Goldie Maple Academy
Queens NY 11692
Longer school day, rich curriculum
Too soon to tell if school-wide departmentalization works well
At Goldie Maple Academy (GMA) students have a longer school day and, starting in pre-k, change classes for select subjects. The school is a model site for Core Knowledge instruction and hosts visitors from schools across the state. Based on the work of Dr. E.D. Hirsch, author of Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know, Core Knowledge is designed to expose students to a broad range of historical, scientific and cultural topics from an early age. For instance, all students, including pre-k, study Shakespeare with teachers using age-appropriate adaptations for the young grades.
Students tackle sophisticated work early on. In the younger grades they learn world geography, and can explain literary devices such as personification; we saw lengthy written explanations of math problems by 2nd-graders, and 5th-graders researching the Renaissance in the computer lab. By 8th grade, students read challenging literature such as Inherit the Wind and The Good Earth and some take high school level courses in algebra and living environment.
During our visit we saw a mix of teaching styles. In the elementary school grades, children sit in groups, working independently or together on a task and gather on the rug for class-wide lessons. In the upper grades, instruction is more traditional with students sitting in rows and the teacher talking at the head of the classroom.
Phonics and grammar are incorporated into English instruction. Students learn cursive writing early on; we observed that most students wrote in cursive starting in the 4th grade.
Spanish is taught in grades k to 8. Students also learn American Sign Language, which is taught in music classes.
In September 2015, GMA departmentalized instruction in all grades, meaning that students travel to different classrooms for different subjects essentially a modified middle school format. The idea is that students learn better when taught by a teacher who spends most or all of her day focusing on one subject. In the elementary school, students typically have one teacher for English and social studies and another for math and science, though it can vary a bit by grade. In prior years, departmentalized learning started in 2nd grade.
Since we visited GMA during its first year under the new structure it was unclear whether school-wide departmentalization offered any benefit in the younger grades, especially pre-k and k when children need ample time for learning through play. Longtime principal Angela Logan-Smith said that GMA could not offer extended school days unless all grades followed the same scheduling format.
Students attend school from 8 am to 4:35 pm, Monday to Fridays and classes run 53 minutes, longer than the typical school period. To accommodate the extended schedule, teachers work longer days, but only come in four days each week. The combination of longer days and staggered work schedules allows the school to offer academic support classes, art, music and dance to all students.
Attendance is excellent and to ensure kids show up every day wearing their school uniform, GMA purchased a washer and dryer toprovide clean uniforms for students who are unable to wash them elsewhere.
GMA is located amid a number of large housing projects and low-rise apartment complexes. Its housed in the former JHS 198 building, which was closed due to poor performance.
Most students stay at GMA through 8th grade, though some leave after 5th grade to attend a selective program such as Scholars Academy. After graduation, most students attend nearby high schools such as Rockaway Collegiate and Scholars Academy, but some take on a longer commute to attend a specialized high school or a themed one such as Transit Tech.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school serves a small population of students with special needs. In addition to SETSS, there are ICT and self-contained classes on select grades.
ADMISSIONS: The school is unzoned. For elementary school, top priority goes to District 27 residents with a sibling in the school. Typically, the school has spots for D 27 residents without a sibling in the school. For Grades 6-8, top priority goes to continuing 5th-graders, and then to District 27 students. The school also considers applicants attendance and academic record for admission to the middle school. Contact the school directly for more information. (Laura Zingmond, November 2015)