P.S. 130 Hernando De Soto
Strong academics and parental support, emphasis on the arts
Not much outdoor playtime
PS 130 is a well-run neighborhood school with strong leadership, good instruction and one of the highest attendance rates in the city. Parent involvement is strong, and a robust arts program keeps students engaged and enthused at school. Located on the edge of Chinatown, the school reflects and serves the surrounding community. Many children are English language learners or speak Chinese exclusively at home, and most come from low-income households.
Principal Renny Fong took over in 2014 after the retirement of PS 130's longtime leader, Lily Woo. Before becoming principal, Fong worked for nearly two decades at the school as a classroom teacher, technology program director and assistant principal.
Walk into any classroom at PS 130 and you will find calm, focused kids. Teachers speak in quiet, conversational tones; students listen to instructions, move quickly from one activity to another and quiet down when asked. Classrooms are neat and thoughtfully arranged with areas for students to gather as a class as well as work in groups. Supplies are plentiful and every room is stocked with a generous selection of grade-appropriate books arranged neatly on shelves.
Math instruction follows a challenging curriculum called Math in Focus (the American version of Singapore Math), which teaches children to solve problems and show their findings in multiple ways. Strong students may tackle a problem on their own, while others get hints to help them get started, and still others get more step-by-step guidance from the teacher.
For English, students read many books of their choosing and at their skill level as well as write and revise multiple drafts of work on a variety of topics. By the upper grades students can write lengthy essays and stories on a range of topics.
Children often work in groups and are encouraged to be creative. For instance students may write about a character from a novel they read, but then work in a group to illustrate a poster to accompany their individual essays. In math, students brainstorm complex problems, figure out different ways to solve them and then work together to create charts that display and explain their solutions.
There is one G&T (gifted and talented) class per grade. The main differences between G&T and general education classes lie in the pacing of instruction and types of projects. G&T students may plow through a unit of study quickly leaving more time to tackle additional topics and lengthier projects. In general education classes, teachers spend more time on the fundamentals, though we observed plenty of challenging work and engaging projects in those classes too.
The school really shines in the arts. "The arts give students a chance to build confidence so they learn to take some risks," says Fong. "They also learn that practice makes perfect." During our visit we observed several classes of students starting off their day with instruction in dance, chorus or violinand many more classes were scheduled to enjoy the same later on.
Students get lots of performing arts instruction thanks to the school's impressive roster of partnerships with organizations such as Dancing Classrooms, Rosie's Theater Kids, Inside Broadway, National Dance Institute, Third Street Music School Settlement and Young Peoples Chorus of NYC. There are also homegrown options including lion dance club, the fife and drum corps and chorus.
Additional partnerships with community-based organizations provide students and families with a range of free and low-cost services including healthcare, child care, tutoring and after-school activities.
There is a rooftop play space, which is impractical to use for lunch recess. However, teachers schedule time during the week to take their classes to the roof for activities and free play, said Fong.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: In addition to SETSS, there are self-contained special education classes that provide transitional bilingual instruction. English language learners (ELLs) are concentrated in some general education classrooms so the teacher can tailor instruction to their needs. English-as-a-second language (ESL) specialists give extra support to ELLs in their classrooms and on a pullout basis. Some classroom and cluster teachers also are certified in ESL instruction.
ADMISSIONS: Neighborhood school. Admission to G&T is according to Department of Education standards. (Laura Zingmond, December 2015)
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Manhattan NY 10013