P.S. 134 Hollis
QUEENS NY 11412 Map
P.S. 134 Hollis
PS 134, the Langston Hughes School, has taken some big strides in a short period of time. In a period of three years it went from being on the SINI (Schools In Need of Improvement) list to being recognized by the Department of Education as a mentor site for writing beginning in fall 2005, which means that principals and teachers from all over the city visit PS 134 to view its instructional practices. Located in a residential section of Hollis, Queens, the school is housed in an old, well-maintained red brick building surrounded by manicured landscaping and wrought iron fencing. C. Marmon-Halm, who was a student at PS 134 back when it served children in kindergarten through 8th grade, became principal in September 2003.
Inside PS 134, the hallways were nicely decorated with a lot of student artwork and writing. All the classrooms we visited had well-stocked libraries and ample space for rugs for children to sit on during independent reading and group lessons. Some classes have window air conditioners. Most children seemed engaged and well-behaved Exceptions such as the child we observed being admonished by the assistant principal for wandering the halls or the child caught by the principal littering in the bathroom were addressed quickly and without yelling. To bolster core reading skills, the school uses a structured phonics program in addition to Month-by-Month Phonics, the instructional method chosen for the city-mandated curriculum. Also, junior high school students from nearby IS 192 visit the school on a weekly basis to tutor third graders.
When we visited, the school was completing its first year of Everyday Math, the math program adopted citywide. While performance on the math standardized tests has improved steadily in the 3rd and 4th grades, the 5th graders have lagged behind with fewer than 30 percent performing at or above grade level for several years running. The school is addressing this by keeping class registers low in all testing grades and breaking up 5th graders for math instruction according to ability.
Columbia University's Teachers College, which developed the method of writing instruction now adopted in many city schools, has a strong presence in the school. A Teachers College staff developer works with the faculty to help bolster the teaching techniques, which encourages students to do extensive drafting and revision of writing in a variety of different genres. Bulletin boards throughout the school showed evidence of the school's emphasis on writing. A display of third grade essays were classic "show, don't tell" responses to literature. In describing the main character of a story as smart, the student author drew the conclusion "because she listens to people and the teacher calls on her a lot in class."
In the back of the school, a gray-colored annex houses PS 233, which is part of District 75, the citywide district for children with severe disabilities. The two schools are run independently of one another. Some parents have complained that outdoor recess is limited because the annex occupies a good portion of the yard leaving a small area without any climbing equipment for children to play in. While PS 233 does co-opt a good portion of the play area, Marmon-Halm insists that the remaining portion is used daily, weather permitting, for outdoor recess. On the day of our visit we observed children at play in the yard.
In addition to core curriculum, children receive instruction in physical education, computers, library, art, science and music.
PS 134 is "school based option," which means a committee of faculty members, including Mrs. Marmon-Halm, may interview and hire teachers, rather than hiring according to the seniority provision of the teachers contract, as most schools do.
Special education: The school has "self-contained" classes, only for children with special needs. A kindergarten team-taught "inclusion" class where two teachers work in the same classroom with both general education students and those needing special services, was scheduled to open in September 2005.
After school: Academic support for "at risk" students a few days a week. (Laura Zingmond, June, 2005).