P.S. 3 The Bedford Village
Brooklyn NY 11216
Zone for the 2017-2018 school year. Call school to confirm.
Strong arts, fledgling French dual language program
Academics could be more rigorous, G&T program phasing out
PS 3, in the heart of Bedford Stuyvesant, has a proud history of excellence in the arts that has not been compromised through years of city budget cuts and testing mania. Signs of flourishing arts are evident throughout the school from the colorful hallway displays of student work to the giant handmade puppets we saw students toting around for a play about Earth Day.
"Art's one thing I don't compromise with. We continue to build it," said longtime principal Kristina Beecher. "The system rates us around test scores but there's so much more."
Students get regular instruction in visual arts, drama and music; they visit museums, attend concerts and work with Shadow Box Theatre, in residence at PS 3, which depicts traditional African tales through puppetry.
Especially strong is the outstanding visual arts program, led by Michael Cooper. His art room is set up in distinct centers where students work quietly and happily while listening to music softly playing. Cooper, who has been at the school for 14 years, spends his summers learning about art in other cultures. After a 2013 visit to Turkey, he introduced Ottoman Isnik tiles which children made out of clay.
Also impressive is the principal's ability to bring in outside resources to enhance instruction and to expose children to different experiences. The school has two science teachers and a lab, one with an aquaponics farm fed by tilapia fish swimming in a tank below. A small refrigerator is chock-full of yogurt and fruit, so children can prepare healthy food through the CookShop program. The robotic team enters into regular competitions and the school received a grant to expand its garden. PS 3 had to cut its physical education teacher, but Playworks brings games and organization to recess. Some 70 volunteers from Reading Partners do one-on-one tutoring with children.
Pre-kindergarten occupies its own wing of the building and has a playground and garden just outside. Rooms are bright, sunny and well set-up with supplies, although there is great variation from one class to the next. In one room we saw a lot of creative art projects, giving the children free rein to express themselves, while in another, work was less varied and exciting. Pre-k homework consists of activities that kids can do with their parents. In one science assignment kids, were asked to take home a picture they had drawn of the blooming magnolia tree in the school's garden and tell their families about it.
The school, once the largest in the district and one of the oldest in the city, has seen its population drop, mostly due to gentrification and competition with the many charter schools in the area, administrators say. In a bid to attract newcomers, PS 3 started a French dual language program in 2014. There are some French-speaking students from African countries now in the neighborhood.
Beecher, principal since 1999, grew up in the neighborhood and attended PS 3 before coming back as a teacher and assistant principal. Her own children attended the school. Like the principal, most of the staff has been at PS 3 for years. A science teacher who arrived in 2006 is a "newcomer."
There are some standouts among the staff, including the art teacher and the teacher of the 5th-grade gifted classroom, where students devise projects based on their talents and skills. Some other classrooms were less inviting and we heard raised voices in a few hallways.
"Some stable teachers respond well to change, and others are not so quick to adapt," said the principal, acknowledging that there is still work to be done to be bring all staff up to the level of teaching she expects.
A 2013 Quality Review by the Department of Education found that academics sometimes lack rigor and that students are often assigned the same task, regardless of their ability. As a result, some students are not challenged and some struggle, the review said.
For their part, teachers are happy. "I won't leave here unless the principal does," said 5th grade teacher Lynda Costagliola."We have a principal who is supportive and guides us."
CAMBA runs a free after school program that includes arts, recreation and homework help. There are many clubs, some led by outside groups such as the Museum of Contemporary Diasporan Arts, a band, robotics, ESL through the arts and basketball.
Special education: PS 3 has both team-teaching classes on most grades and one self-contained class. That classroom was bright and large with students getting a lot of individual attention.
Admission: Neighborhood school. The fledgling French dual language program is likely to have room for out-of-zone students, as are the four pre-kindergarten classes. (Pamela Wheaton, April 2014)