P.S. 9 Sarah Anderson
MANHATTAN NY 10024 Map
P.S. 9 Sarah Anderson
PS 9 is an increasingly popular neighborhood school, with demanding academics, creative arts, an active parents association and stable leadership.
It’s an unusually quiet and orderly school, with little of the restlessness and chatter that often overrides classroom decorum. Teachers have clear expectations and children seem happy to follow the classroom routines.
The teaching is a bit more traditional than at some other Upper West Side schools, with more emphasis on skills like handwriting and spelling. Although there are blocks and dress-up corners in the kindergarten classes, the focus is on academics and early reading skills rather than play. For example, we saw kindergartners learning vowel sounds in a lesson on phonics. In their written work, they spelled the word “pumpkin” correctly.
At the same time, children go outside for recess every day, and there is room to explore music, art and dance. Children’s art work covers the walls; 5th-graders learn square dancing and younger children play the xylophone. Essays posted on the walls show both creativity and care—such as 3rd-graders’ letters imagining they were immigrants to Ellis Island.
Social studies projects bring history to life. Children made their own documentaries about the age of exploration, learning about Christopher Columbus or Giovanni da Verrazano while mastering the art of video editing on shiny new Macintosh computers. As part of their study of American history, 4th-graders go to Philadelphia and 5th-graders go to Gettysburg.
The school-age population in the neighborhood has mushroomed; enrollment has grown by nearly 50 percent since 2006. To make room for children who live in the school zone, the district-wide gifted and talented program is being phased out; all the remaining classes mix children of different abilities. The result is that the school feels more unified than it once did, and less divided by race and class. Class size ranges from 25 in kindergarten to 30 in 5th grade, and a few classes feel a bit cramped.
Diane Brady, principal since 1997, has established clear protocols for both children and adults. Even recess is orderly: children line up on the playground to listen to instructions from school aides before they are permitted to play. Parents are welcome to volunteer, but must undergo training by the Learning Leaders organization that includes a background check. Parents and teachers overwhelmingly support Brady’s vision, as evidenced by very high marks on the Learning Environment Survey.
The parents association raises a significant amount of money for assistant teachers in all classrooms, chess, Spanish, class trips, art and music programs.
Special education: Brady works to ensure that academic problems are identified and corrected early. For example, all teachers in grades K-2 have been trained in Orton-Gillingham, a multisensory approach to reading that has been successful with children with dyslexia. Brady, who began her career as a special education teacher, hopes this extra training means teachers will nip problems in the bud—and perhaps make fewer referrals to special education. The school serves a range of children with special needs, including those with significant disabilities who would normally be assigned to segregated or “self-contained classes.” Instead, Brady assigns these children team-teaching classes in which a special education teacher and a general education teacher work together in the same classroom. The school offers speech, occupational and physical therapy. It is not wheelchair accessible.
Admissions: Zoned neighborhood school. Call the school for tour dates. There are occasionally seats available in the upper grades under the provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind law, which allows children in failing schools to transfer. (Clara Hemphill, February 2013)