P.S. 40 Augustus Saint-Gaudens
Experienced, dedicated teachers, involved parents & high student achievement
High rents in this desirable school zone
Many residents view PS 40 as a vital part of their close-knit neighborhood. A local Starbucks features student artwork, and new teachers get an orientation tour of the neighborhood. Several parents said they moved in order to live in the PS 40 zone, where family-sized apartments cost far more than nearby identical units. This popularity has a downside: class sizes, once enviably small, are now at the New York City average, and larger than average in some grades.
Students perform at high levels, and the administration has an open-door attitude that fosters a positive vibe. Teachers have 10 years of experience on average and are by many accounts unusually committed. "They come early. They stay late. They collaborate with each other over lunch," said Susan Felder, who has been principal since 2004. Parents approached outside the building one morning called teachers "well organized," "unbelievable," knowledgeable," "bright" and "terrific."
The staff is also open to continued learning. Teachers in an already strong literacy program receive about 20 visits a year from a coach at the respected Teacher's College Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University. "It's lifting the level of work," said Felder.
Engage NY, a website designed to help with the shift to Common Core, has been beneficial in strengthening math instruction, say staff and parents. "We want them to know math facts but also teach them to think," said Felder. For their part, parents seem pleased there is more attention to quick recall of math facts and less working-it-out-through games. Mala Mosher, parent of both a PS 40 graduate and a current 4th grader said, "My older daughter was very well prepared for middle school, but the math is even better now."
In music, art and physical education classes we saw long-time teachers exude the kind of self-assurance that makes teaching look like a joy. Additionally, every year kids enjoy a special arts residency paid for by parents, ranging from circus arts from Marquis Studio for the littlest ones to dance for the older ones. Children study computer skills in media literacy classes.
Students come from a diverse range of backgrounds, although not as ethnically diverse as some parents we spoke to outside the school said they'd like. Rezoning has made it a little more diverse, Felder said.
PS 40 takes up the bottom three floors of a historic five-story building shared with the selective Salk School of Science, a middle school to which about eight PS 40 5th graders are admitted each year. Most 5th graders attend MS 104 Simon Baruch and School of the Future; a few choose Clinton, Lab, Quest to Learn and others.
The school has an attractive library, cozy seating and a modern computer lab. It's also plagued by balky plumbing and a dispiriting amount of clutter due to lack of storage space. Recent steps to improve the physical plant include installation of bright new tiles in the cafeteria, a lovely teacher's workspace and a larger science lab.
The Parent Teacher Association sponsors an after school program in partnership with Wingspan Arts. Clubs and activities last until 6 pm.
Special education: Each grade has integrated co-teaching (ICT) classrooms where students with special needs are mixed with general-education students. Kids who need extra help can also work with tutors.
Admissions: Neighborhood school. At the time of our 2014 visit there was one full-day pre-k class comprised entirely of siblings who already attend PS 40. (Lydie Raschka, October 2014; updated by phone August 2016)
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Manhattan NY 10003