P.S. 19 Asher Levy
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ASD Nest program for autistic children, solid academics
Attendance could be better
Safe and welcoming, PS 19 sits in a mixed-income Lower East Side neighborhood not far from artsier, more progressive options. The mayor and the schools' chancellor have praised the school for its success in raising achievement, especially in kids from working class families; they improved more than five times the citywide average on state tests. In 2009 the school added a program for high-functioning children on the autism spectrum, called ASD Nest, but this has not fully stemmed a decade-long decline in enrollment. The school obviously serves its population well: The staff is stable, classes are small and the school reports almost no bullying. It remains to be seen how well it will draw newcomers as it adapts to a changing, increasingly upscale neighborhood.
Jacqueline Flanagan became principal in 2009 after serving as assistant principal and technology teacher. She brought uniforms and more structure and put in place daily planning time for teachers. From year to year she moves some teachers from one grade to another, to help them stay fresh and aware of what kids need as they progress through the grades. She runs a cohesive school: For example, all 1st-graders participate in the same reading lessons at about the same time. "I'm very organized, and I like to give my staff templates and tools," she said.
Pre-kindergartners start writing early and by kindergarten, children are talking about stories with a beginning, middle and end. Classrooms have blocks, games and dramatic play areas, but they don't look much used. However, there has been increased attention to providing children with project work and we saw more kids talking to each other and small group work on this visit. "It's not always paper and pencil," Flanagan said. "It is engaging, exciting, project-based learning."
Students who need help with specific skills like verb tenses or math facts are grouped together for instruction. Fourth-graders have extra science classes to improve their chances on the science test. The challenge here is that more than half of the students need assistance in all areas, but the staff provide extra time for reading, writing and math, as well as small classes and extra adults. We saw serious concentration in the language lessons that start each day and writing samples on display with drafts leading up to finished products.The progress here is remarkable given the school's relatively low attendance rate.
Parents may watch lessons and are invited to monthly assemblies performed by students on themes such as Earth Day, Chinese New Year and Black History Month. Third Street Music School provides music instruction after school. Special classes include Rosie's Kids, chorus, gym, library and Musical Mentors, in which Columbia University music majors volunteer their time to teach instrumental music.
PS 19 shares a building with Technology, Arts, and Sciences Studio, a middle school.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: ASD Nest kids eat breakfast and lunch in small groups and practice social skills until they feel ready to join others in the cafeteria. ICT (integrated co-teaching) classrooms mix special and general education students together in one room with two teachers. "Self-contained" classes are team-taught and serve just 12 students who have more severe special needs. Both ASD Nest and general education parents are active in the PTA.
ADMISSIONS: District 1 choice. (Lydie Raschka, October 2015)Read more