P.S. 75 Emily Dickinson

Phone: (212) 866-5400
Admissions: Neighborhood school
Noteworthy Special Education
Principal: Robert O'Brien
Neighborhood: Upper West Side
District: 3
Grade range: 0K thru 05
Parent coordinator: ANA GOMEZ

What's special:

Strong dual-language and arts programs; diverse; healthy lunch.

The downside:

Small, noisy cafeteria; minimal technology.

The InsideStats



Our review

PS 75 is a diverse school with a cooperative spirit and a strong dual-language program that mixes general and special needs children in some grades. The arts program is tied to academics and is a model for other schools in the city. The school draws a mix of families from co-ops along West End Avenue to nearby housing projects. "Other schools have to teach diversity," said a parent. "The kids here live it."

Students were lively and engaged on our visit. Third graders paired up with kindergarteners to read fun books. In the yoga studio a group sang freedom songs. The youngest children held hands walking down the hall. "We have the nicest kids," said Principal Robert O'Brien.

The school has a well-regarded dual-language program with experienced teachers. My son is "learning how to speak and read in two languages" said a grateful Colombian father who commutes from the Bronx. Unlike some dual language programs, the classes are fairly evenly split between English and Spanish-dominant speakers.

Art is taken seriously at PS 75, as "another entryway into knowing the world," according to Karen Abramovitz who has transformed the program. Students paint self-portraits by checking their expressions in a mirror and mixing paint to get the skin color just right. They create figures and cityscapes, each skill building on the next.

Teachers have been feeling more included in decision-making, according to the Learning Environment Survey. They are bringing in more non-fiction lessons and planning around "big ideas" like "change," which they believe adds rigor and depth to the learning. Fifth graders read Moby Dick, and Alice in Wonderland – not an easy book, with its playful language – and write alternative endings.

O'Brien feels the integrated art and music programs have long-term benefits that extensive test prep does not and that there is value in not dividing kids into gifted and non-gifted classes, but he also hopes his staff's focus on Common Core State Standards (more non-fiction, more research-based writing) will boost achievement.

Children are offered extra help on Saturdays and after school twice a week. Volunteers from the Jewish Community Center provide one-on-one reading help. Parents of faster learners said they felt their kids were challenged, especially in dual language and, depending on the teacher, in non-dual-language too. Most 5th graders end up in middle schools like Computer, Delta, Mott Hall II and West Side Collaborative (housed on the top floor of PS 75), according to the guidance counselor.

Parents may escort kindergarten and 1st graders to and from the classroom door. Kindergartners eat lunch in the classrooms. On most days recess is outside but on very cold days children watch movies in the auditorium or play games in the gym.

A parent dietician has worked with cafeteria staff to bring in more fruits, veggies and whole grains. Classes double up so they can have gym twice a week. Ballroom dance and Young People's Chorus are other special offerings.

The cafeteria is noisy, even with one class at a time, but behavior was under control. Soon the pitch-black hallway floor tile will be replaced with something lighter. No Smart Boards yet, but 75 laptops are on order.

Special education: There are two integrated co-teaching classes on every grade level with two teachers, one of whom is certified in special education. Some are dual language, which is "very rare," according to O'Brien. This school also hosts an ASD Nest Program for children with autism spectrum disorders (ASDs). Students with ASD learn in a classroom alongside typically developing children, taught by two teachers who have been trained in the program’s specialized curriculum and teaching strategies.

After school: The school has a flexible and well-run after-school program. Former students fulfill community service hours by teaching guitar, playing sports or helping with homework.

Admissions: Neighborhood school that admits students from other districts and boroughs to the dual language program. Tours run from October to January. (Lydie Raschka, January 2012)

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