P.S. 76 The Bennington School
BRONX NY 10469 Map
P.S. 76 The Bennington School
Principal Louise Sedotto calls herself fortunate to serve at PS 76, a neighborhood school where parents are involved and supportive. As many as 280 parents attend the monthly Parents' Association meeting, during which they break into smaller groups to address concerns about children of different ages, such as math games for younger students and middle school selection for 5th graders. Sedotto, who served as assistant principal for three years before taking the reins, believes this involvement, along with the school's focus on helping children at risk of falling behind, are keys to the school's success. PS 76 not only has standardized test scores above the city average, but has consistently scored several points above other schools with similar student populations and has fewer children who score at the lowest levels. One particular source of pride is the 2004 4th grade science test results: 84 percent of PS 76 students scored at or above grade level, compared to 61 percent of students citywide.
The staff at PS 76 tries to intervene before children get to the point of needing special education services. In 2004, for example, there appeared to be an unusually high number of kindergarten and 1st grade students who were not learning to read along with their peers. To remedy the situation, the administration reassigned all the building's paraprofessionals to lead small reading groups comprising children who needed to catch up.
On the day of our visit, 2nd grade students were editing sentences with spelling and grammar mistakes and sitting quietly reading books, which one student proudly told us were "way above" his grade level. First grade students were chanting the spelling of the word of the day ("school"), their teacher congratulating them by telling each student to "kiss your brain." Kindergartners, whose classes are located in a temporary building in the schoolyard, were practicing a play based on a book entitled Wishy Washy Day.
Although children in this large school of about 1,000 students go to gym class only once weekly, there are two fulltime physical education teachers, and the beautiful, bright gym includes a rock-climbing activity, padded walls for safety, and small scooters on which children skate around the room. The cafeteria also earns high marks; in fact, the staff there is regularly honored by the city for having one of the cleanest and best run kitchens in the school system.
Sedotto says that one of the school's challenges is to continue to improve performance and adds that in order to do so, the staff will have to develop creative ways to address the needs of children who arrive at the school already performing below grade level.
English as a Second Language: Children who need help receive it outside of their regular classrooms.
Special education: The school has "self-contained" classrooms, that is, classes only for students with special needs. It also provides services as needed to general education students.
After school: The YMCA runs a program in the building for a limited number of students, and there is a chess program for 4th graders. The school is working to create a partnership with Education Through Music, a not-for-profit organization that brings music education and performance into public schools. (Melanie Acevedo, March 2005)