P.S. 166 Henry Gradstein
Queens NY 11106
Zone for the 2017-2018 school year. Call school to confirm.
Strong administration and established, successful dual language program
Little outdoor play time, and a dingy courtyard for an outside play area
PS 166, a large, stable and thriving school on the border of Astoria and Long Island City in Queens, offers a highly regarded Spanish/English dual-language program and a district-wide gifted and talented programin addition to strong general education classes in each grade. Although the school is large and has several different programs in operation, there is a strong sense of community. Teachers cheerfully greet one another in the hall, and many know and connect with students beyond those in their classes. Every morning the entire school stops what they're doing for a lively, two-minute dance or jumping-jack "fitness break."
A nice mix of Asian, Hispanic, White and Black students reflects the neighborhood's demographics. It is a rich soup where students and their families speak many different languages at home, and children whose parents are Bengali mix easily with children from Central and South America. Generally, the individual classes reflect the school's overall ethnic make-up, although the gifted classes, which admit students from throughout the district, have more White and Asian students and fewer Hispanics than the school as a whole.
The two full-time pre-k classrooms are bright with play kitchens, reading nooks, blocks and other stations. The students work on art projects together, designed to encourage communication and collaboration. Although some pre-k students continue into kindergarten at PS 166, the admission process is separate and they are not guaranteed a spot.
The school relies on scripted reading and math programs (ReadyGen and GoMath, supplemented with manipulatives), but most classrooms we observed had a vibrant dynamic. For instance, kindergartners eagerly worked on poetry notebooks, sharing comments with one another. In an integrated co-teaching class, 5th-graders working on math sheets appeared alert and interested as teachers moved among them checking-in and discussing concepts. In a lively dual-language class, a Spanish-speaking student led her classmates through an active lesson that included dancing. The students were delighted and attentive.
The school is largealmost 1,200 studentsand classes can be big. Hallways bustle as pupils move in loose lines from their classrooms to gym, music or other specials. The atmosphere, though, feels active and friendly rather than crowded and hurried. For instance, a 2nd-grade teacher sang "Michael Row Your Boat Ashore" brightly, keeping her students' focus as they walked back to the classroom; students from other classes streamed past happily. The full-size gym was busy but organized as two classes divided the space for different activities.
Jessica Geller has been principal since 2011 and was previously at the school for nine years as an assistant principal and teacher. She is optimistic and upbeat about the school. There is little turnover in staffand Geller is proud that the teachers who come to PS 166 tend to make a career there.
PS 166's dual language program is in its 10th year, making it one of the most established in the city. It is a point of pride for the administration. There are two dual language classes on each grade, and the administration hopes to add a third kindergarten class in 2016. The students alternate classrooms, languages (Spanish/English), and teachers each day. Their lessons are consecutive but taught in Spanish one day, English the next. The program's supervisor said that most students who begin the program stick with it throughout their years in elementary school. Additionally, a nearby middle school has recently added a Spanish/English dual language program so PS 166's students will be able to continue their dual language education.
The PTA is very active and pays for several enrichment programs such as theater, 3rd-grade chess and ballroom dancing. The PTA also sponsors an indoor recess program for cold or rainy days. There are two on-site after-school programs.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: There are three small, self-contained classrooms for students with significant needs covering grades k-5. Except for 4th grade, each grade has an ICT class with two teachers and a mix of special education and general education students.
ADMISSIONS: Neighborhood school. Admissions for the district G&T program is based on the citywide assessment process. Call the school for information about admissions to the dual language program.(Elizabeth Daniel, January 2016)