P.S. 11 William T. Harris
MANHATTAN NY 10011 Map
P.S. 11 William T. Harris
Arts-infused academics, a swimming pool and classes that integrate children with special needs and general education students are some of the features of PS 11. The school, including 12 K-5 gifted and talented classes, benefits from a student population that reflects the ethnic and economic diversity of the surrounding Chelsea neighborhood.
Principal Robert Bender came to PS 11 in 2005 after a year as a principal's intern at Park Slope's popular PS 321. He has earned two master's degrees, taught in an elementary school and run a theater company and a family restaurant. Greeting each child by name during our visit, he fielded frequent questions from parents with calm expertise.
In place of report cards, portfolios are sent home with children's work samples, teacher and student reflections, goals and a variety of assessments. Parents are invited to teacher-led, hands-on workshops called "Math Mac & Cheese" and "Books & Burritos." Families who receive free or reduced-cost lunch category are offered free legal services.
Students are mixed for a range of subjects, including 1st-grade science and 4th-grade word study and are grouped by ability for some math, reading and other lessons. Children benefit from different teachers and social groups. For a 2nd-grade unit called "New York Then and Now," they are split up according to interest, choosing from drama, watercolor painting, map making, time capsules, book publishing and PowerPoint. All grades participate in musicals, and older kids go camping and take a trip to Washington, D.C.
Thursday-afternoon enrichment classes include ballet, photography, tap dancing and airplane making. The science teacher, who has kids write Morse code to each other in the classroom, shares his passion for bird-watching in the after-school program. "Thursday is our best attendance day," said parent coordinator Stephen McGill.
The faculty receives regular intensive training in literacy instruction and visits from a math coach. There are two reading specialists who work with struggling 1st graders. McGill said recent and upcoming graduates "are brighter and more prepared for middle school," due to increased consistency in instruction. Parents told us there is little academic or social division between children in the gifted program and those in the regular classes.
The school has a small dance room as well as roof and outdoor space but no real gym-two classrooms with a wall removed serve the purpose. During indoor recess, kids play rhythm and dancing games. "It's like a kindergarten wave," said Bender. "One hundred 5-year-olds dancing." Second through 5th graders have swim lessons in the pool once a week.
Special education: In addition to collaborative team-teaching classes in every grade, there are two small classrooms that exclusively serve special needs students.
Admisssions: neighborhood school, OLSAT testing for the gifted program. (Lydie Raschka, January 2011)