P.S. 186 Dr. Irving A Gladstone
BROOKLYN NY 11214 Map
P.S. 186 Dr. Irving A Gladstone
On Cristoforo Colombo Boulevard, a main street just a block away from PS 186, traces remain of what had once been a large immigrant group in the area. A handful of elderly men on the sidewalk smoke cigars, drink espresso, and still converse in Italian. But the classrooms in the brick, 1920s-era building are filled with students whose immigrant parents come from China, Russia, and, increasingly, Albania.
Many students show up not knowing any English, but PS 186 seems adept at providing them with needed resources. "'Bathroom,' 'help,' and 'sit,'" are the only words students need to know when they start at the school," a teacher said. She told us she had adjusted assignments to better meet the level of one 5th grader who had recently arrived with little English. For younger students, more than one teacher said, the language hurdle is easier to jump over. "In the beginning, it's a lot of visual," a kindergarten teacher said. "By the end of the year, they're speaking."
One teacher mentioned to us that the 2004-2005 5th grade would be one of the first classes of students that began in pre-K at PS 186. Many teachers we spoke to told us that the addition of the pre-kindergarten program has helped to raise the bar at PS 186. "As a former kindergarten teacher, you can tell who has been in pre-K and who hasn't," said a computer teacher, who is also the teachers' union representative at the school.
Standardized test scores have remained above the city average in recent years -- an indication, mentioned to us by several teachers and administrators, that the school's decision to integrate general education students with special needs students has been effective -- and not dragged down school performance. The school has six such "collaborative team teaching" (CTT) classes, which are typically managed by two teachers, one a specialist in special education. The CTT coordinator said that a major benefit of the classes is a high ratio of adults to children. In one 2nd grade classroom we visited, two parents, two aides, and a teacher worked with just over 20 students.
Some parents who are new to the school have voiced objections to their children being included in a CTT program, said Parent Coordinator Elaine Delaney. She has responded by inviting the parents to visit classrooms so that they can see the attention students get. "All students still have to meet the same standards," Delaney said.
The strength of instruction at PS 186 lies not only in healthy teacher-student ratios. A 1st grade teacher in her first year at the school had neatly covered her classroom with student work along with book kiosks placed in the middle of the room. While the walls were not as vibrant in a stand-alone 2nd grade special education classroom, the teacher worked on reading with a group of students who seemed calm and well behaved.
A number of extracurricular activities are available to students. A ballroom dance class was practicing in the gym during our visit, and we later saw an impromptu, though teacher-sanctioned, lunchtime performance of the singer in the school's student rock band -- a recent idea of the band instructor. Girls practiced cheerleading in the schoolyard, an initiative of the gym teacher.
The school offers several programs requested by parents, including English-language instruction, said Delaney, whose desk is situated in the school office. Memos to parents are translated into a number of languages.
The Very Important Parent (VIP) reading program brings parents in to read. Grandparents have been invited, too. Overall parent involvement is high we were told, but one parent association member, who was helping out at a book sale in the library during our visit, complained that the new students' parents don't volunteer enough.
Bayan Cadotte became principal in November 2004, after serving for six years as an assistant principal at the school. Cadotte said she didn't plan any major changes, but hoped to bring improvements to some areas. "Teachers need training and we're doing a lot of professional development for that," she said.
Special education: In addition to the CTT classes, the school has "self-contained" -- special needs only -- classes on each grade.
After school: A program from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. includes homework help and activities such as yoga and arts and crafts. There is also a Saturday program. (Paul Burkhardt, June 2005)