P.S. 20 Anna Silver

166 ESSEX STREET
MANHATTAN NY 10002 Map
Phone: (212) 254-9577
Website: Click here
Admissions: District 1
Wheelchair accessible
unzoned
dual_language
Noteworthy
Principal: JAMES LEE
Neighborhood: Lower East Side/ Chinatown
District: 1
Grade range: 0K thru 05
Parent coordinator: TRACEY ARRINGTON

What's special:

Lots of music, art and extras; small classes

The downside:

Only average standardized test scores

The InsideStats

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Our review

PS 20 is a happy school with a good balance of work and play. Children are encouraged to have fun and to build their social skills while they master their academics. “Kids need to love being here,” says Principal James Lee, "I want them to be giddy, happy!"

Children learn through discovery at PS 20. Pre-kindergartners have ant farms and sing songs about insects' anatomy. Fourth graders design a fragrance-–from market research to chemical development to packaging—as part of a social studies lesson. There are traditional lessons as well, such as penmanship classes in 2nd grade. We saw kids make smooth transitions from individual work to group lessons on the blue classroom rugs. Everyone was polite and welcoming and we heard no raised voices on our tour.

PS 20 started a dual language program in Mandarin Chinese in 2010. Half the children in program are native English speakers and the rest speak Chinese at home. There are two classes per grade and students spend alternate days with an English-speaking teacher and a Mandarin-speaking teacher. Most teachers in the program go by their first names. Lee admits the fledgling program faces some challenges, particularly in keeping children up to speed if their language learning is not reinforced at home. Acquiring a language is complex, he says.

The school also has a large Spanish-speaking population.

PS 20 has a gym, a cafeteria, a library, an art room and two music classrooms. Kids make use of the school's spacious playground to work up an appetite during recess, which they have every day before lunch. Class sizes are small—most have fewer than 25 children. There are lots of classes in art and music. Parents are welcome: we saw parents visit music classes during our visit. Mothers and fathers are invited to walk their kindergarteners to the classroom in the morning. 

Test scores are only average. Lee attributes that to the fact that many children start school not speaking English. Although these children do well on tests by the time they are in the 4th and 5th grade, many are still learning English when they take standardized tests for the first time in 3rd grade.

Most of the students attend one of the schools two after-school programs – the school runs one program and Henry Street Settlement the other.

Special education: PS 20 has three self-contained classes for children with special needs. There is one CTT class in each grade.

Admissions: Admission to both the general and dual language program is unscreened and by lottery. Parents may rank the school twice if interested in both the general and dual language programs. Tours are on Tuesday mornings in the spring; contact the school to attend. District 1 children get preference but Lee says there is often room for children from District 2 and from Brooklyn.

(Anna Schneider. February 2012)

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