P.S. 112 Bronxwood
BRONX NY 10466 Map
P.S. 112 Bronxwood
"Learning for all, whatever it takes," reads the school motto at PS 112, a neighborhood school nestled within the expansive Edenwald public housing community. This motto has been hard to live by, says Principal Susan Barnes, a former PS 112 classroom teacher who has served as the principal since 2003. The school suffers from the lowest attendance rate in the region and has test scores to match. Although class size is capped at 20 students in kindergarten and 1st grade, a gradual increase in the student population has resulted in almost 100 new students in the past three years. As a result, there are up to 36 students in 5th grade classes. In February 2005, 47 percent of the students were expected to receive letters indicating that their promotions to the next grade were in doubt because of their failure to meet academic standards. There is a significant history of student behavior problems and uneven teaching.
Even so, making learning a reality for all students is at the forefront of Barnes' ambitions. "I believe in that motto, I stand by it," she asserts, and, indeed, she has taken numerous steps to improve the school environment and the quality of education for children. Dim hallways have been brightened with hand-painted murals and colorful bulletin boards showing student work, although such improvements are more common on the lower floors than upstairs, where older children have their classrooms. A previous problem with mice and cockroaches is now under control thanks to new custodial services. Building security has improved, and the number of fights and other significant disciplinary problems has dropped dramatically. The attendance rate is slowly creeping up. According to one teacher, Barnes has brought a more personal touch to supervision and discipline, an approach based on her years of experience working in the school as a teacher. "Academic weaknesses and behavior issues are being addressed in a more constructive way," this teacher commented, noting that when Barnes enters a classroom, she interacts with children and provides valuable input to teachers.
On the day of our visit, children in a 2nd grade class were learning about Chinese New Year. They were quietly working on masks and proudly showed us their work. First grade students were engaged in various literacy activities including "playing teacher" by reading aloud to each other and creating words on a magnetized alphabet board. One child read peacefully in the lap of a giant teddy bear placed in the classroom library. Notably, all children in this class were focused on their activities, allowing the teacher to work with a small group. Fourth grade students were reading and discussing a newspaper article about a rise in the cost of living in New York City.
According to Barnes, the teaching and classroom management is still somewhat uneven, however. For example, on the day of our visit, an art teacher had responded to bad behavior from a few children by withholding the art lesson for the entire class and giving the children vocabulary worksheets instead. Barnes would like her teachers to manage discipline problems on a more individual basis, thereby focusing on those children who need to be corrected and avoiding punishment to those children who are demonstrating good behavior.
Another area that Barnes and her staff acknowledge as critical is increased parental involvement. To that end, the school now hosts a monthly Family Night featuring movies, food, or speakers, such as local politicians. Barnes has also initiated a parents' Book Club, hoping to use it as a springboard to discussing issues important to the school and community. Parents serve as tutors for children who need to improve their English.
Because most teachers and much of the school day are focused on improving academic performance, older children have gym class only twice monthly. In good weather, however, children take advantage of the school play yard and neighborhood playground during recess.
Special education: The school has "self-contained" classrooms, that is, classes only for students with special needs. It also provides services outside the classroom as needed to general education students.
After school: The school offers academic enrichment, sports, and art for children K - 5. Half of all students participate.
Admission: Registration takes place in the spring. There is generally a waiting list for pre-Kindergarten. (Melanie Acevedo, January 2005)