The Anderson School
Manhattan NY 10024
Fast-paced academics and engaging instruction
Daunting admission odds
One of the most demanding and selective schools in New York, PS 334 The Anderson School attracts children from all over the city. Engaging instruction, imaginative projects and a stellar record of getting children into top high schools (both public and private) has made Anderson one of the most sought-after schools anywhere.
Dont set your heart on sending your child here, however. The competition for admission is unbelievably tough. Nearly 15,000 4-year-olds take the citys gifted and talented test each year; of those, 1,500 score high enough to qualify for Anderson and four other citywide gifted programs. Just 50 are admitted to Andersons kindergarten and a handful in 1st through 3rd grades. The odds are ever so slightly better in the middle school, particularly in 7th grade (when one-third of the class leaves for Hunter College High School, which begins in 7th grade.)
The school has a particularly strong math program. Rather than relying on one set of textbooks, teachers skillfully blend different approaches that combine fast-paced instruction with deep conceptual understanding. Teachers encourage children to look for different ways to solve problems and the kids seem to take joy in discoverynot just in getting the right answer. By 8th grade, nearly all have passed the high school algebra Regents exam.
While kindergarten classrooms elsewhere have removed blocks and dramatic play areas, at Anderson children enjoy center time when they may shop at a play store (and learn to make change), squeeze and flatten bits of clay (strengthening fine motor skills) or roll marbles down ramps made from wooden blocks. On our visit, we saw a kindergartner put together base ten blocks usually used by older children to learn addition, subtraction and place value. As the boy used the blocks to construct a house, the teacher encouraged him to count themwhat turned into a three-digit addition problem.
Most children have reading skills that are well above grade level, with 1st-graders often reading books more typical for 3rd-graders. (See the school website for recommended summer reading.) Third-graders essays about where they spent their summer vacation reflect both sophistication and the good luck of being world travelers at a young age, with stories about a trip to China; a country house in Woodstock; Cancun, Mexico, and Disneyland in France. Fourth-graders essays showed an understanding of complex ideas, such as a report one child wrote about the air quality in New York nail salons.
A beloved science teacher, Charles Conway, asked 5th-graders to determine how changing the length of a pendulum affects the number of swings in a given time period. Sixth-graders use a rooftop weather station to predict the weather. Eighth-graders take the high school Regent exam for living environment, as biology is called.
In an 8th-grade U.S. history class, we heard a lively discussion comparing the debate over the Fugitive Slave Act to todays gridlock in Congress. In an 8th-grade English class, children were asked to write a coming-of-age memoira moment when your perspective on the world changed and you grew up a little, using as models writing by authors such as Jeanette Walls, Ernest Hemingway and David Sedaris.
The homework load is heavy but not oppressive. Kindergartners have weekly homework packets. By middle school, children may spend two hours a night on homework. Kids compete in the math team or the Science Olympiad, but arent cut-throat, says Principal Jodi Hyde. They say, Yes, were competitive because we want to do well. But they arent mean to each other. They are competitive with themselves.
The school is committed to giving extra academic and emotional support to all. Despite this help, a handful of children cant keep up with the work and perhaps one a year leaves the school as a result. Graduates go on to the top high schools in the city, including elite public schools like Stuyvesant and Bronx High School of Science and private schools like Trinity.
The school has a very active PTA that raises more than $1 million a year for assistant teachers in every class as well as programs such as dance, chess, sports and field trips. The PTA has a suggested contribution of $1,300 per child. Some are put off by the Type A crowd, but many appreciate such intense participation.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school offers speech and occupational therapy. A handful of children who have disabilities such as dyslexia receive extra help. A guidance counselor works on social skills with children with conditions like Aspergers syndrome.
ADMISSIONS: Officially, students must score in the 97th percentile on the G&T tests to qualify for Anderson and other citywide G&T schools, but Anderson rarely admits children who score below the 99th percentile (except for younger siblings of Anderson students who qualify with a 97). Yellow bus service is available for Manhattan students who live more than half a mile from school. Students outside Manhattan arrange their own transportation. (Clara Hemphill, October 2015)