P.S. 184 Shuang Wen
MANHATTAN NY 10002 Map
P.S. 184 Shuang Wen
Shuang Wen is a school trying to recover from bitter internal battles that have pitted parent and against parent and sparked ugly confrontations at community meetings. Accusations of favoritism in admissions and improper use of funds resulted in nine separate investigations into the school's principal, who has been placed on administrative leave.
A "success story" for years, this popular school boasted high test scores, excellent admissions into selective high schools and billed itself as a dual-language Mandarin-English school. But suspicions surfaced that the administration was hand picking students in what was supposed to be a district-wide lottery. The concerns were highlighted by the fact that year after year, the population of the school failed to reflect the racial make-up of the district. PS 184 is directly across the street from a public housing complex where the majority of residents are African-American. "A lot of people just assumed it was a private school," said one community leader, "because they saw limousines dropping kids off and mostly Asian kids going in."
In addition, instead of half of the lessons being taught in Mandarin, as is required in dual language programs, Mandarin was taught in an after school program and parents had to pay for it.
The Education Department finally took action, and a real dual language program has been put in place for the early grades. The day is now split between Mandarin and English in pre-k and kindergarten. In 1st grade, children alternate days in each language, and the program will continue into 2nd grade in 2012-13. But the parent body is still sharply divided over the change, and some are fighting to reinstate the principal and return the school to the way it used to operate.
Nonetheless, parents say Interim-Acting Principal Iris Chiu is doing a good job handling the controversy and trying to get the school community focused on learning instead of feuding. (She declined our requests to visit the school while the investigations are continuing.) Chinese bilingual licensed teachers are in place in pre-k through first grade and professional development is ongoing for the entire staff.
The regular school day starts at 8:40 a.m. and ends at 3 p.m., and morning tutoring is available at 8 a.m., free of charge, for students who need extra help. The Shuang Wen Academy Network continues to offer Mandarin classes after school for a fee. Students in 2nd through 8th grade have some exposure to Chinese language in music and dance classes.
The school's facilities have benefited from the school's past popularity and its ability to marshal resources. There is a huge library, two science labs, a beautiful dance studio and an abundance of computers.
Known for its traditional approach to teaching and heavy homework load, it remains to be seen how the school will change as it becomes an actual dual-language program open to all students in District 1.
Admissions: Lottery with District 1 priority and sibling preference. (Meredith Kolodner, February 2012)