P.S./I.S. 217 Roosevelt Island
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Thoughtful curriculum and excellent teaching
Many children dont stay for middle school
Roosevelt Island, a long, narrow strip of land in the East River between Manhattan and Queens, has the feel of a small town. It's connected to the Upper East Side by an aerial tramway; the F train connects the island to Manhattan and Queens. Housing prices, while rising, are still affordable compared to other parts of District 2.
PS 217, the only public school on the island, is housed in a modern building with large windows, glass bricks, wide hallways, an airy lobby and a cafeteria with a commanding view of Manhattan. Many employees of the United Nations live on Roosevelt Island, and the school has children from 60 different countries.
Under the able leadership of Principal Mandana Beckman, PS 217 has developed an imaginative curriculum that combines various approaches to math, reading and writing. Teachers draws on the best elements of three different math programs, Investigations, Everyday Math and Singapore Math. They use the Teachers College approach to writingwhich emphasizes multiple drafts and revisions. The reading program focuses on small group instruction called "guided reading." Children learn at a young age to work independently and to move from one activity to the next without a lot of wasted time.
The gifted and talented program draws children from both Manhattan and Queens. Happily, the quality of teaching is strong in both the gifted and the general education classes.
Cornell Tech, the technology-focused campus of Cornell University under construction on the Island, has an unusual collaboration with PS 217. The university is training the school's teachers in computer science. Children take class trips to places like Google's Manhattan offices and may study digital media and game design as part of a program sponsored by the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens.
One mother said she loves the "community vibe." Another said her son's teachers "inspire him every day to be respectful, to be curious, to work hard and to love school." The Department of Education's 2015 Quality Review called the school "well developed" in all five categories, the highest ranking.
PS 217 serves children in pre-k through 8th grade. Many children opt for middle schools off the island, and grades 6-8 are quite small, with just one class in each grade. There are interdisciplinary lessons. For example, 6th graders read Jack London's adventure story "The Call of the Wild" along with non-fiction articles about animal-human communication.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school offers self-contained classes as well as part-time team taught classes. Although some schools integrate all children with disabilities into team-taught classes, Beckman believes some children need the structure and small size of a self-contained class.
ADMISSIONS: Neighborhood school. Children from District 2 in Manhattan may apply to the school's gifted and talented program. In recent years, children from District 30 in Queens have been admitted as well. A private bus brings about 50 children from Queens. (Clara Hemphill, October 2016)Read more