P.S. 19 Marino Jeantet
QUEENS NY 11368 Map
P.S. 19 Marino Jeantet
APRIL 2007 UPDATE: In 2005, the school started a Spanish/English dual language program, which prepares students to be proficient in both languages. Students enter the program beginning in kindergarten and taught in English and Spanish on alternating days. There are two classes per grade. Prospective parents must meet with either the guidance counselor or parent coordinator.
MARCH 2005 REVIEW: With nearly 2,000 children in its main building and annexes, PS 19 feels more like a community college than an elementary school, and spatial constraints have caused some large class sizes while preventing the installation of a computer lab. Still, by dividing the school into six smaller academies, administrators have created a more intimate atmosphere than might be expected. Moreover, the success of PS 19's enormous English Language Learner population speaks volumes about the quality of teaching that goes on in its classrooms.
Every academy has a different theme or focus, and a guidance counselor assesses entering students for interest and aptitude to match them with the right program. In the spring, each academy presents its work. The Academy of Publishing and Bookmaking fair displays hardbound books made by the children in the styles of authors they have studied. The Math, Science and Technology school displays research- and math-oriented projects, while the Performing Arts School presents a musical. (At the time of our visit, Saturday rehearsals had commenced for a production of The Lion King.) The Academy of American Studies presents projects on American Indians, while the two remaining schools -- the "upper" (grade 3 -- 5) and "lower" (K -- 2) academies -- unveil library research projects.
We attended the Share Fair Express, a dazzlingly colorful presentation of student art and written work by all students. After reading Spider Boy, by youth fiction writer Ralph Fletcher, 5th graders made paper mache spiders. Social studies students made seals for PS 19 and Corona after studying state seals.
Each academy uses the math and literacy curriculums required in most city schools, but not all teachers are happy with them. One cited "unrealistic demands by the city."
Teachers, she said, are expected to use the same literacy curriculum for all students, but this uniformity fails to take into consideration the learning styles and needs of different children. Another pointed to the "inflexibility" of the writer's workshop model, a method to teach writing in which children do much revising and critiquing of one another's work. "The kids are all supposed to work independently" in the workshop, said an ESL teacher, "but not all of them can."
Despite this frustration, one cannot deny that something is working -- and working very well -- at PS 19. About 90 percent of students speak English as a second language, and 50 percent are still in the ESL program. Yet spring 2004 test scores at the school were above the citywide average in all areas but one (48 percent of 4th graders scored at or above standard on the state reading exam -- three percentage points less than the city mean). "We have a lot of 'push-in' and lots of ESL teachers," says Principal Genie Calibar, referring to the practice of bringing teachers into a student's regular classroom for extra help.
Perhaps ESL students at the school draw inspiration from Calibar, who was born in Manhattan but grew up in the Dominican Republic, or other administrators for whom English is a second language. Millie Gottlieb, assistant principal of the performing arts school, is Puerto Rican. Two other principals also learned English as children.
Despite these ties to the students, PS 19 needs to bridge a gap between itself and parents. "Parents feel that there isn't enough academic help for their children," said Parent Coordinator Josett Pacheco. "These parents immigrated here with very poor educational backgrounds, so they can't help their children [with tests and schoolwork]." Pacheco now holds Friday morning math and literacy workshops for adults.
Some teachers expressed concern over the school's 300 computers, most of which are four-year-old laptops. "They're falling apart, because they're used so much," said a teacher. Gottlieb, who is seeking grants to buy new machines, said: "We desperately need new ones and a computer lab."
PS 19 asks that students wear its uniform of navy bottoms and a white top; the day we visited a little more than half of the kids were dressed according to the dress code.
English as a Second Language: The school staffs 10 ESL teachers. Each grade has one Spanish/English bilingual class, except kindergarten, which has two.
Special education: Children receive support services in and out of their regular classrooms.
After school: About 1,000 children attend PS 19's program. Homework help is available for students in grades 1 -- 5, Tuesday through Thursday until 4:30 p.m. Additional academic help is offered mornings before school Tuesday through Friday, and on Saturdays from 8:00 a.m. until 11:00 a.m. Extra ESL help is available Tuesdays and Thursdays, 3:00-4:30 p.m. (John E. Thomas, March 2005)