapists and an adaptive physical education teacher.
Admissions: PS 46 is a zoned school, but principal Goldberg said that there has been some room for out-of-zone students each year as well as those looking for barrier-free education. Students who live outside the zone have to apply through the Queens Office of Student Enrollment. Horizon and HUGS students are evaluated and assigned through the Committee on Special Education. (Gail Robinson, December 2012)