P.S. 142 Amalia Castro
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Small, lively classes; rich arts instruction
Attendance needs to improve
PS 142 is a nurturing school with small class sizes and lively instruction. It’s a place where children feel supported and parents feel welcome. Children enjoy a nice range of arts instruction including music, dance, visual arts and theater.
Principal Daphna Gutman took the helm in 2015 and since her arrival the school has made strides with a revamped curriculum and lots of support and extras for students. Data shows that the school does a good job helping students of all skill levels gain ground.
The tone throughout the school is cheery and sweet. Teachers address children in soft, conversational tones, and find thoughtful ways to take the edge off a long day of learning. Children start their day with morning meetings, where they gather on the rug to share stories and concerns with their classmates. Lessons are rich and lively, and children have ample opportunity to get up and move around. In several classes we visited, students had the option during group and independent work to stretch out on a rug, work at tables or grab a chair and move to a cozy corner.
There are also nice touches to make sure students don’t feel left out. Teachers may label some charts, such as a color wheel, in both English and Spanish for the benefit of children who are learning English. Bags of breakfast food are available by the cafeteria, even after the start of the school day, for students to grab and bring to class to eat.
Class sizes are small and teachers take full advantage of this to tailor tasks to their students’ skill levels. Over the course of a lesson, it’s common to find students broken up into groups, with some needing extra support working with a teacher and others working independently or with a few peers—sometimes at a more challenging level.
We observed kindergartners writing and illustrating stories. Those with more advanced skills were given pages with more lines to fill up with words. During a math lesson in another class, two teachers each worked with a group of students on separate rugs, while some students solved problems on their own.
Children read and write a lot each day. The school uses Columbia University's Teachers College Reading and Writing Program where students read books of interest in a range of topics and write and revise multiple drafts of work across many genres. For math instruction, teachers draw from multiple sources to craft lessons that encourage kids to think and develop stamina for solving problems. Children have easy access to “manipulatives,” such as counting tiles and stackable rods to help them make sense of and solve math problems.
Children enjoy instruction in visual arts, music dance and theater—some with specialty teachers, some woven into regular class time, and some after school. The rich arts offerings are supported in part through partnerships with a range of organizations such as Rosie’s Theater Kids, Story Pirates, New York Historical Society and Educational Alliance.
One challenge for the school: A lot of children are chronically absent, meaning they miss more than 18 days of school each year. Staff members reach out to caregivers when students are absent and work with families as needed. Fun events are scheduled on days when attendance tends to be low to provide students with an incentive to come to school.
Family Fridays are a monthly event when parents and caregivers visit classrooms in the morning and then are invited for “cafecito” (coffee) and a workshop.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: There are ICT (integrated co-teaching) and self-contained classes. Teachers certified in special education also push into classrooms to work with students with special needs during their lessons rather than pull them out of class for support.
ADMISSIONS: District 1 priority. The school sometimes has space for students outside of the district. (Laura Zingmond, May 2019)Read more