Grant Avenue Elementary School
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Safe and nurturing community
More work ahead to reach citywide reading and math standards
Located on a quiet street in Morrisania, Grant Avenue’s core values of safety, trust and strength are not only written on the walls, but also interwoven into lessons, daily conversation and assemblies.
Adults use a gentle tone and consistently reinforce rules on all grade levels. A teacher may say, “Class, class,” to which students respond, “Yes, Yes.” Students feel supported in their academic efforts too: “Teachers make sure that we get the help we need,” said one. “They’re really encouraging and push us to always do better.” When kids do have challenging moments, get upset or angry, full time counselors help them manage their emotions.
Principal Kristin Erat helps students feel known and seen, with impromptu check-ins, for example, “Were you on time today? Let’s try to wake up 15 minutes earlier tomorrow.” In a book club, faculty explore topics around racial identity and equality in order to increase understanding around issues their families face. The school supplies uniforms and even hygiene products for families in need.
On our visit, student ambassadors led us through the school and showed strong leadership skills, not only in their role as guides but also in their interaction with peers, teachers, the principal and other staff.
The school is equipped with a lab for science—a standalone class offered in grades two through five. It also boasts a technology lab and is a participant in Algebra for All. In science class you will find lizards and terrariums, plus tools and resources. Students dedicate extra hours to the borough-wide science fair and science night—which happens after school with families.
In math, students worked comfortably in groups, discussing their rationale as they jotted numbers at their desks with dry erase markers. Students tackle a “persevere problem” – intended to push the boundaries of what they think they can do. Across the board students worked well with each other – on addition, decimals and more—with a good understanding of the teacher’s instructions. Children supported each other with high fives.
In music, students made sounds that scrape, shake or beat on percussion instruments. Concerts and special programs are held regularly. Mini auditions are held for students (for the experience only) and the dance teacher is a Samba champion who shares her joy of dance with students.
The library has Spanish books and resources for students learning to read and write English. Families voiced concern about dual language in the upper grades; they want more focus on language development so their children can excel on citywide exams. That said, the school has an improving track record on serving English language learners.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: Team-teaching classes on every grade mix up to twelve students with special needs in general classes. The cheery and inviting “self contained” classes we saw were a delight; in one, 4th graders worked intently to identify important reading strategies. We saw respectful interactions between all students.
ADMISSIONS: Neighborhood school. (Jacqueline Wayans, October 2019)