P.S. 58 The Carroll
BROOKLYN NY 11231 Map
P.S. 58 The Carroll
PS 58 boasts charismatic leadership, strong teaching, robust parent involvement, a rich art program and a small dual-language program in French and English. It’s easy to see why this zoned neighborhood has become so popular nearly doubling its enrollment since Giselle McGee became principal in 2006. “We don’t need a gifted and talented program,” said McGee, who formerly taught at the popular PS 29. “We look at every child as gifted. We find their passion, and we build it.”
The school has a progressive bent, encouraging, for example, “invented spelling” in the lower grades and an approach to reading that focuses on children’s literature rather than textbooks. But there is also phonics instruction and gentle guidance toward conventional spelling. Teachers are consistently attentive to grammar and punctuation, even in science class.
While every grade follows the same curriculum, classrooms show teachers’ individual styles: We saw one 4th-grade room strung with twinkle lights and butterflies and another that displayed children’s fictional journals for 17th century European immigrants on paper that had been tea-dyed and burnt at the edges. In the school’s media Project Lab, special-education students designed real-life superheroes, complete with storyboards and script writing. The lower-grade science room has giant murals of the solar system and kid-sized small tables for hands-on projects that teach basic physics. One classroom has a huge supply of building blocks. There is also a brand new science lab for the upper grades.
Classroom teachers have time built into their schedules to meet and plan together (while their pupils have special classes in science, art and music). “We believe in empowering teachers,” said Assistant Principal Jayme Perlman, who came to PS 58 from PS 32 in 2006.
Each grade has two dual language classes that mix native speakers of French and English. The classes are taught half in English and half in French, and the goal is for all children to write, read and speak both languages. The dual language rooms are well-stocked with materials, play space and comfortable child-sized furniture.
Parents volunteer in the renovated library (which an architect-parent designed for free), write grant applications, run lunchtime clubs, and even organize Skype conversations with children in Africa. On the day we visited, dozens of parents took time before work to attend a workshop explaining the state reading tests.
PS 58 students have chess instruction, 4th and 5th graders learn ballroom dancing; everyone plays strings beginning in grade three; a “mouse squad” of 4th and 5th graders provides basic tech support. Afterschool and lunch-club options include chess, piano, Lego robotics, advanced strings, knitting and a workshop on princesses that’s aimed at dispelling some of the Disney mythology.
The basement lunchroom has round tables instead of the traditional long benches. Children play outside in the schoolyard on Smith Street, even on wintery days, like the sunny, 20-degree day we visited.
Special education: The school has collaborative team teaching classes on every grade, and three self-contained special education classes. Because of overcrowding, speech and occupational therapists work with children in wide hallways, where a low wall (topped with student-made dioramas) offers a bit of privacy.
Admissions: PS 58 is a zoned school. Native French speakers from outside the zone may also attend, and some children come from as far away as Staten Island and Manhattan. (Helen Zelon, February 2011)