Central Park East II
MANHATTAN NY 10029 Map
Central Park East II
Central Park East II is a close-knit community for families who seek diversity, accessible teachers and an informal but productive atmosphere where children are encouraged to express themselves through creative projects. Like at its sister schools, Central Park East I and River East, much of what is taught here can’t be measured by multiple-choice tests. Teachers hold the firm belief that the children’s own interests will lead them to explore the world around them in a purposeful and meaningful way.
Each day includes “Worktime,” a period for individual exploration of materials from blocks and Lego to art projects and writing. This time becomes more directed as children grow, incorporating reflection and research. “Last year my son was really into Egyptian myths,” said parent Maricruz Badia, “Now he’s into FELA. Whatever he’s into he’s been able to explore in school.” The school occupies one floor within PS 171, a larger school with a more traditional bent.
First and 2nd grades and 3rd and 4th grades are combined at CPE II, although most kids meet with their own peer group for math. In one classroom, two 2nd graders circled multiples of four on a grid, then closed their eyes and quickly counted by fours up to 60. Second-grade teacher John Kuroda said that a weekly math coach “has played an important role in helping us see how the strongest and the most struggling students can have a meaningful conversation about math.” The school does not adhere strictly to any program however.
“We have no gurus here,” said Principal Naomi Smith, a former teacher of many grades who has been in the New York City public school system since 1982. “We use elements that work for us.” The staff meets on Monday afternoons for two hours and often at other times as well. “The teachers love their jobs,” said a kindergarten parent. A number of teachers confirmed this impression.
CPE II classrooms are packed with blocks, sewing projects, plants, books and pets. Wooden lofts serve as quiet workplaces. Most rooms have more than two adults, including student teachers, aides who work with special needs children and sometimes math or literacy coaches. Recess and lunch take place in three shifts mid-morning, beginning at 10:15 a.m. for the youngest students.
Brightly clad CPE II students pop up and down from their seats during lunchtime and draw and play with spinning tops in clusters, while uniformed PS 171 students eat a few tables away in tidy rows under large banners celebrating achievement. At CPE II they avoid labeling kids according to grades, reading levels or math scores.
The school has only part-time secretarial help and no assistant principal. “Adults have many roles here,” said Smith. Some parents were helping in the office during our visit, and Smith helped a teacher with a child who was throwing pencils, monitored lunch, pulled kids aside for infractions like passing out gum and met with coaches to schedule extra help for individuals.
Special Education: Two classes mix special and general education students with two teachers, one of whom has special education training. “Having the special education teacher has worked for him,” said the mother of a boy who was moved into one of these co-taught rooms in 2nd grade. We saw kids getting lots of individual attention.
Admissions: “Priority goes to those who are traditionally underserved with small, progressive, quality education [in Districts 4, 5 and 6],” said Smith. Parents must take a tour and fill out an application, and then the child visits the school. A pool of candidates is chosen and a lottery follows. (Lydie Raschka, February 2011)