P.S. 124 Yung Wing
Strong literacy instruction; lots of extra curricula activities.
Large class sizes in upper grades
Yung Wing School, PS 124 is a high achieving, neighborhood school appropriately named for the first Chinese immigrant to graduate from an American university. Located in Chinatown, the school reflects the close-knit, immigrant community it serves. Many children are English language learners or speak Chinese exclusively at home, and most come from low income households. Though a majority of students arrive in kindergarten still learning English, most have a strong command of English by 5th grade and a lot go on to selective middle schools after graduation. Student attendance is among the best citywide.
Principal Alice Hom has led the school since 2003. A veteran educator, Hom spent 18 years as a classroom teacher at the highly-regarded PS 6.
In classes we visited, children seemed happy and engaged. Children move around for various activities, rather than sit for long stretches of time. Its common to walk into a room and hear student chatter. In a school full of English language learners, group work that fosters conversations among peers is critical for language development, says Hom.
Class sizes run as high as 32 in the lower and upper grades, but teachers do a good job of making sure their students stay on task. Teachers walk around the room, and work with small groups of children while their classmates focus on individual or group assignments .
Walking through the school, we observed an impressive range of writing as early as 1st grade. In all grades students write and revise multiple drafts on a wide range of topics such as snakes and planes (2nd grade); life and food in Kenya (3rd grade) and essays arguing for and against structured play during recess (4th grade)
Math and science instruction are very strong. Typical of many District 2 schools, 124 uses Investigations Math, which emphasizes learning through games and activites and finding multiple approaches to solving problems. Teachers balance this with some drilling of math facts so students become quick and accurate in their calculations.
Students in all grades visit the science room for at least two periods a week, and classroom teachers weave in science lessons too. For instance, as part of a 3rd grade social studies unit on Brazil, students learned about Brazilian waste management and landfills and then researched and designed waste reduction plans for their own family. One student timed his parents in the shower daily to assess how much water was being wasted.
The school is home to a district-wide gifted and talented (G&T) program. The main differences between G&T and general education classes lie in the pacing of instruction and types of projects. G&T students may plow through a unit of study quickly leaving more time to tackle additional topics and lengthier projects.
Students have physical education classes three times weekly. In addition to traditional gym instruction the school offers movement and dance classes. Students also take art, music and technology. Teaching artists from Studio in a School work with classes to connect art with studies in other subjects. Fourth-graders participate in a dance program sponsored by the National Dance Institute.
There's a theater program started by actress Baayork Lee, who performed in the original stage production of "The King and I". Those who take part perform in the Junior Theater Festival, a national competition held annually in Atlanta Georgia.
Despite language barriers and modest incomes, parents find ways to support the school. The PTA runs fundraisers like raffles, school photos and plant sales. Parents fluent in English help with outreach to those who only speak Chinese; several former PS 124 parents work in the office and some volunteer to translate school newsletters into Chinese.
Several community organizations run programs onsite, offering a variety of activities such sports, hip-hop, STEM, chess violin and Mandarin instruction. There are also several programs in the neighborhood that pick up PS 124 students at the end of the school day and escort them to off-site activities.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school has ICT (integrated co-teaching) classes and SETSS. ENL (English as a new language) instructors are on staff to provide extra support to children. All teachers and support staff receive training in ENL support.
ADMISSIONS: Zoned, neighborhood school. Admission to G&T program is according to Department of Education standards. The school occasionally has room in its upper grade G&T classes for a few new students. (Laura Zingmond, March 2016)
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Manhattan NY 10002