P.S. 304 Early Childhood School
Strong teaching and thoughtful curriculum
Very limited art and music classes
PS 304 in Throgs Neck has a long history of high achievement: experienced, passionate teachers and an administration that really understands how kids learn. All academic areas are strong--reading, writing, social studies, math and science. At the same time, children have a chance to play and to build the social skills they need to be successful in both school and life.
Top students get the challenges they need while kids who are having trouble get plenty of extra help. Many classes have more than one adult—including teachers, student teachers, parents and classroom aides—so children get individual attention. Children not only learn the written skills they need to master standardized tests, they also learn how to speak and write clearly—skills that are just as important but not as easy to measure.
Kindergarten classrooms have plenty of LEGOs, wooden blocks, trains and dress up corners where children may play together. “This is their time for discussion,” said Assistant Principal Bonnie Boltax. “They need to speak to other students. You’re not only sitting at a desk.” Children go on science-related field trips to the Bronx Zoo, the Bronx Botanical Garden, the Queens Hall of Science, and the Gateway National Park in Jamaica Bay.
Long-time principal Joseph Nobile is popular with parents and staff and has an easy way with the children.
The administration doesn’t go in for academic fads, but it does continuously adapt its curriculum and teaching techniques to take advantage of new books and approaches as they become available. Teachers at PS 304 understand that no single reading or math program can serve all children; rather, they carefully combine elements of various programs depending on what each child needs. They committed to more training for staff from the Teachers College Reading and Writing program in 2016.
Classroom teachers are responsible for reading, writing and math, but specialists teach science and social studies two or three times a week. Only the lower grades get instruction in art. There is an after school band. Every grade gets one period of music during the day, such as recorder for 3rd grade.
The building is shared with MS 101 and P10, a District 75 program for children with special needs. The three principals get along well and share ideas.
Special education: The school offers team teaching and self-contained classes, as well as Special Education Teacher Support Services (SETSS). Some students from P10 attend PS 304 classes. The instruction we saw in a self-contained class was just as good as in general education classes and children were full engaged in the lesson.
Admissions: Students must live in District 8, which covers the eastern Bronx. Preference is first given to siblings who attend PS 304, and then to students living in the surrounding neighborhood or those students zoned for PS 14, PS 71, and PS 72. There are usually about 200 on the wait list. (Clara Hemphill, October 2013; updated by phone, August 2016)