P.S. 83 Luis Munoz Rivera
Hardworking staff that builds up students academically and socially
No funds for math or literacy coaches means strong teachers in classroom only
PS 83 was once known as a traditional school with solid academics and a somewhat rigid atmosphere. Now, it is warm and nurturing. Gone is the emphasis on test prep, and the tracking of students into "gifted" and general education classes. Longtime principal Frances Castillo said of the schools discipline policy, If kids make a mistake today, they know tomorrow is a new day. Tell the truth, and we start all over.
Some classes we saw were very interactive, while others were quieter and conventional. Students of varying levels are mixed in classes and instruction is geared to strengthening all students. Although there is no money for math or literacy coaches, more seasoned teachers set aside time to mentor younger ones in their area of expertise across grade levels after school. The aministration also created their own report card based on Common Core standards to help parents understand early on the level at which their child is functioning. At-risk students receive monthly progress reports.
Art, music, technology and science are offered once a week on each grade level and 90 percent of the teachers have had Common Core training. The school offers a full-day pre-kindergarten class in which children are expected to master their colors and numbers along with good social skills.
PS 83, which shares a building with the Bilingual Bicultural Mini-School, has opted to use the Ready Gen curriculum for literacy starting in grades 2-5. Lower grades study units created by school administrators that are grounded in Common Core principles. In a 3rd-grade class, the teacher read from a Ready Gen book while students followed along. Breaking mid page she asked, What is a vegetarian? Students then turned to talk with each other and tried to use the text to support their answers.
Math is taught in 75-minute sessions using Go Math. Science and social studies get integrated into reading time. In a 2nd-grade math class, students sat in a square on the rug as the teacher demonstrated the mental math game they were about to play. Students rolled the dice to land on a problem and solve it in their head with a partner. Once they told the partner the answer, the partner had to calculate whether they were right or not. If right, they advanced in the game, if not, they had to go back to square one.
The 4th-grade science class we saw seemed more teacher-directed. A teacher lectured with a worksheet on the projector, while students worked in journals on a unit about the vascular systems of plants. By 5th grade students learn how to take data and input information in an Excel file to make prediction graphs and are pushed in class to use notes from previous days for answers. Teachers can opt to spiral up with their 4th-graders to 5th grade for academic consistency if they see the need.
The PTA is very active, organizing annual carnivals and multicultural fairs. The school has upgraded technology so that every classroom has SMART Boards and computers. Classes often have two adults and a City Year volunteer. Teachers have additional work set aside for advanced kids and some students can be sent to a higher grade for a certain subject depending on the unit and the childs social skills.
There are three licensed doctors from Mount Sinai in school every day. The school has a basketball team (with cheerleaders) and is partnered with Randall's Island Park Alliance, which offers an array of activities from soccer to swimming.
Special education: PS 83 offers a spacious, colorful environment for self-contained classes with comparable manipulative learning devices and books.Bridge classes combine K, 1st and 2nd grade and then 3,4 and 5. Kids also receive RIT (Response to Intervention), SETSS and small group work. Students are mainstreamed for gym, music and pushed in for literacy where possible.
Admissions:PS 83 is a neighborhood school but there may be seats available for students from outside the zone and even the district, especially in the early grades, pre-K-2. Call the school to be put on a waitlist. (Jacqueline Wayans, December 2013)
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Manhattan NY 10029