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River East Elementary
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Small cheery school with engaging curriculum including computer programming
Far from the nearest subway
River East is a tiny school with a progressive bent and a warm sense of community. Teachers encourage children to explore their interests and be independent; parents are invited to weekly school-wide assemblies and get regular updates on their childrens progress. The school offers a nice range of activities such as ceramics, swimming, dance, violin and computer coding.
Founded in 1982 as a progressive school modelled after Central Park East I, River East remains true to its roots, but has long since settled into its own identity. Test prep is minimal and teachers weave lots of hands-on activities into lessons, but students are taught and expected to master foundation skills too. For instance teachers send home weekly, personalized updates for each child in their class, identifying a specific skill the child needs to work on as well as suggestions for how the family can help at home.
"We're small and that's part of our mission," said former Principal Rob Catlin, who left in 2016 to work on teacher effectiveness at the Department of Education. Mike Panetta took the helm after five years as Catlin's assistant principal. "He's fantastic," Catlin said.
Class size is low in all grades and many classes have two teachers. Attendance and chronic absenteeism hover around the citywide average and are a challenge to improve because many students travel from outside of District 4, from the Bronx and West Harlem.. To ensure struggling students don't fall through the cracks, each staff member mentors a child who needs some extra attention--whether its because of an academic or behavior problem or personal strife at home.
The school uses the Teachers College Reading and Writing Curriculum, which encourages students to read a large amount of books of their choosing and at their skill level, as well as write and revise multiple drafts of work on a variety of topics. Teachers also draw from other curricula to weave in explicit instruction in phonics, spelling and vocabulary.
For math, teachers collaborate to write their own curriculum, drawing from a range of programs including Investigation s, Envision and EngageNY. A school-wide computer coding curriculum and 5th-grade robotics reinforce the critical soft skills children need to be good in math such as following multi-step instructions, tolerating frustration and grappling with the process of trial and error.
Beyond core academics, the school offers enrichment activities through partnerships with local organizations. The 92nd Street Y supports vocal music instruction, 5th-grade Lego Robotics and ceramics made in the schools own kiln. Students learn to play the violin through Harlem School of Musics Opus 118 program. Students learn to swim at Asphalt Green.
River East is located in the northern section of East Harlem, a block from the East River and shares a building with PS 206. Despite a long walk to the closest subway, the school draws students from all over District 4 and some travel from other parts of Manhattan, as well as the Bronx and Queens.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: There are ICT classes and SETSS.
ADMISSIONS: River East is a non-zoned school. Top priority goes to District 4 residents who have a sibling currently enrolled in grades k-5, however the school typically has room for students from outside of District 4 who do not have a sibling at the school. (Laura Zingmond, November 2015; new principal update, 2016)Read more