P.S. 171 Patrick Henry
MANHATTAN NY 10029 Map
P.S. 171 Patrick Henry
P.S. 171 has built a reputation for solid academic performance in East Harlem. Students, 100% of whom qualify for free lunch, post strong results on state tests, and the school uses regular assessments to help individual students improve. The administration invests energy and resources in training teachers and uses technology effectively.
Building and Location: At the northern tip of "Museum Mile," Patrick Henry occupies four floors of a late 19th-century building in a quickly gentrifying part of East Harlem. Central Park East II occupies one floor and peaceably shares a cafeteria, auditorium, and gym. New York Cares paint projects brighten the narrow hallways, and there are two spanking new science labs, a library and a technology lab. Because the school is cramped for space, guidance counselors and school psychologists work out of small supply closets.
School environment and culture: Energetic, passionate, and intense, Principal Dimitres Pantelidis says that his staff sets high expectations and promotes a positive learning community. The results are evident in displays of high-quality student work covering every inch of wall space. Students, all of whom wear uniforms, clearly enjoy being part of this school community and actively participate in class discussions. A middle school student council raises funds, promotes community service, and spurs school spirit.
Teaching and curriculum: At P.S. 171, 65 to 75% of the teachers have more than seven years of experience, and Pantelidis works hard to recruit and retain teachers who are dedicated to improving their craft. Some are mentored by Hunter College instructors. The ample displays of student writing had specific teacher comments, demonstrating thoughtful review. Of the portfolios of student work that the school compiles for each student, Pantelidis says proudly, "From these, we can see a fuller picture and also progress over time."
P.S. 171 infuses the citywide reading and writing curriculum with technology, the arts, chess, and innovative lesson plans. Thanks to a $211,000 grant from the Manhattan Borough President, the school has a SMARTboard in every classroom, and teachers have been trained in using them to enhance instruction. In one kindergarten class the teacher used her SMARTboard to demonstrate plate tectonics and how they cause earthquakes; 7th graders viewed pictures of pre-revolutionary war America on a SMARTboard. Studio-in-a-School instructors teach art classes, many of which are tied into academic subjects. One 4TH-grade class designed quilts to represent decimals, fractions, and proportions, and another class drew beautiful hieroglyphics to expand on what they learned about ancient Egypt.
Every class has chess once a week, instrumental music is available, and students are surrounded by lots of books. There is a balance between learning from books and from hands-on experience; 2nd-graders visited the Union Square Farmers' Market and wrote pieces full of colorful details.
As for middle schoolers, Pantelidis says the pre-K-8 model not only gives him budget advantages but also provides a gentle transition to middle school. Students remain in the same classroom for most of 6thgrade, and travel between classes in 7th and 8thgrades. Teachers lead advisory periods for 7th and 8thgraders once a week, and there is an Honor Guard to recognize 8th grade role models. Students were focused and articulate in class discussions-such as the 8th graders parsing a Langston Hughes poem-and knew how to work independently, even as they nibbled on the school-wide snack of sliced apples.
Family Participation: The active Parent Association sponsors regular workshops on topics such as understanding state testing, the high school selection process, and learning games.
Partnerships and programs: Hunter College provides teacher training. Chess-in-the-schools teaches chess during and after school. American Express mentors meet one-on-one with middle schoolers to do business projects. The New York Academy of Medicine mentors girls. The school also works with Prep for Prep and the Lincoln Center Institute, among many other local organizations.
After school: Clubs include yearbook, photo, yoga, writing and dance. Free programs include tutoring, cooking, dance, and fitness. Monday through Thursday CHAMPS runs a middle school flag football and basketball program.
Special Education: There is one Collaborative Team Teaching class in 2nd-grade and self-contained classes for grades 6, 7 and 8. In other grades special education and remedial teachers come into the classroom for 30 minutes each day, providing targeted help through small-group instruction. The school has posted strong academic results for its students with special needs.
English Language Learners: Fewer than 40 students are designated English Language Learners. About half of them attend before-school activities to help them learn and practice English and to brush up on computer and social skills.
Admissions: Zoned elementary school. District 4 students can apply for middle school. Between 10% to 20% of the 6th-grade comes from other schools. In admitting middle schoolers, a committee considers ELA and math scores, attendance records, a portfolio review, teacher recommendations, and academic commitment.
After graduation: The school works closely with students to find high schools that match their needs, often escorting them to open houses. Specialized high school test prep is offered after school. In 2010, 12 students were admitted to specialized high schools including Bronx Science. Other popular choices include nearby Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics; High School of Art and Design; Frederick Douglass Academy; Young Woman's Leadership Academy; Vanguard High School, and Gramercy Arts High School. (Sara Doar, January 2010)