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P.S. 171 Patrick Henry
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Impressive array of grant-funded resources and programs, rich instruction
Space is tight
PS 171 is a calm and orderly school where children are expected to read the minute they walk in the door: they read while eating breakfast in the cafeteria, in the hallways waiting for their teachers, and as a class heading to the bathroom, carrying books that they look at quietly while they wait their turn.
It's a formal school, where children wear uniforms and walk in straight lines in the hallway, but it's not rigid or harsh. Across the board, students seemed interested and engaged in their classes during our visit.
In the younger grades, classrooms are cheery spaces with colorful furniture and creative work lining the walls. All have cozy reading corners with soft chairs and colorful rugs; one 1st grade class has a bright red loft. Middle school grade classrooms are more subdued, but packed with resources. Each one has a neatly arranged library with a generous selection of books; laptop computers are frequently used and all middle school students get an iPad to use during the school day and at home.
Starting in pre-k, students are primed to express ideas and learn independently. Students do lots of talking about what they are studying, and their advanced vocabularies reflect the depth of their understanding of the class material. Teachers also create resources that encourage students to answer their own questions before seeking help. Laminated guides for vocabulary, math and writing are placed on each table or group of desks; children check their folders and wall charts to keep track of their reading and math goals.
There's lots of attention to foundation skills--phonics, grammar and math facts--and structure too. Pre-k students practice writing out the entire alphabet on individual white boards; 2nd-graders learn to write a five-paragraph essay.
In the middle school, instruction we observed reflected a mix of teaching styles. Group work dominates in some classes, while teacher-directed lessons are the norm in others. Writing is emphasized in all subjects. For instance, in social studies 8th-graders complete research papers on a social justice topic of their choosing such as racism transgender rights or gender inequality.
Sixth-grade instruction follows an elementary school format, with students staying put in one room, with the same teacher for most of the day. Seventh-and 8th-graders travel to different rooms for different subjects. Spanish instruction starts in 6th grade; Regents algebra is offered in the 8th grade.
Middle school students learn computer programming. Students make monthly visits to nearby Mount Sinai Hospital to take part in science activities with medical students.
PS 171 is located in a five-story, late 19th-century building near Central Park, which it shares with Central Park East II.
Dimitres Pantelidis, principal since 1999, is a stickler for data, and students in most grades complete weekly online assessments. However, children also discuss ideas, read books of their choice and complete projects that involve a lot of research, writing and creative expression. In a kindergarten class, students took turns showing off their posters on the life cycle of a plant, using words like germinate and seedling to explain what they learned.
Pantelidis has amassed millions of dollars of grants for technology and to support programs including Urban Advantage, which allows students to go on other field trips to places like the American Museum of Natural History and the New York Hall of Science. The Carmel Hill Fund supports an online reading program and pays for some middle school students to attend summer programs at Vassar, Yale and Princeton. An art teacher from Studio in a School works with classes to connect art with studies in other subjects.
One downside is the school's limited space. Some teachers and staff work out of former storage areas and work with small groups of students in the hallways.
The school has a good record of graduates moving on to specialized and other well-regarded high schools such as Specialized High Schools, Manhattan Center for Science and Mathematics, Manhattan/Hunter Science and Pace, Some students attend private and Catholic schools.
Students may participate in a wide range of afterschool activities including Chess in the Schools. Middle school sports include basketball, flag football, dance, yoga, volleyball, and soccer. Students in grades 4-8 may also participate in the Harlem RBI Baseball program and karate is open to students and the community.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school has ICT classes and SETSS and provides speech, occupation and physical therapy onsite.
ADMISSIONS: Zoned neighborhood school for grades k-5, but the school typically has room for out-of-zone students. The school usually has spots open for out-of-zone pre-k students too. For middle school, admissions are based on students grades, test scores and record of attendance and punctuality, with top priority going to continuing 5th-graders. The school typically has space for some District 4 students who attend other elementary schools. (Laura Zingmond, May 2016; updated May 2017)