P.S. 192 Jacob H. Schiff
MANHATTAN NY 10031 Map
P.S. 192 Jacob H. Schiff
At PS 192, a school with a large immigrant population, children may learn yoga, study the artists of the Italian Renaissance, or join their parents for an early morning sing-along
Situated on a hill in Hamilton Heights across the street from City College, the school has had its difficulties over the years, including low test scores and five principals over a dozen years. But things are looking up, according to staff. “In 35 years, this is the best I’ve seen,” said veteran teacher Josephine Carrasquillo. “We’re all in step.”
Indeed, test scores, particularly for English Language Learners, are inching up and satisfaction among teachers and parents has shot up since Principal Deborah Schaefer’s arrival in 2010. She is an upbeat former high school chemistry teacher who was assistant principal at Evander Childs High School in the Bronx. “Everything starts with relationships,” she said.
Teachers and administrators have been learning and working together to build trust. They read educational books and discuss how to put new ideas into practice. They watch videos and create new lessons, after which they provide each other with feedback. “It’s very hectic, but a wonderful experience,” said 4th grade teacher Isvette Filpo, “I feel challenged when I come here. I feel like I’m in college again.”
Where teachers used to leave promptly at 3:10 p.m., now they stay later in the afternoon and, of their own accord, teach clubs after school. For one hour after school children participate in yoga, debate, art, math, music and chess clubs. “At the same time,” added Schaefer, “we have to address the severe academic deficiencies in many of our children, particularly in the area of reading.”
All students start the day in the gym where they recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Parents escort kindergartners to their classrooms in a trailer behind the building and stay awhile to hear them sing. Reading is the first order of the day. We saw 1st graders read quietly at tables while the teacher worked with four children. Students answered questions in the back of their books. The children read and wrote eagerly – but even the most advanced books were quite simple.
Lessons are centered on themes, like New York City, and students take trips related to the theme. Third graders study the Italian Renaissance and visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Teachers stock the rooms with a range of books related to the theme to help challenge even the faster readers. Debates, such as a heated one that broke out over the merits of Italian artists Giotto versus Da Vinci, help children express their ideas.
Teachers of English as a Second Language, who used to pull kids out to work in small groups, now work alongside teachers in the classroom and this has worked well for them. “We’re challenging children, versus babying them,” said ESL teacher Paul Manzi.
PS 325 took over half the building in 2005 and the two schools are pretty closely matched in terms of population, test scores and atmosphere. Both struggle to raise English Language Arts test scores among their largely Hispanic populations.
The cafeteria is shared and some children eat as early as 10:20 a.m. Clubs last until 4:10 p.m. with no other after-school options. On cold days, students play in the gym or watch movies in the auditorium.