Girls Prep Lower East Side Charter Elementary School
Manhattan NY 10002
All-girls school with science every day
Out of the way location; no pre-k
Founded in 2005, the all-girls charter school known as Girls Prep has a strong academic culture and teaches young girls to speak their minds. Each classroom is named after an inspirational woman such as former First Lady Michelle Obama or Wangeri Mathaai, the Kenyan environmental activist who won the 2004 Nobel peace prize. Class size is small and attendance is good despite its location snug up against the East River in a sea of blocky housing developments.
Partly because of its out-of-the-way location (half a mile from the nearest subway stop), Girls Prep doesn't have a wait list. It accepts children mid-year and in upper grades, unlike many charter schools.
We saw crisp, engaging and energetic instruction. A 3rd grade teacher gave her students three minutes to jot down the main idea of an article, saying, "Thumbs up when you're ready to go!" Students are expected to respond with a nod and the words, "Got it," when a teacher addresses them yet the tone is upbeat and refreshing rather than rigid.
The school has a math and science focus. The girls study science five days a week with a science teacher, and learn about recycling and conservation in a partnership with Leave It Better, a nonprofit organization that provides education programs on the environment.
Teachers work with a math coach to "make thinking visible, explain work and strategies, and do real world math," said director of curriculum Rebekah Adamek. Starting in 3rd grade, students study with math-only and English-only teachers like they do in middle school. "We want to instill a love of science and math early, as well as allowing our teachers to focus on one topic," Adamek said. The school has seen gains on tests since making these changes, said Public Prep CEO Ian Rowe, and several girls we asked at random said math is their favorite subject.
The school promotes friendships across grade levels. Second graders study the history of the Brooklyn Bridge and construct their own bridges with kindergarten students. First and 3rd graders collaborate on gingerbread houses; the younger kids design a house and the older ones fill out the order form to purchase the right amount of materials.
Principal Patricia Jahaly arrived in 2016 after working with Josie Carbone, the well-regarded former principal of Girls Prep Bronx. (Carbone has been promoted to chief learning officer of the network.) Jahaly attended the principal's institute at Bank Street College and plans to encourage more inquiry and play in kindergarten, a Bank Street hallmark. Jahaly says these activities help build children's vocabulary, which in turn helps them learn to read. Jahaly attended PS 166 on the Upper West Side, and an all-girls school Roman Catholic high school.
The elementary school is located on East Houston Street in a building shared with PS 188 and PS 94M, a small school for children with autism. Classes for girls in grades 5-8 are a 20 minute walk away in an East Village building shared with East Side Community High School. There is no pre-k at Girls Prep because the area is saturated with pre-k options, said Jahaly.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school offers integrated co-teaching (ICT) classes, with two teachers, one who is certified to teach special education.
ADMISSIONS: By lottery. The school does not have a waitlist and may admit children mid-year. Elementary school students are guaranteed a middle school seat and any remaining slots are filled by lottery. (Lydie Raschka, December 2016)