Concourse Village Elementary School PS 359
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Strong leadership, quality art and high expectations
Little play or choice time in kindergarten
Concourse Village is a welcoming school with high expectations, clear routines and a winning mix of high-quality art and academics.
Teachers do a good job challenging top students while giving struggling students the support they need. They give tests at the beginning, middle and end of each 7-week "unit of study" to measure their students’ progress and plan instruction.
During our most recent visit, we observed some advanced 3rd-graders researching big cats and nimbly looking up leopards and tigers on their iPads. "White tigers are so rare!" said one. "It's a mutation." On Saturday, teachers meet with small groups of students who may be falling behind.
Despite a meticulous structure, academics do not feel stodgy or "safe." Academic lessons are linked to art and music. For instance, in a lesson that mixed arts and math, children made collages incorporating the principles of perimeter and area. When they study communities—urban, suburban and rural—in social studies, they study landscape artists such as Monet in art class and then paint their own landscapes.
Pre-kindergartners explore big themes such as transportation and connect it to everyday life. For instance, they transform their classroom into a pretend airport and create passports for students and parents.
Kindergarten is more serious with its focus on writing, reading and numbers. Unlike pre-k, children do little in the way of open-ended play or exploration. They annotate texts by circling key words and underlining words. Children in all grades practice 3-5 new sight words weekly.
Starting in 2nd grade the school departmentalizes instruction, meaning that students have different teachers for different subjects. The idea is that students learn better when taught by a teacher who spends most or all of her day focusing on one subject. In grades 2 and 3 students have one teacher for English and social studies and another for math and science. In grades 4 and 5 students have three different teachers: one for English and social studies, one for math and one for science.
Many families head home to the Dominican Republic for holidays and often stay an extra week, which is a challenge for the attendance team. The team visits homes to stress the importance of attendance.
Principal Alexa Sorden and her guidance counselor know that troubles at home can often spill over into the classroom. During morning drop off, they check for signs of fatigue or distress in order to offer a listening ear or practical assistance right away. Children earn points and pretend money for good behavior and kind acts that they can exchange for treats, books and special events, but more important, the adults here model values through their caring, consistency and high standards.
The school does not offer an after-school program onsite, but the nearby Classic Community Center, which runs a fee-based after-school program, will pick up Concourse Village students at the end of the school day and escort them to the center. Sorden said that spaces for the program fill up quickly and parents should sign up their children before the start of the school year.
The building is shared with a charter school, Bronx Global Learning Insitute for Girls and P117, program that is part of citywide district for students with disabilities.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: The school offers ICT (integrated co-teaching) where two teachers, including one certified in special education, teaches a class that includes up to 40 percent of students with disabilities.
ADMISSIONS: District 7 choice, with priority to students living in the northern end of the district. (Lydie Raschka, February, 2016; updated via interview, March 2020)